It’s easy to get swept up in the tidal wave of scorn that hurls toward any remake, but one of a beloved ‘80s show? You’re treading extra dangerous water there.
But as it turns out, a reworking of The A-Team hardly requires anything close to precision. Rather, a few good casting calls, a bunch of absurd action sequences, and you’re ninety percent of the way to success already.
What you’re not expecting though, is an incredibly smart script from the film, albeit one wrapped around a pretty insipid plot.
We open in Mexico, where the A-Team assembles for the first time amidst a calamitous assault on a corrupt Mexican general. Hannibal (Liam Neeson) and Face (Bradley Cooper) are already buddy-buddy, and are running the mission together, but when things go awry, they recruit fellow Army Rangers that are fortunately lurking around the area, BA Baracus (Quentin “Rampage” Jackson) and Murdock (Sharlto Copely). Through a bit of planning, a bit of skill and a giant helping of luck, the day is saved, and so the A-Team is born.
“I meant for that shipping crate to almost crush us.”
Luck really is the operative word in every action sequence found in the film. Hannibal likes to imagine he’s some military mastermind, capable of planning ingenious operations at a moment’s notice, using only pieces of scrap metal around him as equipment. Though this can be true, all of his plans could easily be thrown off by one stray bullet or piece of shrapnel ending his or his team’s worlds in an instant. The fact that the boys survive thirteen implied years of this shit, along with the ridiculousness that accompanies this film, is nothing short of a miracle.
But you know what? Who cares? It’s nice to actually see an action film that doesn’t bother rooting itself in any sort of plausible reality. There’s one sequence that involves an exploding plane and parachuting tank that breaks so many laws of physics it might actually kill Stephen Hawking if he watched it.
The action scenes are intense, and pretty relentless, as there isn’t more than five minutes in the film without someone getting shot at or something blowing up. It makes for a very fast-paced rollercoaster of a film, and one that’s just flat out a lot of fun.
I don’t think this is actually as restricting as it looks. Just fall over?
This is helped even more by a surprisingly well written script that is quite often genuinely funny. It’s helped by the charisma and talents of the actors delivering it, and particularly Jackson’s Baracus and Copely’s Murdock exchanges are among the best the film has to offer.
A prime moment in the film that demonstrates this cleverness is one particularly humorous exchange between Patrick Wilson’s CIA Spook Lynch, and the evil head of a mercenary band, Pike (Brian Bloom) who has disappointed him and is on the verge of execution. It easily could have been a throwaway or more serious scene, but it’s one of the funniest moments in the film, and it just goes to show that The A-Team really does pay attention to the details, and wanted to craft not just an action film, but a smart, enjoyable one at that.
The plot itself is where the movie flounders. It’s a very ordinary story where the A-Team is framed for a crime perpetrated by Private Military Contractors who are the whipping boys of any number of action films and seasons of 24 these days as no one would DARE accuse the actual US Military of corruption. The story circles around some stolen plates that the baddies can use to print their own supply of money, and surprise, someone good turns out to be someone bad, and really there aren’t any original story elements to be found in the entire film.
You can say you pity fools, but do you really MEAN it?
But is A-Team worthwhile? Yes, it is. The movie is perfectly cast, as the quartet of Neeson, Cooper, Copely and Jackson stay true to the show’s original character while adding just enough of their own spin to make things interesting. Yeah, the roles are a walk in the park for the cast, as telling Neeson to be a commanding leader and Cooper to be a smug playboy is about as hard as telling Morgan Freeman, “you’re going to need to narrate this movie slowly and thoughtfully.”
I was particularly impressed with Sharlto Copely, who I’d previously only seen in District 9, and his interpretation of Murdock results in one of the most entertaining lunatics I’ve seen in recent memory. I had to warm up to Rampage Jackson’s Baracus, as it’s impossible to surpass Mr. T. Yes, every time he says “fool” it seems forced, but other than that, he plays the part suitably well.
Yes, the film suffers from “stupid action movie plot syndrome,” but that’s a disease that’s incredibly hard to avoid these days, and thankfully the movie fights it off with a very clever script and great performances from all its leads.
I’ll skip the requisite closing joke about how THIS plan really came together, but it is true, and it makes the second time this week after The Karate Kid where I’ve seen a remake from the ‘80s that’s actually worth my time. Not bad Hollywood, not bad.
3.5 out of 5 stars
This picture is awesome. Quite the movie premiere.