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THE A TEAM, 2010
Movie Review


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THE A TEAM   MOVIETHE A TEAM, 2010
Movie Reviews

Directed by Joe Carnahan

Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, Gerald McRaney
Review by Creg Lovett

SYNOPSIS:

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A group of Iraq War veterans looks to clear their name with the U.S. military, who suspect the four men of committing a crime for which they were framed.

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REVIEW:

We join our "A-Team" Somewhere In Mexico with gangsters interrogating Hannibal (Liam Neeson in a bewildering rubber nose) until he is intercepted by Bosco Albert Baracus (or B.A., a perfectly cast Quentin "Rampage" Jackson) where we discover that this is The Origin Story. Because B.A. and Hannibal do not recognize each other. After shooting B.A. in his bicep, (don't ask) Hannibal and B.A. race off to rescue Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper), and then things actually start happening.

Face is busy being tortured, but he just finds the whole thing so darn funny, that we don't feel anything is likely to happen to him. Everybody in the movie seems to laugh in the face of danger. Puns, plays on words, and one liners abound. The story is light, and the humor lighter, but the action is non-stop and reasonably effective.

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The trio quickly has to get out of Mexico, but who of us hasn't been there before? And what do we need when we have to get out of Mexico in a hurry? A pilot (Sharlto Copley)! And preferably a crazy one who used to be an Army Ranger. Nevermind that he was dishonorably discharged from the Rangers, cuz apparently that happens to -literally- the best of them. The Rangers eat their young. They're like Democrats in that way.

8 years, and 80 successful missions later, the A-Team is on R&R in the Iraqi desert, enjoying quippy expository exchanges and characterizing themselves -if not furthering their common narrative- when Jessica Biel shows up. Turns out her character has a name. It's Charisa Sosa, not that this matters. And she works for the D.O.D., but that doesn't seem to matter either.

What matters is that she's hot. And female. And she has a history with The Faceman. So she kinda comes and goes without much consequence. Yes she is HAWT or HOTT! with a double "T" for added emphasis. But then forget about her because she has little else to add to the story.

Because the CIA is about to ask Hannibal to help recover a billion dollars in counterfeit US currency, and the stolen $100 treasury plates that they are struck from. The bald guy from "Simon and Simon" (Gerald McRaney, as General Morrison) assists The Agency in getting Hannibal into central Baghdad, where the US Army is now forbidden, but The Media isn't (suck it Army!).

You just know when Bagdad, counterfeit money and Gerald McRaney are involved nothing good can happen, so it shouldn't be a surprise when everything explodes, a black-ops team (darn those black-ops teams) steals the stolen plates, and Hannibal's "Alpha Unit" is framed for the whole thing. Dishonorably discharged. Stripped of rank. Thrown into army prisons. Separated.

But have no fear, because LITERALLY without missing a beat, Hannibal gets visited in prison by "Lynch", a CIA operative who tells him/us that "Pike", the leader of the aforementioned black-ops team, has been photographed in Germany "with an Arab.". So clearly this changes everything. And only Hannibal and his team can solve this problem.

Hannibal promptly and easily breaks the team out of prison, steals a C-130, gets shot down, and escapes in mid-air in a Buford Tank. On a parachute, of course. In the spirit of the late period Roger Moore James Bond films, the tank lands in a lake next to a fisherman who has been fishing with dynamite. High comedy.

The A-Team soon arrives in Frankfurt to re-retrieve the stolen plates. Here, in the rich immediacy of the city streets, Carnahan misses a chance to match the artful urban action sequences of "Heat", or The Bourne Trilogy. The scene is set for such a sequence. The Pentagon, the CIA, two warring factions of the U.S. Army, and Pike's black-ops commando's are all in the same place. One even wonders if such sequences were cut from the film. At 117 minutes, it's hard to believe they cut out very

much. But perhaps such a sequence would have been too heavy for the film's light nature. Curse-words are spared. Sex is implied. Blood is even implied for the most part. In the no-kill spirit of the original TV series, when Murdock shoots down U.S. war planes, the director goes out of his way to clumsily explain to us that these are unpiloted drones. Dead people disappear instantly. The wounded do not linger, nor do they suffer. More often than not, injuries are played for comedy, the same as the action.

They've got a chance to make that right in a confusing, but less than interesting 6 way double-cross at the Port of Los Angeles, but instead Faceman uses a combination of Chinese fireworks, radio controlled Mercedes SUV's, and a high stakes game of Three-card Monte with giant ocean going shipping containers standing in for the playing cards, all to draw Pike out into the open. When Pike emerges with a semi-automatic Bazooka (of course there is a Bazooka involved) CGI ensues.

Non-sequiturs rule in "The A-Team." Dom Draper, of "Mad Men" fame shows up. He's not only handsome; he's a white hat good guy CIA op. In a more interesting movie, with a more certain future, this would foreshadow something compelling. But for all of the credibility Liam Neeson lends to the cast, he never finds the space to lift it up above the source material. The film is too violent for most younger children, and too soulless for anyone old enough to be nostalgic for the 1980's action comedy TV genre. Biel seems to exist in a green screened 2nd unit universe apart from the rest of the cast. Bradley Cooper never lives up to his promise from previous outings and for all his intended charm, he has very little to work with here.

Still, in comparison, the film improves on the NBC series by a long shot. Joe Carnahan's earnest action sequences are pleasing to the eye. A lesser director with an equal budget could have turned in action sequences shot in such tight close-ups that you'd be disoriented throughout. I never felt that during "The A-Team." One hopes "The A-Team" return soon in "The A-Team 2: Electric something-something" and every-other summer to right wrongs, dodge bombs, and return priceless things to their rightful owners.

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