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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The A-Team (review)

B Movie Goodness

Two lines of dialogue clipped out of The A-Team suffice to explain it all. The first comes from Jessica Biel’s army officer Sosa, who says, of Hannibal Smith’s unit of elite commandos, or whatever his A-team is supposed to be, with whom she butts heads repeatedly: “They specialize in the ridiculous.” The second comes from Colonel Hannibal Smith himself, who hoots that “overkill is underrated.”

You know how when they put the peanut butter and the chocolate together and it was like, “Ooo, I didn’t expect it to taste that good”? It’s like that with the ridiculous and the overkill here. Which makes The A-Team completely insane, totally preposterous, and sort of wonderful, in a junk food kind of way.
It’s a lot like Transformers, then — and much to my ongoing stunned amazement, I actually liked that movie (only the first one, not the second). Except basically nothing could really be surprising in Transformers, because no matter what extreme stuff the giant transforming robots from space pulled, you could always tell youself, “Well, they’re giant transforming robots from space: of course they can do that.” Here, though, many stuff is crazy ticklish because it sorta seems that maybe that outlandish stunt might actually work, and this outlandish stunt is perhaps remotely possible without defying the laws of physics. Or at least the cartoon physics holds up for the moment while you’re in the middle of laughing at the outrageousness of it. I haven’t done the math — and I’m not going to — but I think… just maybe… you will believe that a tank can fly.

You want story? There is some to be found here, in between the hilarious prison breakouts and the jumping off of buildings and that awesome thing that Face does in Baghdad to get from the sewer and onto the truck. It’s all a bit of a reboot: We see how the boys, Army Rangers to a one, first met in Mexico: well, Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson: Clash of the Titans, Chloe) and “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper: Valentine’s Day, All About Steve) already knew each other, and were working together to bring down a bad guy, but they just accidentally happened to run into B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and Murdock (Sharlto Copley: District 9) at moments when their skills — B.A. is good in a scrape; Murdock is a kickass pilot — were most needed. So right from the get-go, the preposterous is built in.

Then it’s eight years later, they’ve been a team on the right side of the law the whole time, and they’re getting ready to pull out of Baghdad with the rest of the U.S. Army. (I’m not sure whether this is meant to be in some imaginary future, when the U.S. would be decamping from Iraq entirely, or if it’s meant to be just after Saddam Hussein was taken down. But it doesn’t matter.) There’s some stolen currency printing plates that have to be found, and Smith volunteers his guys, but there’s an asshole named Pike (Brian Bloom, one of the screenwriters) who works for, ahem, the Black Forest mercenary outfit, and he wants to go after the plates himself. But wait! There’s also Biel’s (Valentine’s Day, Planet 51) Sosa, who is supposed to be in charge of getting those plates back. And there’s the mysterious CIA operative Lynch (Patrick Wilson: Watchmen, Lakeview Terrace; I can’t recall Wilson ever being this funny before), and he’s obviously up to no good.

It’s like halfway into the movie before the Baghdad job goes bad and Smith and his boys are stripped of their ranks and sent to prison — wrongfully convicted, of course — that you’re like, Oh yeah! They’re supposed to be on the run from the government. And then that starts up, and it just keeps snowballing absurdity to such a delicious degree that even though, okay, it’s yet another retread from the 80s and sequels tend to be boring and you really really wish Hollywood would come up with some new ideas, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we got another A-Team movie after this.

And the best thing? The flick isn’t just inventive with its action and snarky in its dialogue, it’s also cheerfully free of the kind of ugliness that is typical of overblown summertime popcorn movies. There’s no Megan Fox humping a motorcycle, no shucking-and-jiving robots, no fart jokes. And as cartoonish as the movie may be, it does at least offer us actual adult characters, and nods just a little — not so much as to get heavy about it — to adult motivations and adult competence. Thank you, Joe Carnahan (Pride and Glory, Smokin’ Aces) — director and another cowriter — for giving us, in Sosa, a capable, experienced, professional woman who’s still a woman without being a blowup doll, and a character with a real part to play in the story, not just someone around to be eye candy.

And thanks, too, Carnahan, for having Bradley Cooper half naked for a surprising percentage of the runtime; thank you for remembering those members of the audience who are not heterosexual males. Now, if only you could have worked in a fight scene for Cooper and Patrick Wilson, wherein they could have rolled around shirtless for a bit — that would have been so hot.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Michael

    Here’s a great piece, written by a TV producer, with an interesting slant on why the signs don’t look good for the big screen A Team movie… and why the trailer highlights all that’s currently wrong with Hollywood today

    Why use comments from someone who’s only seen a trailer to protest a review by someone who’s actually seen the whole thing? I are confusled. Bot?

  • Just got back from seeing it.

    You are right in that this was refreshing for a summer movie: no fart jokes, above all. And while the tank thing was outlandish it made perfect sense within the context of the plot and the original show’s mythos.

    The weakest part of the movie honestly enough was the shaky cam stuff during fights and car chases: there oughta be a law that every action movie go back to steadicam and viewable battles.

    I did have a problem with Bradley Cooper’s version of Face in that he acted half the time almost as crazy as Murdock. Other than that, the actors were perfect. You could see Quinton was having a hard time trying to avoid mimicking Mr. T’s version of B.A. (the closest is when Murdock wrecks The Van), but he stayed the course and made the role his own (that was also surprising: I was expecting cameos of the surviving original actors but they never appeared. It actually proves a good thing: the movie is darker and edgier than the show, and their popping up would have lightened the mood too much…).

  • MaryAnn

    It was spam, the comment you’re quoting, Michael, and I deleted it.

  • MaryAnn

    I was expecting cameos of the surviving original actors but they never appeared

    You should have sat through the end credits…

  • JoshDM

    Here is the important question:

    WERE THERE ANY CYLONS?

    Because, man.

  • Michael

    It was spam, the comment you’re quoting, Michael, and I deleted it.

    Aha! I now go in search of a windmill at which to tilt! *dashes off*

  • Not another end credit snippet! dammit, film makers, stop that! we’re out of the theaters at that point and you know it! >:-(

  • Ryan H

    I’m not out of the theater. I like to see the type of production that went on. It may have taken them decades but the film makers have finally figured out a way to get people to sit around and see all those credited names!

  • MaryAnn

    No Cylons. Though that would have been funny.

  • Drave

    If I find the movie to be even slightly above average, I stay for the credits. I like to feel that I am at least subconsciously appreciating every single person who helped make the movie happen. Plus, I love interesting names, and movie credits are the most dense collection of random names you can find in every day life outside of a job.

  • don’t you remember. WE are the Cylons.

  • Jasper

    I would second the Cooper/Wilson fight scene, but only if Copley joined in. He’s so goshdarn cute!

  • Mathias

    Just a fun summer movie that delivers on everything it promised. We’ve been missing that this summer.

  • NorthernStar

    I can’t believe this isn’t out until very late July in the UK.

    *goes into a corner and sulks*

  • Hunter Stockitwell

    What?!

    No CAMEOS from ‘anyone’ out of the original TV series?

    LAME! I’m waiting for the DVD…with BONUSES – –

  • @Hunter, I was told there were cameos past the end credits.

  • MaryAnn

    No CAMEOS from ‘anyone’ out of the original TV series?

    So, not only do people not sit through the end credits, they can’t even be bothered to read the comments on a review before they post their own. You know, in case someone else already raised the issue they want to raise.

    *shakes head*

  • @MaryAnn: I was just reading yesterday about Internet reading habits, and it turns out most people read faster and faster as they go along, so of course they will miss more and more stuff.

  • AsimovLives

    What’s to like about the first TRASHFORMERS movie? It’s one of the most retard piece of shit abortion disguised as movie i ever had the displeasure to watch in my whole life. Only suplanted in awfulness by JJ Abrams’s STAR TREK IN NAME ONLY, Roland Emmerich’s 20whatever and Bay’s TRASHFORMERS 2.

    MaryAne, my belle, sometimes i just don’t get you. You are supposed to be a movie geek, aren’t you? We the geeks are supposed to have standards, for the love of cinema!

    As for THE A-TEAM, i expect the worst, but i do hope for the best, that it’s a good movie and for the sake of Joe Carnahan, that it does gangbang box office results. The guy who directed the excelent NARC and the crazy and underrated SMOKIN’ ACES deserves to have a fat box office sucess in his career, so, i hope, to see more NARC-like movies from him.

  • amanohyo

    So mon beau… are you trying to tell us you don’t like Abram’s Star Trek and that all true geeks must agree on certain core principles as defined by yourself? Would one of these principles perchance be pounding one’s hatred of a certain movie into the ground over and over and over despite entreaties not to do so?

    Damn it Ji… I mean, AsimovLives, what the hell is matter with you? Other people have opinions. Your pattern indicates one-dimensional thinking. This Abram’s movie has entered your ears and wrapped around your cerebral cortex. Later, as it grows, follows madness and death. You are in a position to demand nothing, MA, on the other hand, is in a position to grant nothing. You’ve hurt us, do you wish to go on hurting us?

    Aaaaaaaasimovliiiives!

    Seriously, we all understood your dislike of the movie the first time you told us. Do you understand that every geek has special snowflake standards? Some geeks don’t like Empire Strikes Back. Some geeks don’t even like Wrath. of. Khan. Oh yeah, I went there. Beating us over the head with a single opinion apropos nothing just turns you into a one-note comic relief character. Don’t become yet another fool for us to pity. You must let it go before it destr… er annoys us all.

  • JoshDM

    I just learned those things during/after the credits are called STINGERS.

    And there is a website that tracks them which you need to go to before you see a film: Movie Stinger.

    It will not necessarily tell you the details, just whether you are waiting for something DURING or AFTER the credits and whether it is additional scenes or an alternate or extended ending, not necessarily WHAT that item is.

    So it is fairly spoiler free and a big time saver!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, for all of the reasons listed in the review. As for the Cylon, I thought they could have had Tricia Helfer walk around in the background of a scene. I feel it would have added a little geek-service, much like the “Reginald Barclay” credit in the fake Escape Movie.

  • Jurgan

    I was going to say roughly the same thing to AsimovLives. We get it, you didn’t like the new Star Trek, but you don’t have to keep bringing it up in irrelevant conversations. I’m wondering if you’re on someone’s payroll- George Lucas, perhaps?

    I like sitting through credits, even if I know there’s no “stinger.” (I’ve heard that term referring to MST3K’s ending clips, which were the worst thing in the movie- I’ve never heard the term used in this way). I find watching the credits and listening to the music lets me synthesize the movie better- I can think about the movie’s impact and how different parts fit together.

  • Alinia

    Thank you, MaryAnn! I was feeling a bit down after reading some other bozo’s review and thinking about not seeing this movie, but I’m back to being ready for some fun afternoon junk food after reading your review!

  • Alinia

    Oops, I meant “some bozo’s review,” since I don’t think you are a bozo…

  • MaryAnn

    AsimovLives, this is your last warning: lay off the non sequitur *Star Trek* shit or your comments will be deleted. I don’t mind if you don’t like that film (or any other film). I do mind that you seem incapable of participating in the conversation like a grownup.

    And I’m not your “belle.”

  • Saw this yesterday and loved the shit out of it. I was very happy to see your Green Light of approval this morning… for a little while there I wasn’t sure I’d agree with you ever again!!

    Great review, fantastic movie.

  • Frank

    Is the A-Team anything like GI Joe? I thought GI Joe was the worst movie of 2009 because everything about it was a bad joke – the acting, the special effects, the jokes. I was actually angry that I paid money to see that trash, and now I’m afraid to make the same mistake on a movie.

    So is A-team better than GI Joe?

  • Orangutan

    So is A-team better than GI Joe?

    Significantly. Orders of magnitude, even.

  • hergrace

    Took the boys (ages 18 and 13) to see this the other day. We all *loved* it! Yes, OTT in plot and adventure, but great fun all the same. Hmmm…yes “Face” shirtless was a delight, but I’m sort of old-school. How ’bout some shirtless Liam Neeson? I think the ol’ boy still has it (and a decent accent to boot.) My only complaint is how did they make these four good-looking guys looks so *awful* on the posters?

    Think I’ll send my hubby to see this with the boys to have a Boys’ Day Out on Father’s Day. Totally appropriate.

  • Dokeo

    @ hergrace

    Yes, I also wish there had been a *gratuitous* peck shot of Liam Neeson. However, I do remember one long, lingering shot of his, shall we say, package. I thought that was just fine, even while I was really surprised it was there!

    I haven’t seen any of Joe Carnahan’s other work, but I just put Smokin’ Aces on my Netflix queue. I’m interested in seeing how he handles women and men and gazes in another story.

  • Boingo

    Saw it. My 4th free movie (rookie ushers still don’t
    know to take my free movie stub).

    Liam Neeson carried the flick. He’s got a built-in
    authoritative voice-deep as a wine barrel.

    Spoiler:

    I was relieved when one team member saw the light, and
    sent a message that sometimes “ya gotta crush the
    living daylights out of the bad guy.”

  • I just learned those things during/after the credits are called STINGERS.

    Funny, I’ve been referring to them as Credit Cookies for as long as I can remember. This website to which you refer to: yours, perhaps?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    There was nothing about this movie I didn’t love. And i hated The A-Team as a kid.

  • Hearing the Mike Post theme sprinkled generously throughout the soundtrack put a constant smile on my face. That music was as much a defining trait of the show as any of the characters, and I’m glad they kept it.

    The movie was great fun all around. And I agree that Neeson was terrific–although I gotta say, I’ve rewatched a couple of the TV episodes and I still think George Peppard is in a class all his own.

    *raises a glass to George’s memory*

  • Pedro

    No no no no no no no.

    No?

    No!

    [/Blackadder]

    MAJ, HOW can you have enjoyed this movie? As a kid, I was a fan of the A-Team, and therefore predisposed to like this movie. My favorite was Faceman, then Murdock, and to hear that Sharlto Copley was in this movie only added to the excitement.

    And then…

    …then we get this, the furthest thing from the A-Team we could possibly have. Oh, sure, the first 20 minutes are a homage to the original show – much like the first half-hour of Toy Story 3 was a homage to all the fans held dear – as is the ending, with Hannibal’s immortal saying. But the middle portion – much like the middle portion of Toy Story 3 – is vastly underwhelming (and yes, I just blasphemed).

    Most of this is due to character inconsistencies which go from Sharlto Copley’s wavering accent (which I call Amerfrican) varying literally from one line to the next, to the absolute butchering of B.A. Baracus, who was turned into – gasp! – someone with FEELINGS!?

    Guilt trips!? Spiritual epiphanies!? Mr. T would be rolling in his grave (if, that is, he were dead; as is, he probably just pities that foo’). Heck, the original Baracus would pity dis foo’. Hell, JOHN CENA’S MUSIC VIDEO had a better Baracus than this movie!

    Overall, these important issues, when coupled with the pedestrian and overly confusing story, end up sucking the fun out of scenes like the flying tank or B.A. and Face accidentally switching lines at Customs. It’s in those scenes that you see what this movie COULD have been; which only makes it that much more disappointing that it isn’t.

    So fans of the A-Team, do not pay full bucks to see this. Rent it, download it, watch it online, whatever, but don’t go to the multiplex. All you really need to see is the first 20 minutes, the tank scene and the very last bit. Everything else is just padding, and boring padding at that. Avoid.

    Oh, and there isn’t a single shootout where no-one gets hurt. Not one. Anywhere.

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