Like the ‘80s action-adventure show that it’s based on, “Narc” director Joe Carnahan’s 2010 big-screen adaptation of “The A-Team” is big-time fun for those who realize that a movie based on a ‘80s action-adventure show should not be taken too seriously. And so, when Hannibal’s outrageously complicated plans go down like clockwork, and the bad guys can’t hit the broad side of a barn unless the plot needs them to, you just smile and go with it, because to do otherwise would be to spend the film’s nearly two hours bitching and moaning about how that was impossible, no, that was even more impossible than the last, etc. And really, why punish yourself when it’s so unnecessary?
As with the TV show, “The A-Team” chronicles the exploits of four highly trained Army Rangers, specialists in getting things done in the most ridiculous way possible. (As a character declares, these guys “specialize in the ridiculous.” Oh, truer words…) When they are framed for a crime they did not commit, the men must go on the run to clear their names. But wait! That’s about 40 minutes into our tale. When we first meet them, they have not become the A-team yet. In the beginning, there was only mastermind Hannibal (Liam Neeson), on an operation with his trusted sidekick Faceman (Bradley Cooper) in Mexico. There, they meet the Mohawk-sporting B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), a fellow Ranger doing, well, criminal things in Mexico. It’s never really clear what he’s doing that has him fleeing from Mexican cops. Before the First Act is over, the trio crosses paths with the appropriately named Howling Mad Murdock (Sharlto Copley). And the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast-forward eight years later, and the gang are doing their thing in Iraq, and have been for the last eight years of the war. They’ve become close now, or as close as the script by Carnahan, Brian Blooms, and Skip Woods manages to get across. (Word is, there were at least a dozen or so screenwriters working on the script over the years. Yikes.) Things start to go wrong for our badasses when shady CIA dude Lynch (Patrick Wilson) recruits them for a mission that everyone, including Army Intelligence Captain Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel, whose character also happens to be Faceman’s former squeeze, natch) tells them to stay away. But our boys are feeling their oats, and they accomplish the mission in style – only to find themselves framed for the murder of a trusted General (Gerald McRaney) and the theft of some fancy schmancy money prints or such. You know, the McGuffin. Suffice to say, the boys go on the run to clear their names, and much shit is blown up along the way.
If you’re a fan of the ‘80s action-adventure show, then the movie version should more than meet your expectations. It’s appropriately outrageous in every way, stuff blows up quite often and loudly, and all the iconic images and phrases from the show sneak appearances here and there. (At one point Hannibal even whips out a Ruger Mini-14, the TV show’s trademark assault rifle.) Director Joe Carnahan obviously had no intention of shitting all over the show, and it shows, from the casting (Neeson and Copley, in particular, are dead ringers for their TV counterparts) to all the little hints and winks that he manages to throw in. Unfortunately, B.A.’s van gets a criminally short appearance before it is pancaked, and although news had original castmembers Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz (the original Faceman and Murdock) making appearances, I honestly didn’t glimpse them in the movie. Too bad Carnahan couldn’t have given them bigger roles instead of blink-and-you’ll-miss cameos. Don’t they deserve that much, if not more?
The action comes pretty fast and furious, and the film itself is separated into a seemingly endless string of action set pieces, opening in Mexico and finishing up in a Los Angeles dock. I can safely say that you will never be bored by the film. Plus, there are plenty of excuses to pay attention aside from the action. Jessica Biel is excellent as the persistent Army babe chasing our heroes, and “Watchmen’s” Patrick Wilson seems to be channeling a less evil (though admittedly still pretty evil) version of Jason Patric’s “Max” character from “The Losers”. Wilson has a ball, as does co-star/co-writer Brian Bloom, playing a spirited mercenary named Pike. And hey, if amusing supporting characters (and a smoking hot Jessica Biel) doesn’t keep you awake, you can always chuckle at UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson trying his darnedest to act. Let’s just say there’s a reason the guy started his career beating people up and not in community theater.
Like “The Losers”, a film that owes more than a little inspiration to “The A-Team”, Joe Carnahan’s film rocks the joint if you allow it to. Oh sure, it’s all very absurd and impossible and devoid of any real-world logic, and for some reason the script decides it would like Hannibal to start handling over the reins to Faceman (Really, guys? Already? The first movie? Couldn’t we get one whole movie where Hannibal is Top Dog before he starts passing the torch?), but if you stick with it, and you accept it at face value, “The A-Team” might just be the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this year. Or at the very least, you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth, which in my book is the same thing.
Added: According to Internet reports, there is a bonus for those who can sit through the 10-15 minutes of end credits. Alas, I did not know this at the time.
Joe Carnahan (director) / Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods (screenplay)
CAST: Liam Neeson … Hannibal
Bradley Cooper … Face
Jessica Biel … Charisa Sosa
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson … B.A. Baracus
Sharlto Copley … Murdock
Patrick Wilson … Lynch
Gerald McRaney … General Morrison
Henry Czerny … Director McCready
Brian Bloom … Pike