We all know the story – even the shortest TV spot gives us the spine of it – the Alpha, or A-Team is set up whilst on a covert ops mission and court-martialed for a crime they didn’t commit, so they break out of prison to clear their names and nail the person[s] responsible for the frame. Sounds simple, probably because it is.
This is the part where I’d admit to being just a little bit ashamed [if I wasn’t so darned shameless]: The A-Team is bereft of anything even remotely approaching story or character development; it is nothing more than an excuse to brawl and shoot and blow stuff up real good; the pacing barely ever deviates from frenetic [and when it dials down, it only drops to furious] and, yes, the headline quote from former-Colonel Hannibal Smith [Liam Neeson] accurately describes the flick [and make no mistake, this a flick – not a film, not a movie – a flick]. And I enjoyed it.
In a real ‘80s revival weekend, The A-Team opens in competition with The Karate Kid for the right to [hopefully] establish a tentpole event and is definitely the lesser of the two in terms of quality. In fact, if you’ve seen any episodes of the TV series and thought them cartoony, well, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!
There’s an action set piece, seemingly, every five minutes – and some of the stunt and CG work is breathtaking. The A-Team is like an organized Smokin’ Aces – action builds to such a pitch that Tex Avery and Chuck Jones would go, ‘Whoa!’ If you were to require a shot of adrenaline, for some reason, The A-Team would deliver it.
In terms of performances, Neeson is, if anything, more simultaneously relaxed and intense than George Peppard in the role of tactician Smith; Bradley Cooper is at least a match for the handsome, cheerful con artist/ladies’ man, Lt. Templeton ‘Face’ Peck, and Sharlto Copley – in a role that proves District 9 was not a one-off fluke – matches Dwight Schultz’s pilot, Captain H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Murdoch, insane moment for insane moment. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is suitably tough – with a heart of gold – as Bosco A. “B.A.” Baracus, but even he can’t quite match the over-the-top intensity of Mr. T.
Patrick Wilson is suitably unremarkable as CIA Lynch, who sets the A-Team on that covert ops mission; Brian Bloom is joyfully vicious as villainous mercenary Pike, and Jessica Biel is hot as Captain-then-Lieutenant Charisa Sosa, who is hunting down the team because she believes they did the crime. Gerald McRaney [General Morrison] and Henry Czerny [Director McCready] turn in entertaining cameos and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm is efficiently effective in a very unexpected bit that adds a dash of irony to the mayhem.
Just about the only thing wrong with The A-Team – from the aspect of a “boys and their toys” action flick is that a much less heralded [and less well funded] little flick called The Losers is marginally better executed. Considering that we’re talking movies that exist only to take Looney Toons set pieces to warped live-action heights, that’s not a terribly bad thing.
Two or three times a year, I get the urge to see a flick where stuff blows up and various folks of varying ethical shades brawl. This goofy summer extravaganza should hold me for awhile.
Final Grade: B [for Boom!]