Review: The A-Team
PLOT: A top-secret unit of Army Rangers, stationed in Iraq, and made up of team leader Hannibal (Liam Neeson), scrounger/confidence man Face (Bradley Cooper), muscle man B.A Baracus (Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson), and pilot Murdock (Sharlto Copley) are sent to recover US currency counterfeit templates from an Iraqi General. The team is framed when their commander is murdered and the plates are stolen, and must go on the run to prove their innocence- while being pursued by Face's ex-girlfriend, Lt. Sosa (Jessica Biel).
REVIEW: I had high hopes for THE A-TEAM. Overall, this has been a really underwhelming summer, and I hoped this might give us a much needed shot of adrenaline. I loved the old TV show (although, it's nearly unwatchable nowadays) and the cast seemed promising, with Liam Neeson being a fantastic replacement for the late, great George Peppard. Alas, I should have know better, as THE A-TEAM is yet another disappointment, in a summer full of them.
For the first hour or so, THE A-TEAM is a blast. Things get off to a great start, with an extended pre-credits sequence showing how the team came together during a botched mission in Mexico. This opening sequence leads to a pretty nifty, if heavily CGI'd opening helicopter chase, that started things off on the right note.
As far as the casting for the titular team goes, it's pretty much perfect. Neeson is great, although he plays Hannibal in a much less hammy way than Peppard did back in the day (Hannibal's no longer a wannabe actor, and his wacky disguises are kept to a minimum). Perhaps reflecting that he's a good twenty years older than the rest of the team, Neeson adopts a somewhat more paternal rapport with the guys, which works well.
Other than Neeson, Bradley Cooper gets the lions share of screen time as Face-man Peck, and the character is MUCH different here then he was in the show. Face was the least bad-ass of the group on TV, but here he gets many of the big action sequences, including an insanely over the top plane chase when he takes out a bunch of drones while free falling in a parachuted tank. He also gets the best story arc, with him slowly coming into his own as a leader of the course of the film. Of course, he also gets to romance Biel, and the lucky S.O.B even gets to share a smooch with her towards the end. Cooper makes a fairly decent, Ryan Reynolds-style action hero, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's the real breakout star if this movie makes good coin.
As Howlin`Mad Murdock, we get the always awesome Sharlto Copley, who`s perfect in the role, and manages the hide his Afrikaans accent well (although he uses it as a joke at one point). The biggest question mark for me was Rampage Jackson as B.A, and while I still think Michael Jai White should have gotten the role, Jackson`s not bad- although his dialogue delivery needs some work.
After the kick-ass start, things continue moving along at a great clip, culminating in an fantastic scene where the boys break Murdock out of the loony-bin, which has a nice dig at 3D (A-TEAM is in good ol` 2-D).
Sadly, it's all downhill from there...
The film grinds to a halt once we're introduced to the incredibly lame villain; a mercenary named Pike (played by the film`s co-writer Brian Bloom). For one thing, Bloom does a hell of a lot of macho posturing throughout, which is supposed to make him look tough, but makes him come off as a poser. For another, there`s no way the wiry Bloom, could ever be considered a physical threat to Jackson, and a scene where we`re supposed to believe he could beat BA in a fight is laughable. He's a really weak villain, and an actor with a bit more edge is really needed ( an actor that would have been perfect has a cameo towards the end).
There`s also another duplicitous villain, but I don't want to reveal the identity, even though it will be painfully obvious early in the film. Suffice to say, this villain is also not the least bit threatening, and it would have been nice if a bad-guy with substance had been created. As for Jessica Biel, she gets NOTHING to do throughout, except look hot. She doesn't get in on any of the action, and she really should have been given more to do.
It`s really too bad that THE A-TEAM falls apart in the second hour, as it had a lot of potential. I`m not sure who to blame here, but as director Joe Carnahan also co-wrote the film, I suppose the blame lies with him. The macguffin of the plot, being a bunch of counterfeit plates, is as boring as can be, and some of the dialogue from Patrick Wilson's frat-boyish CIA agent, is so bad it makes Jason Patric in THE LOSERS look like a master of subtlety. I really don't know what happened to Carnahan after NARC, which was a masterpiece. I hated SMOKING ACES with a passion, but I hoped this would be a comeback, but Carnahan does a very pedestrian, Michael Bay-wannabe job in the directors chair. Considering he obviously knows how to shoot action (his BMW short with Clive Owen was incredible), I was surprised at how badly the fight scenes were done, with this being yet another film where the hand to hand action is indecipherable due to too much quick cutting, and too many close-ups. The PG-13 rating might have something to do with it, but it would have been nice if Carnahan had tried to find his own style, rather than ape the way all action flicks seem to be shot nowadays.
Suffice to say, THE A-TEAM is a major disappointment, especially due to the fact that it gets off to such a great start. It`s not a particularly bad film, but it`s very mediocre, just like every other big action film that`s come out so far this summer. Oh well, here`s hoping KNIGHT & DAY, and INCEPTION redeem the summer, before THE EXPENDABLES (hopefully) kicks ass in August.