Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton Jackson, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writer(s): Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom
Cinematography: Mauro Fiore
Original Score: Alan Silvestri
Running Time: 117 Mins.
Striking that balance between homage and remake/reinterpretation/reimagining is always a tricky task to properly undertake and be successful in especially, it would seem, where cherished TV series are concerned that were both a fine example of being a product of their time and therefore rendering an out and out remake rather hard to do without seeming like some kind of spoof. Something which has led to various takes in various guises, Stiller’s Starsky and Hutch was essentially a spoof, the Charlies Angel’s films were simply used as a template to fit the (then) hot top of “girl power”, while Miami Vice saw itself become a ultra gritty cop drama/thriller the bore little relation to its origin bar the character’s names. It is through this mish mash of attempts that has likely left an adaptation of The A-Team bouncing from pillar to post in an effort to find the right way to tackle the material which is now both very 80’s and very cheesy, though it goes without saying that these come hand in hand!
Hooray then, and huge congrats to the producing Scott brother’s who saw fit to give Joe Carnahan the gig, a director who can do humour married with action in the best macho way possible (Smokin’ Aces) whilst also having the heft to actually coerce a great performance from an excellent cast (Narc), he provides some, shall we say, bang for your buck. All of which bodes well for The A-Team that we can now finally see in action up on the big screen where it has always belonged given the rather promising prologue that the TV series offered, which went a little something like this … “In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team“.
Fast forward to the present day and little has changed bar the year, and inevitably the war, thankfully we are saved from a fully fledged origin story which sees how the team got together and this is hilarious reaccounted for in the pre credits sequence. So intro’s out the way and it’s off to work the team go to try to clear their names whilst recovering the obligatory macguffin (in this case some minting plates). Obviously plot is of little relevance for it is simply an excuse to hang several, of the years best I might add, set pieces onto, it is just a shame the best was so stupidly spoilt in the teaser trailer no less, not that this robs the film of any of its spectaculary OTT stunts, aided rather substantially by some great CGI that while never really to be mistaken for factual events stay firmly on the side of spectacle rather than shoddy as is often the case in big budget actioners.
Though The A-Team’s action set pieces are not what makes it such a joy, rather it is the casting of the core foursome that makes this a must-see film, each of the actors capturing what made them great characters in the first place while adding a new and fresh spin on them that makes each individual more than mere imitation. Each different enough to be considered an entity in their own right while leaving enough for old fans to hark back too, quite some g=feat in characters as iconic as they are, so while Cooper, Neeson and Jackson succeed admirably it is Copley as “Howling Mad” Murdock who is the clear star, proving his turn in District 9 was no fluke, the man is a genius of character acting and a burgeoning film-star to boot. The chemistry between the team is superbly written matching performance suitably, and creating real banter, something which the film really could have lived or died on.
On the downside, which is quite easily overlooked in favour of positives, is a weak villain (best left unnamed for fear of plot spoilers) and a rather ham-fisted attempt at a token female role by Jessica Biel in an apparent attempt at counteracting all the testosterone, sadly it doesn’t work as she does little more than follow around two steps behind the villains and heroes whilst looking, admittedly, pretty and engaging in some ex-based banter with Face (Cooper). Alas such minor quibbles cannot scupper what is ultimately the perfect summer blockbuster.
Yes it is shallow, and there isn’t much in the way of characterisation, but what The A-Team does have is bags of spectacle, fun and great chemistry between it’s leads, and let’s be honest it was never a film designed to achieve the former attributes, a success all round then and possibly the summers best all out actioner.