I’ve already seen a few reviews that knock The A-Team for being brainless and dumb. Except it wasn’t. I loved this movie so much, and by connection was so shocked that it DIDN’T suck, that I feel the need to write my own review of it so that at least someone is defending it.
Let’s start with what we should expect. This is THE A-TEAM. It is a story of an elite special operations unit from the American military who are framed for a crime and are subsequently dishonorably discharged and sent off to prison. They manage to escape in an attempt to clear their own names and end up living as soldiers for hire. It was an awesome TV show that didn’t age so well for those of us born in or around 1980, but is still remembered fondly for its camp value, Mr. T, the fact that guns were fired constantly and no one ever got shot, and that freaking awesome (yet impractical for federal fugitives) GMC van. There’s some ground to dig into with this premise, but taking it too seriously undermines the spirit of the original. It’s beyond reasonable to expect this movie to take itself seriously enough that the actors aren’t constantly winking at the camera and believe in their roles, but have enough fun that we don’t all feel depressed and dirty after it’s over. It does exactly that. I was smiling from the moment they introduced Hannibal until the final line of the movie (which, I don’t think I’ll ruin too much if I tell you it’s a very famous sentence). I was cheering the good guys, booing the bad guys, getting excited when I saw an explosion, and left loving how it all came together.
What about the characters? After all, Mr. T is as much B.A. Baracus as Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker. Except more so. To old fans like myself, the idea of recasting these guys was on the edge of full-blown blasphemy. But now I’ve seen the movie. I strongly believe that all four actors in this movie loved what they were doing when they were doing it. They all held true to the spirit of their characters as defined by the 1980’s show, but modernized them just enough for 2010. Quinton Jackson honestly managed to separate from the original show what was B.A. and what was Mr. T, and only portray the former (that is, with the exception of a little bit of homage). Liam Neeson pulls off the rough-and-wise persona so vital to Hannibal very well. Sharlto Copley bounces off the walls as Murdock. Bradley Cooper got the easiest gig, I think, and he struts around easily with charm and arrogance that makes Face who he was. The four of them together are given that very fun advantage of, “the good guys are almost always smarter than, and one step ahead of, the bad guys” like Jason Bourne gets. Except not that extreme, which helps make them still vulnerable. And that helps.
What about the story? It’s the origin story. That’s usually the easiest and most engaging story you can tell with any franchise, and this movie is no exception. We get to grow with the characters as they become who they’re supposed to be. Which is part of what makes bad sequels so hard, but we’re not there with these guys yet . . .
What about sex and violence? I was amazed that the sexual content in the movie was so minimal, especially after Mr. T complained that there was too much. It’s honestly just Face flirting with different girls and implying that he’s slept with some of them. That’s really it. The violence does get turned up a notch from the original show, but would you want to go see an action movie in 2010 where guys fire AK-47’s at bad guys thirty feet away and hit nothing but brick walls and the occasional fuel barrel? Come to think of it, it would have been totally welcome if they’d done a gag with that, but they didn’t (not that I noticed, anyway). But all that said, the violence is completely within reason for a PG-13 summer flick. People get hurt, some killed, but there’s no stomach-turning gore shots or torture scenes or anything like that.
What about the action? It’s the star of the movie, without a doubt. Everything in this movie exists so you can have a fun, fast-paced summer movie. The action and the plans and the fight scenes and chase scenes and everything are all pushed beyond the realm of realism, but not so far that it loses you in its ridiculousness.
Is there anything that wasn’t good? Two things in my opinion, and both of them dealt with the same villan. Two times within five minutes, the A-Team could have taken the gun away from the bad guy they were escaping and had no problems with their plan. Instead, they walk or drive away as he’s half-conscious (and obviously recovering) with the gun mere inches from his arms. You can guess what happens as a result. The other issue I have was that they didn’t develop the main bad guy THAT much. It could have been worse, but they still could have let us know him better than what we get out of forty-five seconds of awkward, high school hallway rivalry exposition. Yet everything else was so fun that I forgive them more than they need.
Seriously, see this movie. You won’t regret it. I want to see it again very soon.