Friday, January 14, 2011
I didn't see this in the theaters because, frankly, it looked and sounded pretty dumb. That usually doesn't stop me when it comes to seeing a big, summer action movie, but I usually draw the line at remakes of old TV shows I used to worship when I was a kid. After G.I. Joe (which I did enjoy, but come on!), I figured this would just be more of the same so I skipped it, even though the casting of Liam Neeason was enough to raise an eyebrow. But then a guy with whom I work named Chris told me he saw it with his father and they both loved it, my interest was raised once again. Chris is a smart guy whose opinions on movies I generally respect and often agree with. But by then I just never found the time and it vanished.
Long story short, I watched it on Blu-Ray last night... and it was awesome. Chris and his father we're right again!
Now, it was big and dumb and loud and pointless, but it was also fairly clever, really funny, and exciting as hell. The action set pieces were completely over the top and incredibly fun to watch. The sequence where the team drove a tank out of a plan and then shot their enemies down as they fell 20,000 feet to the ground was just about the most exceptional set piece I've ever seen in any action movie. And I'm not exaggerating what happened nor my reaction to it. The entire movie was just awesome. It was directed by Joe Carnahan, whose only other film that I've seen was Narc, which was also great.
I wouldn't exactly call it faithful to the TV show, however, although it certainly wasn't an insult to it either. The TV show had a lot of action, but nothing as over the top as what we saw here, and I usually felt like Hannibal's plans from the series required a lot more subtlety and intellect than what we saw here. I generally think of the A-Team as more MacGuyver than Rambo, but this film definitely skewed more toward the action hero archetype.
The series really worked, however, because of the exceptional cast they assembled. George Peppard was a highly respected actor when he took on the lead role of Hannibal Smith, giving the series a little more gravitas than it maybe deserved. Clearly, the casting of Liam Neeason was inspired and served that same purpose, and it worked perfectly.
Bradley Cooper was no better or worse than Dirk Bennedict as the smary yet charming ladies man, but I'm going to give the nod to the original if only because he was the one I grew up with and always wanted to be. Although Cooper was fine, and he definitely looked like he was working out a lot for the role, so ladies take note.
The role of B.A. Baracus was obviously a tough one to fill, since Mr. T made it so iconic, either because he was playing himself, or just because he choose to play that same role in real life. Who can say at this point where B.A. ends and Mr. T begins? So, really, there was going to be no pleasing long-time fans with this one, so they smartly went with an unknown (at least to me), who had that same mix of charm, boyishness, and toughness. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is the guy's name, and I actually thought he was great. He's no Mr. T, of course, but nobody is. He wisely decided to play B.A. as an actual character instead of as a copy of Mr T.'s persona, and the film is the better for it. His big fight scene where they introduce the character was one of the best fights I've seen in a long time. I liked him.
My favorite character has always been Howling Mad Murdock, not only because he was the funny wildcard who got all the best lines, but also because Dwight Shultz is one of the best and most underrated actors ever. So when I heard that the guy from District 9 was taking on the role, I was worried. Sharlto Copley was fine in that film -- more than fine, even -- but I just couldn't see him doing justice to one of my all time favorite TV characters, and I didn't think he could fill the shows of one of my all time favorite character actors. But he was phenomenal. Like in the original series, his character got all the best lines, and Copley showed masterful comic timing and a skill with accents and mimicry.
Oh, and Jessica Biel was in there two, but I'm not sure why, since her character served no real purpose and didn't do anything. I guess they stuck her in the film for the same reason I stuck her picture into this review: She's gorgeous. There are also appearances from that guy who played Major Dad, that guy who played Night Owl in Watchmen, and Jon Hamm from Mad Men.
So... The A-Team. Who knew? Well, Chris and his dad, I guess. Two thumbs up.