Not Stimulating, The A-Team Still Gets a "B"
- Friday, June 11, 2010
DVD Release Date: December 14, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: June 11, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence, coarse language and smoking)
Run Time: 119 min.
Director: Joe Carnahan
Actors: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley
The A-Team is back: Hannibal (the leader); Face (the hunk); Murdock (the kook); and Baracus (the muscle). And I'm glad to see them again. Sitting in the theater for this film was more like a reunion with old friends than anything else. Although the movie failed to perfectly emulate the old TV series (1983-1987), it came close enough to the show's characterizations, feel, and plot to be enjoyable.
We meet the new A-Team as they join forces south-of-the-border to thwart a crooked Mexican general who has captured Face (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover). It's up to Col. John "Hannibal" Smith (Liam Neeson, Taken, Schindler's List) to save his pal with the help of Baracus, the character made famous by Mr. T. (now played surprisingly well by former UFC Light-Heavyweight champ, Quinton Jackson). They escape, but only after tracking down Murdock (portrayed hysterically by actor, director, producer, Sharlto Copley) in a psychiatric ward—a certified nut-case, but also one of the best pilots anywhere.
Together this A-Team begins working as a top-notch Special Forces unit assigned only the toughest jobs. They do them with finesse, precision, and as little bloodshed as possible. Their military careers seem fixed, until they're framed for a crime they didn't commit. As fugitives they embark on their own mission—i.e., catch whoever set them up, bring out the truth, and get back their lives. It's a noble mission that presents us with heroes to applaud, bad guys to boo, and more than enough chase scenes punctuated by explosions and gunfire to satisfy even the most die-hard Die Hard fans.
The film moves quickly with action stopping just long enough to give the audience a breather. And then it's back to bombs exploding, jets zooming, helicopters diving, and machine-guns blasting. No, this is not a mentally stimulating movie, nor is it particularly creative, artistic, or complicated. Sure, the characters are one-dimensional, the story's been done, and the plot twists are predictable. But who cares? It's fun.
The performances are solid. In fact, veteran actor, Liam Neeson, is almost too good. The original Hannibal in the TV series, played by George Peppard, was far more carefree and light-spirited. But Neeson has so much gravity in his line delivery and presence that you sometimes forget it's all supposed to be a campy shoot-em-up romp. This is the main weakness of the movie (only apparent to fans of the original A-Team). It doesn't match the silliness and cartoon-ish feel of the TV show, which often featured the most outlandish craziness (e.g., George Peppard wearing a giant lizard suit in a yellow rambler convertible and being pursued at high speeds through a movie studio lot—priceless). This is not to say the movie has no humor. It does—in many places. In fact, in addition to oft-heard cheers and applause from the movie's audience, there was a good bit of laughing aloud.
Interestingly, several deeper themes can actually be found within the script: friendship, loyalty, honor, trust, integrity, greed, guilt, and pacifism. Especially interesting is the character of Baracus, the most physically intimidating and violent of the bunch. The movie takes time to explore his struggles with violence, going so far as to have a brief scene where he and Hannibal mention Gandhi's views and discuss finding the balance one needs in a world where sometimes one must act in way that counters total pacifism. Baracus must wrestle with the realties presented to him and somehow do what needs to be done, yet not violate his conscience. Nice touch.
- Language/Profanity: The Lord's name ("Jesus Christ") is used once. The mildly coarse language is used minimally—he--, sh--, d--n—and is often lost amid the fast-paced action. At times it can be undetectable if one is not listening closely.
- Smoking/Drinking/Drugs: Hannibal smokes a cigar, often as a celebration of a successful mission. There is one example of the team having one drink before a mission—but no excessive drinking.
- Nudity: None.
- Sex/Sexual situations: Sexuality is suggested in reference to Face and assorted women. But it's done in passing and never featured as an integral part of the story. Sexuality is very incidental, except at the film's beginning, when a corrupt Mexican official accuses Face of adultery with his wife. But this is never verified and could be explained as a false accusation.
Mild Violence: The violence in this film is mild in comparison to other action/adventure films. It's tempered and used only as a necessary action element. There are a few fist fights, deaths by gunfire, and explosions that kill enemies. But no blood or close-ups of death are ever shown. Moreover, dialogue questions the use of violence, which is ultimately shown as something that should be used only in the most dire of circumstances or in order to save a life.
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