Back To The ’80s with THE A-TEAM
by John Harvey
Ahhh … 1980s action adventure flicks. How I long for them. The ridiculous stunts, explosions that should change the Earth’s orbit, guns with unlimited bullets and heroes with limited vocabularies. These were films where you could easily forgive a total disregard for physics, reality and logic, simply because everything was so cool. You know the movies I mean: ALIENS (1986), PREDATOR (1987), LETHAL WEAPON (1987), DIE HARD (1988), and the list goes on.
While we’ve left the 1980s far behind us, the 2010 feature film revision of the 1980s TV series THE A-TEAM fits neatly into that genre of thoroughly mindless-yet-enjoyable, popcorn-chomping action romps.
Directed by Joe Carnahan, THE A-TEAM (PG-13) reminds you that in some cases a feature film remake is worthwhile. THE A-TEAM does a great job at paying tribute to the TV series without being a slave to the original material. In this updated version, the film delves into the origins of a framed crack special-forces unit including Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper), Bosco “Bad Attitude” Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley). After getting set up by mercenaries and shady government operatives, the team must break out of prison, recover stolen treasury plates and attempt to regain their good names through copious amounts of violence, mayhem and not a few hokey gags.
While THE A-TEAM does not have the same rabid fans as, say, STAR TREK, there are still many (primarily male) folks who remember the series well and fondly. Major missteps would have been noticed and potentially deadly considering the critical mass of pop culture icons, quotes and action figures that originated with this property.
Of course, the lynchpin for this movie is the characters and the actors who portray them. Okay … we’re not dealing with David Mamet character treatments here, but we are dealing with characters that give off a very specific tone and swagger that established fans remember vividly.
Casting for the central characters was mostly spot-on. My only beef lies with Bradley Cooper’s take on Templeton “Faceman” Peck, whose performance landed a bit flat. Though some of the blame may reside with the screenplay, which did not give Cooper nearly as much room to chew the scenery when compared to Neeson, Jackson or Copley. Cooper also had to do much of his acting opposite Jessica Biel (playing love interest and Army operative, Charisa Sosa), whose performances are almost always flat. This movie is no exception.
Speaking of scene chewing, you really have to hand it to Copley (a semi-obscure South African actor whose only major credit is DISTRICT 9) and Jackson (a UFC mixed martial arts fighter) who stepped into two of the most iconic, over-the-top roles with great success. It could be argued that their performances regularly upstaged film veterans Cooper and Neeson.
Plot is the other critical consideration in this movie. No … I’m not being ironic. Though intelligent storytelling does not float to the top of most minds when it comes to action/adventure flicks, there is a balancing act. If the plot is too simple, then it’s dull and predictable. If it’s too complex, then you spend too much time trying to decipher who’s doing what to who and where. In addition, tthis script also had to contain enough empty space to fit key moments and material from the original TV series.
In THE A-TEAM, the plot becomes a bit too haphazard about halfway through the film and takes far too many beats to sew things up. This is why the movie clocks in at two hours long while most tightly-written action films just barely nick the 90-minute mark. Rumor has it that THE A-TEAM screenplay passed through no fewer than 11 screenwriters before becoming a shooting script.
If it’s true … it shows.
Despite flaws in THE A-TEAM‘s script-by-committee, the movie still manages to capture the adolescent, superficial joy that came exploding from the TV screen starting in 1983. Make no mistake. THE A-TEAM is an utterly mindless movie. Still, it’s a good action movie.
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© Copyright 2010 by John Harvey
LINKS OF INTEREST:
A-TEAM Movie Trailer:
A-TEAM Movie Website: