This team gets a solid B ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Sunday, June 20, 2010

This team gets a solid B

The A-Team
My rating:

It is the film critic's lot in life to make the occasional unpopular judgement. One of my recent ones was for The Losers, a film that hardly anyone liked but me (and Roger Ebert, so there) - and to those who moaned about that and any other of my reviews that went against popular opinion, tough titties. A critic is under no obligation to like and dislike only the same things as you. In fact, there's a word for those whose tastes always and exactly match those of everyone else's, and it sure ain't "discerning".

Guess what? I'm gonna make another unpopular judgement: I liked The A-Team, but not as much as The Losers.

The A-Team are an elite U.S. Army Ranger unit comprising H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Sharlto Copley), Bosco "B.A." Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson), Templeton "Face" Peck (Bradley Cooper), and their leader John "Hannibal" Smith (Liam Neeson). While stationed in Iraq, they are contacted by CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) and told of U.S. currency plates in the hands of Iraqi insurgents being used to print counterfeit currency. They conduct an unofficial mission to recover the plates, but are subsequently betrayed; their commanding officer General Morrison (Gerald McRaney) is murdered, the plates are stolen by mercenary Pike (Brian Bloom), and they are framed for it all. Now fugitives from the law, they must recover the plates and clear their names, all the while hotly pursued by Lt. Sosa (Jessica Biel), an old flame of Face's.

Just like my last review, I grew up on The A-Team. It was one of the holy quadrifecta of '80s TV that included Knight Rider, MacGyver and Airwolf, plus a few also-rans such as Automan, Street Hawk, Manimal and V. Indeed, this was the era in which American prime-time television seemed to cater exclusively to 9-year-old boys, and as I was 9 years old back then it was perfect for me. (Incidentally, this was also the decade in which TV3 was launched, and they scored almost all of these shows. We hardly ever watched RTM from then on.) So yes, I am pretty damn familiar with Hannibal, B.A., Face and Murdock, and I gotta say, this movie doesn't quite do them justice.

First, the good parts. Contrary to your rose-coloured memories of watching it when you were 9, the TV show was actually incredibly cheap and cheesy. The movie does the most obvious thing a movie adaptation should do, which is to have all the big-budget production values a major film studio can cough up. The action scenes have the same sense of ridiculous fun as the show did, only a lot more elaborate and over-the-top. This is one advantage it has over The Losers, whose action was mostly pedestrian. On the other hand, The Losers didn't film its action scenes in shaky-cam. I swear, shaky-cam has practically become Hollywood's default mode of filming action scenes, and that's just stupid. During the Iraq truck heist scene, I couldn't barely make out what the hell was going on.

But while it may not be fair to compare one movie to another, even one with the same premise and a great many oddly coincidental similarities (they both have climaxes that take place at the Port of Los Angeles, for chrissake), it is entirely fair game to compare a remake to its source material. Of the principal cast, only Bradley Cooper is faithful to his character. Liam Neeson's Hannibal is quite a departure from George Peppard's, who was cocksure, unflappable, and had a shit-eating grin permanently affixed to his face. Movie-Hannibal was fiercely loyal to his men and righteously pissed off at the injustices done to them. It's a new and different interpretation of the character, but I could dig it.

However, movie-Murdock and movie-B.A. don't fare as well. Sharlto Copley, last seen in District 9, is an unusual choice for a big-budget Hollywood action movie, but he proves to be a less than inspired one. Dwight Schultz brought a manic improvisational genius to the role of Murdock, whereas Copley just competently performs his lines. (Although he does get plenty of funny lines.) And despite being given plenty of opportunities to be badass, MMA fighter Quinton Jackson is wooden and uncharismatic, which are the last things anyone taking over a role originated by Mr. T should be. There's also a subplot in which B.A. takes a vow of non-violence, which the film inexplicably treats as a serious thing.

The original A-Team was a marvel of casting; four actors that flawlessly inhabited four iconic, larger-than-life characters. It was lightning in a bottle, and this movie doesn't quite manage to capture it again. I still liked it, I still think it's a fun action movie that does a decent job at turning an '80s TV show into a '00s theatrical blockbuster, and that alone is probably enough for most people. But for me, and for this one instance, I'm placing more importance on the characters. I liked the original's better than these. And yes, I liked The Losers better than these guys.

NEXT REVIEW: Toy Story 3
Expectations: ohhhh yes


v!vi@n said...


k0k s3n w4i said...

Admittedly I was not a fan of the original A-Team series - so i judged both films on their own merits, with absolutely no influence of any preconceptions.

The Losers (the comic included) sounded like a ripoff of the A-Team and both featured ostensibly heist-like missions, both became outlaws and both were screwed over by someone in the CIA - and both ended up still being outlaws even after the conclusion of their movies.

Action Setpieces? A-Team definitely had better and more imaginative ones.

The "heist" plans? The Losers basically ran willy-nilly into the enemy's gauntlet in the starting action sequence. they are basically just winging it. And that first action scene when they are back in the US? Clay and one of his team members basically just got out of their pinto in the middle of the freaking streets and fired something from a shoulder cannon. They seem like an incompetent lot, if you ask me. The closest they came to planning anything is that bit where hacker guy Jensen had to infiltrate the building. And let's not even go into the stupidity of the entire team of of federal outlaws attending a little league's game. There are no "wow" moments in the losers' missions. As for the A-Team, I got 2 words for u: Flying. Tank.

Camera-work: Shaky cam is hard to do right - even Paul Greeengrass don't always nail it. But at the very least, i did not have any problem knowing what's happening at all time in the A-Team. As for the missions in Losers, i'm not even paying attention half the time because they aren't doing anything cool at all.

Team member specialties? Other than jensen and sniper hat guy, i can't even remember what the rest is suppose to be good at. Seems like they just run into every situation and do whatever the fuck they want.

Humour? that scene where Sharlto Copley did braveheart was alone worth the price of admission.

And you say you care about characters more - so how are the characters in The Losers superior to the A-Team's? Hannibal was electrifying in that simple opening scene. and Patrick Wilson was perfect as the manchild sleazeball Lynch. Pike was an excellent villain in his own right too. Jason Patric's Max was shit and the actor openly admits that he doesn't respect comic book movies such as The Losers at all. For a hammy villain played right, see Michael C. Hall's performance in The Gamer. Sharlto Copley was great throughout and even lent a bit a gravitas to Murdock in that pre-last-mission scene with Face. B.A. is crap and I agree that his character arc should have been axed. you wrote this about the losers; "And director Sylvain White is perfectly capable of capturing both that sexiness and everyone's badassness." and i was like; you gotta be kidding me, especially after ur assessment of A-Team.

I respect ebert but honestly, the guy did some real crap reviews on the occasion - transporter 3 is a good case in point. he just really, really like freckles. and i think it is unfair u rate a-team lower because of its comparison to the source material when you didn't do the same for the losers - and then go on to rate Losers better.

oh, not saying your opinion is invalid, of course. there's no accounting for taste. i went to see A-Team with a bona fide fanboy of the original series, and even that guy thought A-Team was waaay superior to The Losers as a mindless, fun action film.

i am starting to suspect you were paid to review the losers. the reasons you gave just don't add up.

k0k s3n w4i said...

P.S. I meant that last remark playfully, by the way. don't actually think u were paid off... were you? :P

TMBF said...

@k0k s3n w4i: Paragraph 1, line 5, words 4 and 5 of the above review. ;)

k0k s3n w4i said...

and to quote myself,

oh, not saying your opinion is invalid, of course.

the comment box is for people to agree or disagree with you, i presume? and to give their reasons why? :)