Posted by: greercn | August 2, 2010

The A-Team

This action-packed, funny and utterly enjoyable romp keeps the slightly camp spirit of the mid-1980s TV show without losing its innovative and shiny feel. I can’t think when I enjoyed something so much, in mindless bliss.

I am told it has been savaged by the critics. Yah, boo, sucks to you guys. It’s unpretentious, happy and firmly on the side of the good guys. All the people at the Stratford Picture House laughed their heads off, oohed and aahed at the stunts and came out smiling and happy. I could not ask for more, as a lift to the spirits.

If movies are meant to transport you to another reality, then there is great success here, for director Joe Carnahan.

I expected to hate it. I loved that TV series. Although not a great George Peppard fan in his leading man days, the older A-Team George was very sexy and compelling. He was a real man, leading the young and always in charge. Mr T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz all brought style and energy to their roles.

If you were busy studying analytic philosophy in the 1980s and sneered at TV, the series ran from 1983-7. Four Vietnam vets are framed for a crime they didn’t commit and live on the run, in and around LA. Each week, they right a wrong and defeat the bad guys. There were no nuances here. That was about it.

Each of the stars had a trademark. George as Hannibal smoked cigars and said “I love it when a plan comes together”. Mr T wore a Mohawk hairdo, lots of gold jewellery and said “pity the fool” a lot. Dirk Benedict as “Face” was conventionally handsome and fell in love every week, in the style of Captain Kirk. Dwight Schultz played a crazy but clever guy who had technical skills aplenty.

The movie shifts the “crime” to Iraq and allows Vancouver to stand in for Germany and LA. Liam Neeson plays the Hannibal role and looks oddly Botoxed and unlike himself. He is very good in the role, but he isn’t George.

My only criticism is that the sense of being on the side of the little guy, the greatest strength of the outlaws in the TV series, is lost in this movie. Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but these guys are just fighting to stay live and get themselves out of trouble.

Brian Bloom plays Pike and co-wrote the script with Joe Carnahan. It rolls along with great humour. Bradley Cooper brings some depth to “Face” and matches Hannibal well. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson makes a fine replacement for Mr T and Sharlto Copley from “District 9” plays the mad man Murdock so well that you forget he is a modern imposter.

The stunts are absolutely extraordinary. Homage is paid to the TV show black van and the uses for tanks, helicopters and planes are simply wonderful. I am rarely surprised by films, but I was happily shocked by the daring of this movie. It ups the ante for action movies to come.

Of the performances that stand out, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bloom (co-writer and actor) and Yul Vasquez all need special mentions. And the ever wonderful Gerald McRaney has a great role which he makes the most of.

And if you love Steely Dan as much as I do, you will love this soundtrack. “Reelin’ in the Years” is used to great effect.

If you stick it out right through the credits, you get an extra scene featuring Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz, which is a real treat for diehard fans such as me. I will be buying the DVD and enjoying it again and again. It’s for the regular movie lover, rather than the highbrow critic and should be loved, just for that.

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