The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, July 2, 2010

The A-Team

In a continuing trend of why be original when you can duplicate past success, The A-Team hit theaters a few weeks ago and quickly started raking in the money.  Based off the popular 80s TV show of the same name, it's that perfect summer movie you can eat with piles of popcorn and a pop as big as your head.  I went in with moderate expectations having some knowledge of the show without actually seeing an episode although The Family Guy spoof was perfect. So anyways, strap yourself in for one-liners, lots of explosions and Liam Neeson being awesome.

When I reviewed The Losers in April, I mentioned how a stream of similar movies was hitting theaters this summer, a group of specialists taking on a job that seems nearly impossible.  Including 'Losers' and 'A-Team' there's also The Expendables and Takers coming out later this summer.  I've mentioned in the past how much I love these movies, and one has to be pretty bad for me not to recommend it at least partially.  The Losers started things off right, and A-Team is an incredibly similar movie with almost duplicate scenes in some cases.  Still, decide for yourself.

After eight years working together as a Special Forces team, Colonel John 'Hannibal' Smith (Neeson) and his Alpha Team (hence A-Team) that includes Lt. Templeton 'Face' Peck (Bradley Cooper), B.A. Baracus (MMA fighter Quinton Jackson), and pilot Murdock (Sharlto Copley), are sent on a mission that ends up being a double cross.  They're court-martialed and jailed until a mysterious CIA agent, Lynch (Patrick Wilson) shows up offering to help them break out and find the real culprits.  The A-Team has to not only catch a privatized security force responsible, but the force also has a connection with counterfeited money plates that could flood the market with fake U.S. money.  All the while, government agent Sosa (Jessica Biel) is on their trail trying to figure out exactly what they're up to.

Director Joe Carnahan's last movie was 2006's Smokin' Aces, a mess of a movie that was a ton of fun to watch.  Big cast, lots of action, explosions all around, all that good stuff that makes a good popcorn movie.  The A-Team has all of that.  With one exception, the action is well-handled and thankfully steers clear of any ultra-fast quick editing that makes the action impossible to follow.  One early scene has the team taking down a heavily guarded convoy transporting counterfeit money through Baghdad.  It's a great scene, as are most of the action.  One assault on a building in downtown Berlin is packed full of great stunts, as is the ending in a shipping yard with an ambush waiting around every corner.  If action is what you seek, then you won't be disappointed here at all.

The A-Team casting is hit or miss with two parts working for me and two falling short.  Neeson as Hannibal is an inspired choice, and is another great move for the Irish actor who's been doing more mainstream work of late.  His Hannibal is smooth, highly intelligent, calm under fire and a master planner.  He's a great choice to fill George Peppard's shoes and one of the big positives to come out of the movie.  Same for MMA fighter Jackson who succeeds in making B.A. (Bad Ass) more than a stereotype.  Playing a role Mr. T made famous could be a little daunting, but Jackson passes with flying colors.  Same for Wilson as CIA agent Lynch, a smarmy, smart-ass who you just love to hate.  Brian Bloom is also solid as Pike, the security official responsible for setting the team up.

Now those are the positives of the casting.  I like Cooper as an actor, especially comedy, but I don't know if he was the right choice here to play Face.  He yells a lot, seduces women left and right, takes his shirt off for some strategically placed flexing, and I thought was generally pretty annoying.  District 9 star Copley gets what should be the funniest part as Howlin' Mad Murdock.  Here's something pretty basic though, if the movie's too loud to actually hear the one-liners it kinda defeats the purpose of having the one-liners.  That said, what lines I did hear were funny, but Murdock was too over the top for me.  Then there's Biel who god bless her, may be the most attractive government agent ever.  But she's not a great actress, and her background with Cooper's Face seems a little forced. Also look for Jon Hamm in a quick, miss it and you'll blink scene late.

Seeing this in theaters, the movie ended and I walked out thinking it was good, an average action movie that didn't leave much of an impression on me.  Then, the more I thought about it, I liked it more.  But now, most of a week since viewing the movie, I've got that empty feeling again.  I can't put my finger on it, but something was missing, some sort of energy.  My favorite part was definitely the beginning as the four members of the A-team meet on a mission south of the border.  The rest? It's good enough, but nothing spectacular.  There will be better summer movies and there will be worse.  A decent enough way to spend 2 hours.

The A-Team <----trailer (2010): ** 1/2 /****

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