A-Team, The

Reviewed By Mel Valentin
Posted 06/11/10 03:43:59

"Not your mother's A-Team. More like your younger brother's."
3 stars (Just Average)

Ridiculous, absurd, illogical, ludicrous, nonsensical, gravity-defying, and logic-defying are words you’ll hear, all justified, in reference to "The A-Team," the latest in a seemingly endless series of remakes, reboots, and sequels. Directed by Joe Carnahan ("Smokin’ Aces," "Narc," "Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane"), "The A-Team" is the big-screen adaptation of the lightweight action-comedy series created by Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo that ran on NBC between 1983 and 1987. Fondly remembered (if remembered at all) for its network-safe violence, repetitious, derivative plots, and Mr. T’s Mohawk and bigger-than-screen-life personality, the A-team were good-guy mercenaries, convicted of a Vietnam War-era crime they didn’t commit, trying to clear their names and reputations while saving guest stars-of-the-week from cartoon villains.

In an extended prologue/origin story, we’re introduced to the A-Team before the A-Team came into existence. Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson) and Lt. Templeton "Faceman/Face" Peck (Bradley Cooper), are part of a secret U.S. Army Special Forces mission into Mexico to take out a corrupt Mexican general. Captured and tortured, Hannibal barely escapes with his life. Racing to save Face, he crosses paths with B.A. “Bad Attitude” Baracus (Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson), an ex-Army Ranger. Hannibal convinces B.A. to join his rescue mission and later, when a quick exit from Mexican airspace becomes a necessity, Hannibal obtains the release of Capt. H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Sharlto Copley), an Army pilot hospitalized for mental health issues.

Prologue completed, The A-Team jumps ahead eight years. The A-Team runs special ops in Iraq. With a CIA spook, Agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson), looking on, General Morrison (Gerald McRaney), Hannibal’s longtime friend, orders the A-Team to intercept a convoy transporting counterfeit U.S. currency and the even more valuable plates necessary to print counterfeit money. The operation initially goes according to plan (yes, we hear the “I love it when a plan comes together” from the TV series, multiple times), but goes awry when a bomb kills Morrison and a military contractor (a.k.a. mercenary), Pike (Brian Bloom, who also co-wrote the script), steals the plates, leaving the A-team on the hook.

No prison, of course, can hold the A-Team for any length of time. With Lynch’s help, the A-Team track Pike and the plates to Germany with Face’s ex-girlfriend, Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel), a lieutenant demoted due to her involvement with the A-Team in Iraq, hot on their trail. By then, we’re roughly an hour into The A-Team, a perfect pivot point for Carnahan to unleash a series of bold, brash, nonsensical set pieces, each generously augmented by the best CG Hollywood money can buy and the willing suspension of disbelief by moviegoers (or so 20th-Century Fox hopes), but beginning with a plane versus drone attack that devolves into a parachuting tank versus the same drones (you’ve seen a few seconds of this scene in the trailer and the TV ads).

Under Carnahan’s guidance, The A-Team mixes humor and action in almost equal doses, with lines delivered with tongues places in appropriately placed cheeks, often made more humorous by the core group of actors delivering them. With the exception of Biel, who’s given limited screen time, Neeson, Cooper, Jackson, and Copley share an easy chemistry that makes the A-Team’s actions if not more believable (little can be done there), at least more palatable. As the CIA spook, Wilson adds the right level of insincerity to his line deliveries. Bloom delivers the smug arrogance you’d expect from a former officer turned mercenary.

Despite Carnahan and the cast’s ability to deliver lightweight, escapist entertainment, "The A-Team" doesn’t escape the usual problems associated with action-comedies, namely the villains, variously offensive or clichéd. "The A-Team’s" villains are, variously, Mexicans (the sweatier and more out-of-shape, the better), Middle-Easterners (not jihadists, just thieves), private military contractors (a.k.a., mercenaries) modeled after Blackwater (a.k.a. Xe) given a similar name, Blackforest, by Carnahan and his credited co-screenwriters, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods (11 writers toiled on the script), and ultimately, rogue elements within the CIA (cf., "The Losers"). In other words, nothing we haven’t seen before and nothing we won’t see again.

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