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The A-Team (2010,USA)

15/07/2011

Director: Joe Carnahan     Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson

Anyone who is in any doubt as to my love of the definitive eighties tv show The A-Team can click here to read some reminisces on one of the greatest tv shows every made. It was written a while ago but I still stand by it and my comments about the prospect of the (at the time) up coming movie were at the forefront of my mind as I finally settled down to watch the thing. Many people had assured me it was “really good”, that it captured the spirit of the original series and that it was (alarm bells ringing) “harmless fun”.

Effectively a genesis story for a twenty first century reboot of the A-Team it plots the formation of the legendary team and their subsequent betrayal by dark forces within the military that leave them dsihonourably discharged and ultimately fugitives from the law in their bid to clear their names and restore their reputations. Fans of the series will know this was covered in its entirety in the pre-credits voicover of the original series, barring some of the finer details which would be fleshed out in later seasons of the show with flashback episodes but it makes sense for the basis of the movie, especially given that it leaves room for inevitable additional installments to the franchise. The problems begin though very early on for the reboot.

It would be impossible (and a little bit sad) to list every single minute inconsistency between the film and the show so I will try to keep the offenses to the main ones. Within minutes it is clear they have completely changed the character of Face for the film. Gone is the charming, suave con artist with an aversion to getting a smack in the mouth (lest hit disturb his beautiful visage) and he has been replaced with a generic looking, designer stubbled jawline who goads his attackers to hit him harder. Straight away it doesn’t sit right. Out of the four members of the team this is the biggest mis-hit. Copley’s Murdoch is a spirited homage to Dwight Schultz in the original but the District 9 star doesn’t have the same charisma or genuine sense of mania that Schultz brought to the role and which absolutely defined Murdock. Neeson is adequate as Hannibal from the point of view that he is a convincing father figure for the rest of the team but his suitability ends there. Of them all, Rampage Jackson is probably the strongest piece of casting, he certainly has the physicality to play B.A. Barracus (why do they all constantly call him Boscoe? Only his mother calls him Boscoe…) but in a combination between a lack of acting talent/experience (delete as applicable) and terrible writing the ball is dropped even here.

It’s hard to blame the actors. It’s not their fault that they are being asked to bring their own slant to such iconic and clearly defined characters. The very fact that most people seem unable to destinguish between Mr T (the actor) and B.A. (the character) in a normal conversation goes some way to indicate how synonymous each member of the A-Team is with the actors who portrayed them in the tv show. The fact of the matter is that Hannibal is and always will be George Peppard. Anyone else trying to fill the role is doomed to failure.

“But what about the people who don’t give a damn about the original series?”, I hear you cry! Well. Seperating myself from my A-Team fanboy status for a moment, let’s look at the film in the context of a straight up action film. Even here we hit some problems. Some of the elaborate plans that are implemented in the true spirit of the A-Team are actually rather good (see the opening rescue sequence, the Iraq heist, or the Frankfurt bank) however there are a couple of moments where things go so seriously wrong that it undermines the rest of the film. The bit with the tank when it get’s parachuted out of the plane must rank up there among the most preposterous nonsense any filmmaker has ever expected their audience to swallow and it’s almost matched by the concluding set piece, a disjointed mess of digital pudding and meaningless explosions.

Shoddily written it has little of the wit and charm that made the original so memorable and some of the changes they have made (Hannibal runs into B.A. by sheer chance in the Mexican desert and gets him to join the team? What? I mean, seriously, what?) are just drivel. If you are going to rewrite such a solid back story it has to stack up or the whole endeavour will fall flat on its face. B.A.’s “non violence” side plot is a pain as well, not because it is necessarily a bad idea but because it is so tediously expressed and is leading to such an obvious outcome that it is entirely pointless it being there in the first place.

I really struggled to like anything about this reboot. I would be the first to admit that it has a lot to do with my fondness for the original series but even setting that aside, the 2010 film is a crass, spiritually bereft attempt at a sub standard action flick. Focusing on what they clearly perceive as clever little modernised references to the orignal A-Team, the filmmakers have missed the opportunity to bring the ethics and charisma of Hannibal Smith and co. to the big screen and this, after all,  is where the real worth of the tv show lies. Instead they’ve taken some shiny Hollywood actors and dressed them up for an A-Team themed party and then thrown some pixels around to try and make it look interesting. It isn’t and you would be much better served getting your hands on the original series and spending a few evenings with that instead.

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