With all the remakes and adaptations of cult and classic TV shows littering cinemas this summer and beyond, it’s understandable that scepticism from those who loved the original shows will be rife. And filmmakers can either make their movie and let the chips fall, or be brave and address this very obvious problem.
The A Team wisely picks the second option, and it’s triumphant streak of self referential in-jokes are a relief, mostly because they’re executed with the same spirit of the original series – all in good fun.
The film is essentially an origins story, rather than an extended episode, a choice that, again, will divide detractors. Director Joe Carnahan blasts the characters onto the screen, establishing Hannibal (Liam Neeson, hamming it up wonderfully), Face (Bradley Cooper), BA Baracus (boxer Quinton Jackson) and Murdoch (Sharlto Copley) within the framework of their original personas, but amped up for the big screen. Jackson, under the most pressure from the iconic shadow of Mr. T, is afforded a smashingly violent opening scene, after which there is no doubt that he is, at least, an acceptable substitute. And a subplot involving BA’s non-violence rebirth halfway through the film is made more amusing in light of Mr. T’s real life born again attitude (he allegedly refused a cameo because the film was too violent).
So in the middle of Iraq, where a borderline mentally ill Murdoch is happily marinating meat in anti freeze for his fellow soldiers (“it’s only partial paralysis!”) we discover the nature of that famous crime they didn’t commit (it involves the fantastically camp sentence “I need you to stop Saddam’s flunkies from stealing over a billion dollars in 30 hours” – as if the Team would say no to that) and follow them to jail, under the angry, sexy/stern eye of a surprisingly non-irritating Jessica Biel, playing Face’s former lover and commanding officer.
What follows is no less, and perhaps more, than what you should expect – a series of high octane, progressively sillier and sillier scenes in which they fly a tank while getting badass with a conveniently located bazooka, break out of prison in various wildly innovative ways with entertainingly little continuity or explanation (“How did you know the door would take his weight?” “I just did”) and tongue so firmly in cheek it threatens to break the skin, as they try to track down the missing millions and the men who framed them (the identities of whom are disappointingly obvious from the start). So what if random Mexicans start shooting at them as they escape in a helicopter that just happened to be there, keys in ignition? That’s how this film was always going to work.
There is a lot to love about this film if you’re in the mood for no-brainer action with a moderately sharp line in comedic dialogue (“You speak Swahili?”…”You don’t?”) with the sporadic homage moments a lost like a long lost fifth A team member.
Brash, bolshy, lavish and loveable – with so much nostalgic baggage weighing it down, The A Team still delivers. But even with the quest for realism abandoned at the door, it still seems bizarre that with so many big guns lying around, the only person to land a single bullet is the girl – a modern update indeed.
This film is no great work of art, it’s true – but it”s a perfect version of what it’s meant to be.