At one point, about an hour in to The A-Team, Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) wryly states, “Overkill is underrated.” It’s a lesson writer/director Joe Carnahan obviously took to heart, putting together a huge, big-bang-boom action/comedy that’s (oh by the way) easily one of this summer’s more fun treats.
What Get Him to the Greek did with drugs, alcohol, and profanity, The A-Team does with explosions, helicopter chases, and general mayhem.
Like the original TV series, the movie is produced by Stephen J. Cannell, the brains behind some of the 80s’ most wonderfully campy shows (The Greatest American Hero, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street), and while the movie is just a little more slick than the series (hey, it’s been 25 years), it still holds on to much of the original oomph.
The backstory, the characters, Hannibal’s cigars, the theme song, the black-and-red van, and the testosterone-fueled craziness are all here.
The A-Team opens with Hannibal on a mission to save Face (Bradley Cooper) from some Mexican baddies. On the way he meets B.A. (“Rampage” Jackson), and the trio of former Army Rangers is off and running in a hail of bullets. After a subsequent meet-up with looney-toon Murdock (Sharlto Copley) and some of the niftiest helicopter flying this side of Blue Thunder (in keeping with our retro 80s theme), the A-Team is complete.
Eight years later the gang is in present-day Iraq, kicking back at an army outpost (as Murdock grills up a few steaks with antifreeze marinade) when word arrives (along with the CIA) that there’s a major international counterfeiting operation afoot. After being politely warned to stay the hell out of it, our boys just can’t resist, and they put together one heck of a plan to break it all up.
Of course they pull it off, and (also of course) it was all just a big set-up, and the A-Team gets “sent to a federal prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit”.
From there the plans just get more elaborate and more over-the-top, and the movie gets more and more entertaining. Carnahan has put together a full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal adventure that’s as funny as it is action-packed.
We all know that Neeson and Cooper can act, and Copley (last seen battling prawns in District 9) is on his way to becoming a bona fide star. But it’s Jackson who emerges as the real standout. Careful to not lampoon Mr. T (who played the original B.A.), he instead creates his own character and hits it out of the park.
As Hannibal says on more than one occasion, “I love it when a plan comes together.” The A-Team movie does come together, and the result is two hours of craziness that’s more than worth your while.
Plus, all you children of the 80s, keep an eye out for Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz (the original Face and Murdock) in blink-and-you-miss-them cameos. Benedict’s an inmate in the Pensacola prison, and Schultz is one of the German doctors in the facility where Murdock’s found.