“Overkill is underrated” is a line uttered at the opportune moment by Col. John Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) head of The A-Team, this summer’s best (as far as I can tell) nostalgia-inspired adaptation. This line is the perfect explanation and rationale for everything in this immensely entertaining action-comedy.
In fact, one of the best things about this movie is that the vast majority of the lines are said at the right moment and in the perfect way. And they are great lines, with some refreshingly original humor and sight gags.
The A-Team is, of course, first and foremost a summer action flick, the kind that no one cares too terribly much whether it makes a lot of sense as long as things blow up impressively – and they do. But writers Joe Carnahan (who also directs; known for Smokin’ Aces), Brian Bloom (who also stars as one of the bad guys), and Skip Woods provide much more than we would have settled for.
Sure, there are plot holes big enough to fly a helicopter through. And the laws of physics are basically thrown out the window. But then, this is not supposed to be a realistic exposé of covert government ops. The unrealistic stunts are there for a reason, and in this film, that reason is to create all the well-used opportunities for the characters to be themselves. In some ways, the A-Team members as we knew them from the TV series have been turned into cartoonish superheroes capable of phenomenal feats.
There is one wildly inventive scene (for those who plan to see the movie, I won’t give it away) that contains one of the best punchlines, indicating the kind of predicaments in which the A-team finds itself: “They’re trying to fly the tank.” The line is all the better for its deadpan delivery by Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel).
I used to watch the A-Team series, and I really enjoyed it, especially the interaction among the four disparate personalities of its members. Despite the good looks and irresistible charm of Face (Dirk Benedict), my favorite was always “Howling Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz). Hmm, what does that say about me?
So, it was wonderful to see the Murdock role so fluently reprised by the inimitable Sharlto Copley (who was amazing in one of my favorite films of last year, District 9). From beginning to end, Murdock provides the snort-your-beverage-out-your-nose laughs with his antics and commentary. Bradley Cooper is awesome as the charismatically resourceful Templeton “Faceman” Peck. Even Neeson has fun with the role of Hannibal Smith and doesn’t try to steal scenes with earnest posturing or baleful stares, as he is wont to do (don’t get me wrong, I am a Neeson fan and greatly enjoy his work, but you gotta admit … he does do that!).
The only weak link in the team makeup is B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson). He’s the one member of the team that I felt wasn’t written to his potential. I missed the “Bad Attitude” of the series (played by Mr. T), an outwardly humorless tough who could come up with zingers at the best times and kept the craziness of the other members in line. In this film, he comes off a bit wimpy, and I’m not talking about the character’s admirable turn toward the philosophies of
Gandhi; I’m talking about his demeanor in general. He didn’t seem like the Baracus that the team could always count on.
The cast is rounded out with outstanding performances from Patrick Wilson, Gerald McRaney, Yul Vazquez, Henry Czerny, and more.
Yes, George Peppard (RIP) and the gang can be proud! Unlike so many adaptations of material we grew up with and remember fondly, this film pays wacky and wonderful homage to its predecessor while giving audiences a wild ride that stands on its own for those who never heard of the A-Team before. This film successfully accomplishes what it set out to be — a hilarious, thrilling, action-packed summer fun-flick. I, for one, hope there will be sequels (as long as the same writing A-team pens them)!
P.S. If you are a fan of the original series, definitely stay all the way to the end of the credits – it will be worth your while!