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- Director: Joe Carnahan
- Writers: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom
- Stars: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley
- Release Date: June 2010
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
- Run Time: 117 min
There Is No Plan B
Overkill is underrated. One of the many mottoes Colonel John Hannibal Smith throws around whilst hatching his brilliant plans, dispensing them like his insightful wisdom increases the chances of success. A motto director Joe Carnahan has taken to heart in making The A-Team. A smart move, as complete and uncompromising exaggeration appears to be exactly what the format asked for. Especially since the translation of TV shows to the big screen has proved to be no easy task. Just look at Miami Vice, which pretty much bombed despite the presence of Michael Mann, the director/producer who created the original series. Or the near criminal trashing überhobbyist MacGuyver recently received by the hands of questionable farce MacGruber. In a world so significantly different from the mid-eighties, the severely underpaid and hopelessly dated missions of the four fugitives could have very much been out of place as well.
The reincarnation by the hands of Carnahan however, avoids many of the pitfalls that the outdated format has to offer. For one, the director has brought the well known premise of the series to the present. Vietnam has been replaced by Iraq and the bad attitude of Bosco Baracus is not the only thing that makes the foursome dangerous: the happy-go-lucky stance of a team that rarely asked for enemy casualties has been replaced by an attitude that better suits a group of elite soldiers. What is especially striking is how well the cast handle their roles, and how much fun they have doing so. Understandable, since the characters in Carnahans installment have been blown up as well. Hannibal in the hands of Liam Neeson, although not as charismatic as George Peppard, is equally complacently on the jazz whenever a dangerous situation can be even remotely relished. Templeton “Faceman” Peck in the version of Bradley Cooper enjoys the swindling of both women and all sorts of tools even more than his predecessor Dirk Benedict and the script provides Quinton “Rampage” Jackson with a philosophical depth to his distinctive character – and evolution thereof – in the BA 2.0 version. The acting skills of the professional wrestler are up for debate, but then again you never questioned Mr. T. either. Even though he played the bejeweled, Mohawk sporting powerhouse with an acute fear of flying as an overly enthusiastic pupil in a school musical, always staring at the next person to speak his lines way long before they had the floor. The biggest fun, however, comes from Howling Mad Murdock in the interpretation of District 9-phenomenon Sharlto Copley, who occupies the crazy pilot with both a zest for life and an absolute fearlessness of death cue the suicidal midair antics. His inimitable flying skills, Murdockian features (sock puppets and his interaction with BA for example) and especially his imitation of Mel Gibson in Braveheart – including stick horse – make him the movies main asset.
The script then. The plot, pretty much a side issue, continuously serves up action excesses equally incredible and entertaining but yields more than a whipped episode of the series stretched to a playing time of two hours. You could say the plot is kind of a cross section of the five years the series ran, if you omit the recurring missions the mercenaries entered into. There is plenty of borrowing from existing story lines, more or less adapted to the new universe of Carnahan. The film opens with a spectacular introduction of the four veterans some years ago – only Hannibal and Face are trusted comrades, BA and Murdock have still to cross their paths – setting up the Alpha team that started it all. Included of course, is a supporting role for the black GMC Van, which can impossibly be disregarded as the fifth member. Cut to eight years and eighty successful missions later, to the operation that sees the team become the proverbial scapegoat the series theme credits were based on something to do with a crime they didn commit. The bank robbery in Hanoi has been replaced by the hijacking of a truckload of counterfeit money in Baghdad, commanding General Morrison is still here. The CIA is present as well, in a possible set-up for a sequel in which Hannibals outfit will be contracted by the organization in a reference to Stockwell (Robert Vaughn) of the fifth season of the series. The plot is driven by the aftermath of the robbery, offering supporting roles for Captain Charisa Sosa (the distractingly attractive Jessica Biel) and CIA man Lynch (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen), but its all a mere hook for ridiculous set pieces and extravagant action to be towed on.
Hannibals crack commando unit must pull out all the stops in order to clear its name, in an adventure that at times offers absolute top entertainment. That is, if you
e willing to believe that a parachute suspended tank (as seen in the trailer), wherein the fearless foursome escape from an exploding plane, can be easily maneuvered in midair using the inboard cannon, simultaneously discarding enemy aircraft like its a game of Duck Hunt. There are enough sequences that ask more than a lot of your ability to shut off your brain, but as said that exaggeration is exactly what this film needed. The A-Team is simply a masterful popcorn spectacle par excellence, offering high-level action entertainment and jokes that are more often than not very decently set up. The cast has great fun working with the pleasantly unlikely adventures and the story is in good tradition – full of references to the 80s hit series it is based on. The plot falters a bit left and right and the credo overkill is underrated is at times perhaps taken a little too far, but that is merely an expected consequence of handing control over to the man behind Smokin Aces. Regardless, the oncoming release might well feature a well-deserved o be continued by the time the end credits start rolling.