Sunday 1 August 2010

Review: The A Team

Year: 2010
Director: Joe Carnahan
Screenplay: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Patrick Wilson

Synopsis is here

Like many recent features before it, an A Team movie doesn't really need to be good to be enjoyed as it's got that beautiful nostalgia factor that everyone loves. In the same way many bitched about The Karate Kid for being a remake, an A-team movie could get away with being a bog standard movie by nabbing motifs from the T.V series and those who shunned one, will embrace the other. The nostalgia factor revels the fact it can take away your subjectivity with a familiar face or theme tune, or like fans of the Transformers movies say to me: "It's got robots fighting innit! What more to you need!?"

Despite "watching" the series when I was young, I clearly wasn't watching hard enough as I really couldn't remember it that well. I consider this a great thing, as this means, the nostalgia factor cannot penetrate as deep and mind fuck me into believing that every aspect of Joe Carnham's (Narc) film is a piece of genius.

With this said The A Team while silly and cliched still manages to be quite fun. Don't ask me to try and remember any of it. Like an injection of pure sugar it's a brief rush to the head before crashing out into nothing. Choc-full of eye melting CGI, quick cuts and hollywood sheen, it has a "braindead" which many action fans who usually hate reading reviews will love. It's loud and full of action, but I keep feeling that perhaps Carnahan was missing a trick somewhat. I think it's down to the story which follows a similar (if not the same) suit as this years earlier entry: The Losers.

The A team lacks the tightness of The Losers, but I feel this is because the latter didn't really have anyone to answer to. The A Team appears to restricted by it's sly winks to remind you of yesteryear than anything else. Case in point the open 15 minutes. We all know that Hannibal Smith is the man with the plan, the screenplay here makes a drinking game out of it which would have you comatose before the second act. I'm not watching this film for narrative (not that you could hear what it was down to a dubious sound mix), but there's something about the film which feels more like three loosely connected T.V episodes than something of a conclusive whole. We have a bit of a giggle at a cheeky line, a bit of action breaks up the action and such but there's a glue that seems to be missing.

I'm being a tad negative here, and I shouldn't be. The A Team is not trying to be the next cinematic revolution and there's some some nice moments which makes it shine a bit brighter than some of the more duff b-movie features. The way Carnahan uses montage to visually create the teams plan while the narration plays over it is a nice touch. The film has three set pieces that will no doubt have the 15 year old boy in the viewer grinning with glee (the skyscraper sequence is surprisingly not ruined by the trailer) and the cast have the camaraderie that was sorely missing from that other nostalgia factor movie Predators.

The four leads all have a chance to shine and with the exception of Rampage Jackson (the dudes just not an actor) everyone hits a relatively strong mark. Liam Neeson in a sage-like leader role? Please! One eye closed and a hand tired behind his back. Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley are superb additions. Cooper has bags of charm, while Copley has the right balance of craziness to keep the humor going throughout, although his character seems to fade a little bit near the end. Unfortunately while the team take the plaudits the support are left to the wayside, Jessica Biel has less to do here than in Stealth (that's saying something) while Patrick Wilson lacks the edginess that made Jason Patric's character so interesting in The Losers.

The chemistry of the team combined with the out and out chaos comes thick and fast to keep you engaged and for the most part it does it job. But the fractured feeling of the proceeds as well as a serious lack of risk (or a good villain) really does hamper matters. Carnahan's breakout film Narc (2002) was an unoriginal but bold genre piece, which took many well treaded ideas and injected a gritty energy that come out just at the right time of the U.S cop drama explosion. Eight years on and while the budgets have got bigger the attention feels to have dropped a little. A little more focus and detail and The A Team could may have had it's cake and eaten it. Unfortunately it feels that it's eaten only part of the main course before sneaking off the snack on sweets. The sugar rush doesn't last long.