“They specialize in the ridiculousness” is a line Jessica Biel spouts early on in The A-Team, and that line represents the film as a whole. It’s nothing but ridiculous. This is the exact idea everyone has for a summer blockbuster: non-stop action, one-liners, not too grounded in reality and flat-out absurd.
For what it is, The A-Team works very well. It embraces its cartoonish elements and knows exactly what type of movie is. It delivers where it needs to and does so enjoyably. Plenty will say it takes itself too seriously- most likely because of the Cooper/Biel romance- but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, it barely takes itself seriously at all.
Code-named Hannibal (Liam Neeson), Face (Bradley Cooper), Murdock (Sharlto Copley) and B.A. Baracus (Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson), these four agents make up “The A-Team.” They’re the best of the best (as any other cheesy action movie would point out). The film opens with the most cliche-ridden, obvious origin story around: we see how Face and Hannibal meet Baracus and Murdock. It’s laughably contrived, but part of the film’s charm.
After a few years as the decorated team are sent on a top secret mission in Baghdad that goes bad. The team is set up, court-marshaled and locked away. With the help of a mysterious C.I.A. agent named Lynch (Patrick Wilson), they get their chance to break out and clear their names. Their main goal: retribution, and uncovering who set them up. It won’t be easy though, as they will have to handle with Face’s cliched old flame Charisa Sosa (Biel).
It’s all very paint-by-numbers. It hits all the beats you would expect a film like this to. It’s following all the tropes we’ve seen before and it knows as much.This is a total homage to 80’s action films and it fits right in with that era. It’s pure B-movie cheesiness and all. The show itself was nothing but campiness and they’ve seemed to carry over that element heavily.
Even approaching a near two-hour running it time, it never loses steam. While just about all the moments between Biel and Cooper are a bit tiresome and dull, it’s not too prominent of a sub-plot. Every action set piece is distinct and they’re all well done. There’s no frantic quick cutting – except for a few small moments – but it’s mostly well-choreographed and comprehensible.
Director Joe Carnahan showed an eye for action in his wonderful BMW short Ticker, not to mention the underrated Smokin’ Aces. Here he shows a true knack for crafting competent action. Carnahan definitely revels in the more ridiculous side of things this time around, but it’s all exciting nonetheless. He never worries about realism and for a film like this, that’s a good thing. Carnahan handles the tone so well he can getaway with having a tank fight off fighter jets midair. It’s silly for sure, but in the best way possible.
Meanwhile, Neeson continues his streak of being a man’s man. While he’s done plenty of action films in the past, he’s now starting to standout in that arena. Neeson is a commander on screen, hamming it up a bit here, which audiences will be grateful for. Copley shows he’s got comedic chops and is capable of more than what he showed in District 9. Jackson isn’t an annoying Mr. T lookalike at all and Cooper shows he’s decent at playing the same character over and over again. Cooper has his charms, but this is a character he seems to get stuck playing rather too often i.e. the cocky one.
Unless this becomes a major franchise, The A-Team will most likely be forgotten. There’s plenty of films just like this and plenty of more that work even better. That said, it’s hard to deny that The A-Team is a highly enjoyable action romp. It fares far more favorably than most of the films we’ve seen this summer.