Review by Jack Foley
JOE Carnahan’s big screen revival of popular ’80s TV series The A-Team feels like a film in need of a better plan.
Fun in places, it’s also found wanting in many ways – caught between Carnahan’s desire to both beef things up and please the TV show’s fans. On the one hand, it wants to be taken seriously, on the other it just wants to have fun. It’s as much a schizophrenic personality as one of its main protagonists, Howling Mad Murdoch, and yet, it’s often as likeable too.
But a little more focus and a little less CGI would also have gone a long way. Carnahan’s A-Team is a film of moments… but one that consistently fails to fulfil its potential.
So, what are the problems? The plot, for starters, is too complex for the nature of the direction, taking viewers on a whirlwind pre-credits origins story before dumping Army rangers Hannibal (Liam Neeson), Face (Bradley Cooper), BA (Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson) and Murdock (Sharlto Copley) into the middle of a conspiracy that sees them framed for a crime they didn’t commit and forced to break out to prove their innocence.
The conspiracy in question stems from Iraq and involves counterfeit money and plates… but is really just a smokescreen to allow Hannibal and his Special Ops experts to devise elaborate heists and adbductions designed to expose the real men behind the crimes they have been wrongly convicted of.
For good measure, there’s a good-looking army captain on their trail (Jessica Biel), who also poses a potential love interest for Face, but like much of the movie Biel’s character exists as window dressing and doesn’t offer anything of real substance to work with.
Problematic, too, is the film’s insistence on overly elaborate set pieces that require CGI backdrops. The flying tank sequence, for instance, looks and feels as bad as Die Another Day-era Bond movies and is followed by a similarly tacky dockyard finale that struggles to convince on any level. It deprives the film of grit, reality or any sense of peril.
Carnahan is on surer footing when keeping the action robust, realistic and in your face… as in the fun opening sequence involving the formation of the team, or a slick German heist that results in a thrilling street-side machine gun battle.
But even then, he overloads the movie with action sequences, plunging the team from one mission to the next with barely a second to pause and allow for any character development. True, the series didn’t have much in the way of that either, while the action sequences were similarly outlandish and cheesy. So, Carnahan at least accomplishes this form of emulation.
But The A-Team looks and feels like a film that wants to escape the straight-jacket of its 12A certificate, and one that aspires to be taken more seriously that its source material allows.
Performance-wise, it’s similarly uneven. Neeson struggles to convince as Hannibal, while Jackson mumbles a little too much as BA (and the crisis of conscience that pre-empts some Ghandi quoting is misplaced).
But Cooper is suitably suave as Face, Copley is great fun as Murdock and Patrick Wilson and Brian Bloom are good – if under-used – villains.
The overall result frustrates more than it exhilarates, but does have its moments. Taken with a pinch of salt and a disregard for some of its more stupid elements, there is fun to be had.
But Carnahan’s grand plan for a franchise-spinning revival doesn’t quite come together. So, any future instalments may have to look for a Plan B approach.
Running time: 2hrs
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 29, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read the review
- Liam Neeson interview
- Sharlto Copley (Murdock) interview
- Bradley Cooper and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson interview
- Joe Carnahan interview
- UK Premiere Photo Gallery
- A-Team Movie Photo Gallery