Forget the A-Team you know and love. This movie is nothing like it. And it's all the better for it.
That's not a slight against the original! I loved it as a kid, and still love it to this day. But the A-Team TV series was a thing built of the 1980s, for the 1980s. Trying to recapture that feel in 2010 would have left us with the cheesiest, most awkward action movie of the year.
Instead, then, this movie - which is part prequel, part reboot - takes only the basic premise of the original and its characters, and goes and builds something almost entirely new with it, which is good news both for fans of the original (as it leaves that series as a separate entity) and those who have never seen an episode of the A-Team but are there because Bradley Cooper is so dreamy.
It's Not Your Father's A-Team - I can't stress this enough: more Hollywood adaptations need to be either 100% faithful to the source, or use it as such loose inspiration that it becomes its own movie, free of the clumsiness and burden of trying to keep both fans and newcomers happy. A-Team does the latter, with the pacing, characters and action so removed from the TV series that you'll forget you're even watching an A-Team movie until the credits roll and you hear the familiar whistle of the theme song. This disconnect worked for last year's Star Trek movie, and it works here, too.
It Is Your Father's 80s Action Movie, Though - The A-Team is, fittingly, an 80s action movie, in that it never takes itself too seriously. There's no real twists or turns in the plot, no tricks, no grand statement the director is trying to make; just four guys with a ton of character (five, actually, when you include Patrick Wilson's memorable performance as a CIA agent) who are as funny as they are good with a gun. And while this means it's not going to be a movie that'll make a splash at the Golden Globes, it also makes it a lot more fun than most things you'll see this year.
Hangin' With Mr. Cooper - I had reservations about casting Bradley Cooper as Face. My bad. Cooper is basically the star of the movie, and shines in the role, with a performance of such swagger and wry wit that you'll quickly forget you had him typecast as "the boring, pretty one" from The Hangover.
Cheeky Fookin' Prawn - The real star of the movie, though, is District 9's Sharlto Copley, who plays Murdok. While struggling with his American accent for much of the film, he nevertheless gets ample opportunity to show he is a funny, funny man. It's a shame his character doesn't receive as much camera time as Neeson's or Cooper's, because he easily puts in the most memorable performance of the film.
Bums On Seats - The A-Team runs for around two hours, but that time simply flew by. Why? This movie's pacing and timing is almost perfect. While the action bounces around from Mexico to Iraq to America to Germany, we're never left in one spot too long to get bored, and we're never whisked away too quickly to leave us in a blur, either. There are no "lulls", no boring sections, and that's a rare compliment these days.
I Pity This Fool - There's an argument that what I'm about to say is partly down to the turn the film's story takes around halfway through, but I was disappointed more wasn't done with Quinton Jackson's "BA Baracus". BA was the masthead of the original series, and most people's favourite character, but in this film he takes a backseat to Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper. Those moments he does get a chance to strut his stuff, Jackson comes off as a little "weak", and you're reminded he's in the movie more for his physical appearance than his acting ability.
EXPLOSIONS - For 90% of the movie, the A-Team manages to restrain itself from indulging in the worst excesses of the CGI era. Then, in a five-minute period near the end of the movie, it undoes this with a ridiculous sequence that's the films only jarring moment, the absurdity of the shoddy computer graphics in stark contrast to the solid physical action that constitutes the rest of the flick.
Spoilers - This one isn't the movie's fault, I know, but it's still a complaint: the film's best set pieces are in the trailer. Sure, you get to see more of them in the actual film, but it would have been nice to have the "fly a tank out of a burning plane" bit saved for the movie, since it's the highlight in terms of action.
Don't mind the number of "hateds" above. I had an absolute blast watching the A-Team. Sure, its simple. It's shallow. It's disposable. But it's also funny, truly funny, and the cast are able to bring such charm and bravado to the movie that this will be one of the feel good hits of 2010. If gunplay, punching and snappy one-liners are what makes you feel good, that is.
The A-Team was directed by Joe Carnahan and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Released in North America on June 11.
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