“Ten years ago (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.”
I’m a sucker for nostalgia; whether it be finding an episode marathon of an old favorite TV show, stumbling across ‘vintage’ toys from my youth at a garage sale, hearing about a movie re-make or even
recalling all of the hookers I’ve killed while acting on a dare…it’s always nice to be taken back to another time – and with it – a flood of long-repressed memories (pls see: hookers comment).
I had heard about the ‘A-Team’ remake during a preview trailer when I went to see Iron Man II. As is my customary reaction whenever I learn about re-makes of childhood favorites (“Well, I’m sure they are going to fuck that up” – Pls see my review of: Transformers 2), I decided that I would give it a shot due to the entertaining trailers and the fact that I found myself in the mood for a movie with s’plosions. So, Shannon and I set out this past weekend for an early showing of the new ‘A-Team’ movie.
Surprisingly, it was really good! Not ‘good’ in the sense of, “Saving Private Ryan” or even the newly revitalized “Batman” franchise…but ‘good’ in the sense that it was very entertaining and fun to watch. It was funny, had over-the-top action (just like the show) and contained all of the elements that you would expect from a Summer flick costing $9 a stub.
As with most of my reviews, I do not dissect every aspect of the plot line and character development, but simply whether I liked something or did not. When it comes to movies, I think that I have pretty good (and diverse) taste and try not to lead others astray. Put simply, I liked the ‘A-Team’ and enjoyed almost every minute of it for what it was, a ‘fun ride’. I did not have any lofty expectations, I simply wanted to be entertained and was.
Now, I will concede that my enjoyment may have been enhanced by the fact that I was a fan of the TV show. Therefore, you have to take this recommendation with a small grain of salt. If you generally don’t like action movies, then chances are you were never interested in seeing this movie anyway. If you had seen some of the previews and thought it looked like it might be fun to watch, then this ‘review’ is geared towards you.
Part of the fun of re-makes (at least for me) is the ‘nerd cred’ that comes with picking up on the different homages fans of the original series will notice and appreciate.
The Characters & Story
Context: For those unfamiliar with the TV show from the 80’s, the basic description of the A-Team is that of a covert ex-military team that is very good at what they do…succeeding where all others have failed. Led by Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, the team always seemed to pull off the impossible, usually by following the intricate and creative plans that were devised by Hannibal. This was always one of my favorite aspects of the show because, although most of the TV program was formulaic, it was fun trying to figure out the twists in the plan and how the team would accomplish each (seemingly) impossible mission. This enjoyment was further compounded by the fact that you knew the team would always escape any trouble, would always win and were always one step ahead of the enemy by continuously outsmarting them.
Other than Hannibal, the team (old and new) is comprised of:
B.A. Baracus: The “muscle”, the driver and the role that made Mr. T a household name. He was also known for his obsessive love of the famous van the team rode around in during the show / each mission and his fear of flying (thanks to Murdoch).
In the new movie, he is played by UFC fighter, Quintin “Rampage” Jackson. Easily the weakest and less interesting performance of the movie (especially considering the original Mr. T version of the character, but I did appreciate the more subtle / less corny iteration played by Jackson). I’m sure he is a fearsome fighter, but struggling to understand his soft mumbling throughout the movie was irritating.
Templeton “Faceman” Peck: Usually referred to simply as “Face”, is a smooth-talking con-man who serves as the team’s appropriator of vehicles and other useful items…like wooing the wife of a bad-guy in order to gain access to the target.
He is played by Bradley Cooper (of “The Hangover” fame)…and was perfect casting.
H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock: Declared insane and residing in a Veterans Administration mental institution for the show’s first four seasons, “Murdoch” is also the team’s pilot and, although “insane”, would always become focused when he was needed the most. He is one of the more interesting characters, as you agree that he may be “off”, but certainly not insane.
In the movie he is played by Sharlto Copley (“District 9”) and is by far the most entertaining part of the movie due to the brilliant portrayal by Copley, who absolutely ‘hit-the-nail-on-the-head’ for those who grew up watching the TV show. Copley is a major bright-spot in the movie and for those who were impressed by “District 9” (he played Wilkus), you can also see that he has a major future in movies and that the success of “District 9” (he was a newcomer / virtual unknown) was not just a fluke.
Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith: As I mentioned previously, he is the leader of the A-Team whose plans may be complicated and unorthodox, but they always seem to work.
He is portrayed by Liam Neeson and – although a tremendous actor – at first I was unsure of his selection to play Hannibal. Most of us associated Hannibal with the white haired George Peppard and I wasn’t sure if a box of hair dye and a cigar was going to be enough…but Liam dissipated that concern quickly and played the leader of the team more than convincingly.
Anyway, onto the story…
Without giving too much away, the beginning of the movie does a decent job of establishing how all the members of the team meet and come together. From there, we quickly move ahead 7 years to Iraq, where the team (having already been formed) is obviously an integral part of our effort in, “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. The war is coming to a close and the team is preparing to leave Iraq with the withdrawing U.S. forces…until…
…it is revealed that a long destroyed U.S. currency counterfeiting printing press in Iran (based in truth) may be operational again and soon obtain possession of new and accurate plates that can be used to print U.S. money and perhaps help fund our enemies in the region. The plates are being transported through Baghdad and need to be intercepted, yet official military personnel are not permitted into the Capital city due to the draw down of troops and transfer of security to Iraqi forces…so who else are you going to call that can be disavowed as not officially authorized to undertake such an mission?
It is here that you are fully introduced to the intricacy (and fun) of Hannibal’s plans. You get a hint of it in the beginning of the movie, but it is this mission that more effectively establishes why he is the leader of the group and pays additional homage to the show, albeit far more advanced in the movie.
Without revealing any spoilers, things go awry and the team is wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit. The remainder of the movie is a web of inter-agency (i.e. CIA, FBI etc…there are also some sharp jabs at private military firms like ‘Blackwater’, dubbed ‘Black Forest’ in the movie) plots and conspiracy…and a favorite plot line of mine, revenge by a highly skilled team hell bent on clearing their name and whoa-is-the-name of anyone standing in their way.
Like I said in the beginning of this pseudo-review, the “A-Team” is a fun and entertaining ride that I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed as much as I did. It does get a little slow in spots, but being a pretty tough person to please when it comes to movies, I was never bored and found myself laughing at the humor and over-the-top action that I had grown to love as a kid while watching the TV show. I consider it what I refer to as a ‘no-brainer’ movie…which simply means that although it will never win any awards, nor is there any real depth to the storyline, it is the kind of movie that doesn’t take much thought and it just enjoyable for what it is.
The end is such that they are obviously hoping to make a sequel (and I hope that they do), as they essentially end the movie where the TV show started; that the A-Team no longer works for the government or any agency and decides to go into business for themselves (as basically mercenaries) for those who can find / afford them…which I think will open up interesting potential for storylines in the future.
Obviously this movie will appeal to any man that loves movies in which there is an intricate plan (pls see: Heist movies or Oceans 11, 12 & 13) or action-flicks in which the bad guy underestimates who they are up against (pls see: Mission Impossible and/or Bourne Identity franchise)…however this movie doesn’t have the same polish as those others and goes more for the reflex gut reaction than the cerebral (not that any of those movies would be considered ‘cerebral’, but at least in the case of the Oceans trilogy, Danny Ocean was more of a ‘thinking man’s’, man).
However, Shannon also really enjoyed it, therefore I will assume she speaks for all women…so men, you are free to plan ‘date night’…but I venture to guess a shirtless Bradley Cooper had something to do with it. 😉
Also, for those who like to stay until the credits roll to see if the Director added any extras (moi!), you will be rewarded…especially if you were a fan of the original TV series.