The A-Team, simply put, is awesome. Director Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces) stated that he set out to make an unabashed action film, and that’s exactly what he achieved. Perhaps it was because the same week I saw this film, I also watched three romantic comedies, but I discovered a wildly entertaining ad refreshing boy’s own adventure in The A-Team.
This big screen action film is based on the fondly remembered (at least by myself and fellow male Gen Xers) TV series that ran from 1982 to 1987. The plot for the 98 episodes throughout its run was pretty much identical. Filled with explosions, cigar smoking, token female characters and violence (with little after effects), it was perhaps the last unashamedly fun TV series that was still considered to be family friendly. Mr.T, the famous black van, and catchphrases like, “I ain’t getting on no plane,” made sure the show has stayed in pop culture’s radar for the last twenty years.
This film, which has been in development for a long time is a faithful and entertaining adaptation. There have been many similar TV series to film attempts over the last decade, and they haven’t always been a success, such as Bewitched. Where The A-Team makes the most sense is by acknowledging its roots and not pretending to be a new, mature reinvention. The characters are the same, with Liam Neeson as leader Murdock, Bradley Cooper as “Faceman” Peck, District 9’s Sharlto Copley as “Howling Mad” Murdock and former cage fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as B.A Baracus. They all bring machsimo and charisma and the fun just oozes off the screen. For fans, the hum-worthy theme tune appears, as does the opening narration (“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.”).
The premise is the same, though it had to be updated, so now the four framed soldiers are not veterans of the Vietnam War, but of its modern Iraq equivalent. Carnahan, Brian Bloom (who also plays baddie Pike) and Skip Woods’ screenplay makes sure to give fans what they want, so there’s plenty of nods in their direction, including “Pity” and “Fool” tattooed on B.A’s knuckles, elaborate plans that embarrass the bad guys and plenty of banter between the team.
Jessica Biel shows up as the only female character of note, as an ex-flame of Peck’s, but the focus is squarely on the four intriguing characters; each of whom has more than one moment to shine, including unexpected highlights such as B.A’s temporary divergence to a life of non-violence and Murdock’s stint in an insane asylum. The numerous daring escapes and wild set pieces include a tank firing while parachuting, and a prison transport rescue and the climax at a dockyards is a dazzling display. There’s very little bloodshed, just like the original TV series, and really the plot about counterfeit money and betrayal is just an excuse for non-stop, over the top action, but it works so well. It’s not a film for everybody, but for those who like their movies to have a playful attitude, you’ll be well satisfied.