Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Sharlto Copey, Jessica Biel, Gerald McRaney
Director: Joe Carnahan
I was a fan of the original A Team series, though I am a recent convert (I got caught up during a brief period of time in which I had Netflix, though). It’s a great “man” show. There’s not a terribly deep plot in any episode, and usually the climax is a large number of bullets and something making a rather large explosion. Fans of the original series, rejoice: the movie mostly follows this tried and true formula, for better and for worse.
I will admit, it’s a little weird seeing an origin for the team, which the first twenty minutes or so of film does, setting up how the A Team got together (something not established in the series, and I promise I’m going to stop comparing the two any second now). Most of what you expect is established: Army soldiers who specialize in the ridiculous and always have a slightly insane but nonetheless well thought out plan. Unfortunately, from here is where the movie starts to unravel just a tiny bit.
Eight years after the team formed, there’s a covert op mission to recover engraving plates for $100 US bills, but the team is directly ordered not to go by another branch of the military, because it’s Captain Sosa’s (Biel) responsibility to get them back. I’m not sure why that’s such a big deal, and it’s never actually explained since she’s too busy having faux-romantic banter with Faceman for it to be explained, but they’re told not to do it. Naturally, they do it anyways, but are set up by a rogue mercenary serving on base with their unit, and are locked up. Covertly freed six months later by a CIA Agent, the team goes underground to clear their name and recover the stolen plates.
Nearly everything about this movie is spot on. The casting is great: Neeson is a fantastic Hannibal (and how great is it to finally see Neeson take on badass roles? With talk of a Taken sequel being worked on, it’s a good time for him), while Cooper, Jackson and Copey embody everything great about their classic characters. The original characters in the film, from Biel’s cocky soldier to the surprise appearance by Gerald “Major Dad” McRaney as Hannibal’s commanding officer are all great appearances that work very well for the movie. Throughout the film, it continues to embrace the things that made the series great, taking it’s classic over-the-top nature and pushing it to the max. Unfortunately, this also means it takes the series no-nonsense story telling to heart to.
The overall plot has to be my biggest complaint. While in retrospect I can make sense of it in my head, it was confusing throughout, and not in the sense of plot twist after plot twist, but just literally confusing. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention and missed some key point, but I like to think I kept up with it pretty well. There’s also the handling of Faceman (Cooper), who is clearly meant to be the hunk of the flick; for the film’s final act, Faceman practically takes center stage, with even team leader Hannibal hanging out behind everyone.
But, hey, you don’t come see this film for it’s plot, you come for the action, and damn there’s a lot of it. And, for the most part, it’s really, really good, and it’s all ridiculously over the top and full of big explosions, from the film’s opening sequences in Mexico to the much hyped falling tank sequence from the trailer (which is way better than you think it is). The action, coupled with a plot that manages to get it’s head above a few muddled and confusing plot points, set the stage for one hell of a summer action movie, and sets stage for a franchise that aims to be a lot of fun. The A Team won’t be winning any Oscars, but it’ll sure as hell entertain you for an evening, and is far better than it has any right to be.