Greetings again from the darkness. Plenty of hating going on by the real film critics for this update of the 80’s TV series. What I saw was a fun, over-the-top action film designed to explode with entertainment value. There are plenty of things that prevent this from being a great movie, but nothing that prevents it from being a good ol’ time at the local cinema.
Writer/Director Joe Carnahan makes some of the same mistakes he made in Smokin’ Aces, but overall, he lets the bigger than life characters control the film … well, except when the sometimes-ridiculous action sequences take over. His casting choices are interesting: Liam Neeson as Hannibal (originally played by George Peppard), Bradley Cooper as pretty boy charmer “Face” (Dirk Benedict on the series), District 9 actor Sharlto Copley as scene-stealing daredevil Murdock (was Dwight Schultz) and UFC bad boy Quinton “Rampage” Jackson replacing the iconic Mr. T as B.A. Baracus.
Neeson handles the Hannibal role with an all-knowing smirk, a Cuban cigar and the knowledge that he is mostly the straight man here. Cooper relishes the chance to remove his shirt and flash his dimples and blue eyes. Copley provides much hope for his acting future since he pretty much takes over the screen in all of his scenes. Jackson, on the other hand, really should consider going back to the UFC world – his acting skills are responsible for some of the weakest moments in the film.
I purposefully chose “some of the weakest moments” so as to make a real point in regards to the deflater of the film. The deflater is the one who causes the film to go flat (the air from the balloon) every time he/she is on screen. Without question, the A-Team deflater is Jessica Biel. Apparently straight from the Elizabeth Berkley school of acting, Biel continues to land gigs because producers find her attractive. The attribute of “attractiveness” is only effective for photographs if not teamed with some type of acting ability. When Ms. Biel holds a gun, emotes or reads a line, the viewer feels nothing but letdown. Despite the carnage reaped by the boys, she out-kills them with her screen time.
The good news is that there are some really funny lines and moments despite the fantastical nature of the action sequences. Also Carnahan and co-writer Brian Bloom (who also plays bad guy Pike) have done an admirable job of paying tribute to the original series. Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz have cameos and a brief scene post-credits. Mr. T reportedly rejected a chance to appear and, of course, George Peppard passed many years ago. We even get a tribute (albeit a quick one) to the A-Team van … and it’s nice to hear the familiar sounds of the theme song and series opening.