Tuesday 30 November 2010

A-TEAM DVD review

Out now on DVD is this 're-imagining' of the classic 80's TV show.
We all know the story, we all know the theme tune. A crack commando unit sent to prison...crime they didn't commit...soldiers of fortune...maybe you can hire The A-Team! Der da der, dun dun duuuun! If you were a boy growing up in the 80's, you wanted to watch this show. In fact you HAD to watch this show.

The new film version follows the same basic plot as the original TV series, but with a few details updated, such as the shift to the recent Iraq war. All four characters that constitute the A-Team are present, with Liam Neeson leading the team as Col. Hannibal Smith. He's backed up by his right hand man Templeton 'Faceman' Peck (Bradley Cooper), a suave, vain man whose biggest weapon is his way with the ladies. Next up there's the muscle of Bosco 'B.A.' Baracus (played by UFC fighter Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson), and the lunatic chopper pilot 'Howling Mad' Murdock (District 9's breakout star Sharlto Copley).

The first fifteen minutes is absolutely crazy, barnstorming fun that introduces us to the team in the most entertaining way possible. We see all of their main attributes on show, and how they're a killer combination when they work as a team. We quickly jump ahead 8 years to Iraq, where the (mostly nonsense) plot about stolen currency plates and double crossing agents kicks off. After getting themselves framed for a crime they didn't commit, they find themselves incarcerated in maximum security prison, eager to clear their names. Patrick Wilson's CIA Agent Lynch might be able to offer them a shot at redemption, but maybe there's more to his motivations than meets the eye.

The A-Team movie has been a long rumoured prospect, and has gone through some major casting and talent changes before it ended up with the group we have here. Joe 'Narc' Carnahan's ended up with a great cast that work well together, even if they're not quite the star names that have been attached in the past. Liam Neeson's the biggest name, and has picked up some action credentials after last year's Taken, but he'd be lost without the back-up from the rest of the team. Bradley Cooper's slowly becoming a big star, but so far has been more associated with comedies like The Hangover. As Face he's mainly called upon to look nice for the ladies, but Cooper's a really likable guy with a lot of screen presence. It's hard to think of a better person to play Face.

Proving that District 9 wasn't just a fluke, Sharlto Copley absolutely steals every scene he is in as 'Howling Mad' Murdock. He showed a lot of range in District 9, his debut film, starting off as a comic character and then turning into a tragic hero. He's most definitely the comic relief here, and looks like he's having a ball doing it. The South African accent is hard to hide behind the southern drawl, but the wandering qualities of his accent works with the character's schizophrenic nature. He's definitely psychotic, but damn he's charming. Who else could get away with stitching a lightning bolt into B.A.'s arm?

We still have B.A.'s fear of flying (even if he has no problem with sliding down the side of the high rise building), but his transformation into a gentle giant is superfluous, especially with such an obvious conclusion. Rampage Jackson is perfectly fine as B.A., but they shouldn't have bothered giving him such a character arc. He's just not a strong enough actor to pull it off. Sure he has the physicality, but his B.A. is a much more solemn being than Mr T's incarnation, lacking the bravado and grandstanding that made the character such an icon.

It's not without some major faults. The TV show always added the girl every now and then to spice up the show a bit, but Jessica Biel's character is absolutely pointless. She adds little to the film apart from a touch of sex appeal, as it's the male bonding that drives the story. Put it this way; if there's a sequel, she won't be in it. There's also a lack of a main bad guy. There's a few contenders, but they're either absent for most of the story or increasingly stupid. Patrick Wilson's team of CIA operatives do seem to devolve from killer agents to bumbling idiots at an alarming speed.

Also, at no point do the team seem to feel their lives are in danger, meaning that you don't either. In one of the film's best set pieces they plummet thousands of feet from a plane, trapped inside a heavy tank. They don't worry about their survival for one moment, just laughing at each other like they're high on nitrous oxide. They may pick up a few scrapes, but ultimately they're a pretty invincible group. That might seem obvious given the nature of the film, and it is best enjoyed if you laugh along with them and just enjoy the ride. Having said that, the ending perhaps goes too far in its insanity. They may love it when a plan comes together, but there's no way they could predict what happens, and it's the one part of the film that gets bogged down with too much extraneous information. Hannibal states that he enjoys 'overkill', but the final set piece is ill fitting with the rest of the film, and it's the earlier airborne escapades that are the film's highlights.

All in all this is a great reintroduction to the franchise that revels in it's own ridiculousness, and despite its slightly dodgy conclusion, was really good fun. I'd have to consider it a success when the biggest criticism I can throw at it is that it didn't have enough dressing up in costumes.


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