PG-13, 99m., 2010
Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Jessica Biel, Brian Bloom, and Patrick Wilson
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Screenplay Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, and Skip Woods based upon the 1980s TV show
The A-Team is a big, wild, and un-P.C. knuckle punch of a summer ride.
Based upon the campy 80s action TV series of the same name, a team of hot-doggin’-bruised forearm military men led by Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson, at his stoic cigar chompin’ best). The men at his side are Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper doing his smarmy and swaggered best), a sly Guido type, who is quick with his hands and mind, H.M.“Howlin’ Mad” Murdoch (Sharlto Copley of District 9 in a go for broke, zany performance), a brilliant but mad-capped pilot, and B.A. Baracus (UFC Fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), a tightly wound pit bull with his signature “Pity” and “Fool” tattooed on his mammoth knuckles.
As the motley crew spans the globe, made apparent by title cards like “Somewhere in Mexico” to "Iraq War" to "West Banks of Germany," each man has his specialty and intro screen smashing sequence.
The assignment in the film is to retrieve special money engraving plates, which will lead the team to being double-crossed by a rouge black ops agent named Pike (Brian Bloom, also co-writer of the movie) and the CIA, lead by the fit and spray-tanned group of Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel.
On a whole, the plot is just a macguffin for director Joe Carnahan and writer Bloom to relish in the dirt, blood, and sweat of these red-meat eating characters and the ongoing plot and battle sequences feel like an expensive afterthought.
One of the great surprises here is actor/co-writer Brian Bloom’s performance as Pike, at unknown screen actor who usually specializes in video game voiceovers. Here he shows real menacing talent with his steely blue eyes and deep-graded voice. A darkly comical scene involving him and a car full of dim witted CIA agents about the nature of killing a man with a silencer shows how he and director Carnahan like to focus on the little details of action with character.
While there are plenty of big absurd action moments from exploding planes, cargo docks going up in flames, and a falling tank that defies the law of physics, the movie is also chock full of small surprises from a fireworks fight involving real fireworks to Murdoch’s cooking recipes involving gun powder and anti-freeze. At times it does get out of hand with a “How’s My Driving?” bummer stick on the free falling tank, yet what lies in the success of big obnoxious summer movies are those little attention to details.
With The A-Team, the mid-point in the summer of mercenary action team movies is here, from last month’s little seen The Losers to August’s grand opus The Expendables. It may not be an A kind of movie but with a B, The A-Team gets the job done, while well-peppered in gunpowder and sweat.