Tuesday, October 18, 2011

3 short paragraphs: The A-Team

2010, Joe Carnahan - Netflix

There's a scene in the big-budget cinematic remake of the beloved (and knowingly campy) 80's TV series where Face, Murdoch, Hannibal and B.A. are inside a tank which has just dropped out of the belly of plane, and are using the tank's cannon to square off against a pair of drone fighter planes (they have to be drones so that they can bloodlessly shoot them out of the sky, don'tchaknow).  I saw a brief, 4-second clip of this scene in the trailer back in early 2010 and decided then and there this film was going to be beyond absurd (into the stupid range) and that I wasn't going to have any part of it.

As the year since the film has passed, I've softened on that stance, mainly due to kind, if not necessarily favorable reviews.  Let's face it, absurd, over-the-top action rarely makes for great cinema, but it can make for good entertainment.  The A-Team, it turns out, is good entertainment.

The film provides an origin story for the team and then sets them on their way as criminals and outcasts.  The film turns what is many action films' weaknesses -- namely the implausibility of the action sequences or events leading up to them -- into a strength as Hannibal imparts a weirdly meditative belief in fate (those plans don't come together on brains alone, it takes luck too) onto Face, as he mentors him in plan making and execution.  Liam Neeson couldn't be more perfect for the role of Hannibal just as Bradley Cooper's piercing blue eyes eliminate any question he's a faceman.  District 9's Sharlto Copely needs to be in more films and I was pleasantly surprised by UFC fighter Quinton Jackson's Mr. T homage (though he's definitely no Mr. T), while also giving the softer side of B.A. some credibility.  It's a great ensemble with delightful chemistry rounded out with Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel in supporting roles, and a script that was far more engaging, filled with plenty of deception and double-crosses, than it had any right to be. Even that tank sequence felt right in context and had a punchline to the end of it making it worthwhile, ridiculously absurd though it is.