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Rick's Review of the A-Team!

Spoiler Alert!  I will be going into mild spoilers with this review.  The reason being that much of the movie is featured from the TV show so most of should come as no surprise to those who have seen or are at least familiar with the TV show. 

I never thought I would fall in love with such a gloriously flawed movie such as The A-Team.  That is not to say that the acting is bad and neither is the writing or even the action.  No, the part where A-Team is most lacking is in the camerawork but I'll get into that in just a minute.  Joe Carnahan's latest is an adaptation of an insanely popular show of four men who are put into prison for a crime they did not commit as they were merely following orders from their superior officer.  Because the superior officer dies, there is no proof that they were under orders, therefore, they are sent to prison.  That, in a nutshell, is the storyline of both the TV show and the movie.  If you are a fan of the show, then that should come as no surprise.   As someone who grew up watching as many episodes as I could, (my mom dismissed the show as entirely too violent, which it wasn't)  I had a working knowledge of the characters and who they were and their connections with each other, but nothing could have prepared me for the movie and how reminiscent of another recent movie that starred some beloved characters in an updating of the storyline that was so well known.  That movie, of course is Star Trek from 2009. 

The comparisons that I have heard about Trek and A-Team are quite accurate.  Both are updates on well known properties, both have some excellent actors taking up the more famous roles, and both undeniably kick all kinds of ass in very different ways.  But, as this is a review about A-Team, I will now get off my soapbox about Star Trek. 

*ahem*

I will start by saying that A-Team is very much an origin story.  We see the team meet and get together all by a bond of honor.  We see exactly why they are on the run.  This was a subplot that was never explored in the show as much of it suffered from "villain of the week" syndrome, yet that subplot was always more interesting than the actual plot of the individual episodes, but it was never fully explored.  This movie explores that very thing, and gives us some insight in the lives of these characters that we were not privy to until now.  This is not necessarily a bad thing as it helps develop these guys further than the show ever did.  On that same token though, this movie is all about the characters.  Hannibal loves it when a plan comes together, Face is a ladies man and a smart ass, Murdock is absolutely and certifiably insane and they have to break him out of a mental hospital (not once but twice!), and B.A. definitely has the bad attitude.  That being said, were it not for the people playing the four leads, this movie would have been a tremendous failure.

Liam Neeson as Hannibal is better than I was expecting.  One complaint that I heard from a friend of mine was that he hated that Neeson was in George Peppard's outfit from the show.   Yes, he's in the iconic outfit for the first part of the movie, but that changes rather quickly.  Neeson takes the role of Hannibal and makes it his, while still paying respect to the character.  He brings a darker side to the character that is absolutely welcome in the movie and you really see him stick up for his team in ways that you just didn't get to see in the show.

Bradley Cooper as Face is awesome.  He plays the character as a total ladies man. When we first see him, he is about to be killed  over a woman.  When he is later in prison, we find that he is not only very comfortable there, but he has also made friends with the staff there and even seduced one of the female prison guards into being a regular girlfriend!  That being said, Cooper brings a certain funny aspect to the character that is absolutely welcome in the movie.  As I remember it, Dirk Benedict did the same for the character as well on the show.  The one thing that we did not get to see much of in the movie is Face's ability to take on any identity in ridiculously cheesy ways.  Not a bad thing though, because that particular aspect of the character never worked well for me on the show.  That being said, this incarnation of Face is a total ladies man, and it comes as no surprise because Cooper clearly is not bad looking.

The comparison will be inevitable when people talk about Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as B.A. Baracus.  Mr. T made the role what it is, by essentially playing himself.  Jackson takes the role and makes it his own, while at the same time paying tribute to the character made famous on the show.  B.A. is the heart of the team.  He always has been.  Jackson displays this aspect very well in the film.  He is charismatic, he is extremely funny and he is an excellent actor for someone who has never acted before to my knowledge.

Of all the people cast in this film, the one I was looking forward to the most was who was going to get to play Murdock.  For the longest time, Jim Carrey was rumored to play the character made famous by Dwight Schultz.  As much as Carrey would have been great for the role, I am so glad they went with Sharlto Copeley.  Copeley was the lead in District 9, in which he was awesome and delivered one of the craziest performances of last year.  Here, he takes the role of Murdock and really goes insane.  He takes on different accents, he sets arms on fire, he even stitches up B.A.'s gunshot wound in the shape of a lightning bolt.  He is utterly hysterically funny and I love it. 

The rest of the cast is pretty good as well.  I heard a lot of complaints about Jessica Biel in the role that she is in but honestly, I has no problem with her.  I thought she was very good.  Also, Patrick Wilson as Lynch was unexpected.  I thought he was great.  That being said, I didn't recognize him because the last movie I saw him in was Watchmen where he played the Nite Owl.  He was much chubbier in that role.  Wilson was excellent in A-Team and I am glad they went with a really good actor for the role of what we eventually find to be the villain.

If I have any complaints, it is the camera work.  I like my action movies to have at least a few shots where I can actually see what the hell is going on.  I hate it when an action movie has to resort to quick cuts and close ups to show the chaos involved in a fight.  I especially hate the shaky cam technique that has become so popular of late in film.  Let the audience actually see the action for a change. That is why fight choreographers exist in the world.  To make kick ass fights that are meant to be seen by the audience.          

This movie hits all the high notes perfectly. When the four guys are together, the movie absolutely sings and it is easily one of the most fun movies ever. All throughout the movie, I had the biggest smile on my face that one would have no hope of removing. I haven't smiled like that throughout a movie in the longest time. I truly geeked out for much of the movie. This is one of those rare films that I will inevitably go see a second time and I have no doubt in my mind that I will love it even more when I see it again.  Aside from the camerawork, the action is pretty damn good and if you ever were a fan of the show, you will definitely find much to like in this big screen version of the A-Team.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 (Damn you camerawork!)

P.S.: It should be noted that the film was produced by some very interesting names.  Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Stephen J. Cannell (co-creator of the original show), and Marc Silvestri? A comic book guy producing the movie? I can dig it.




   
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