The A-Team (2010)
After years of development hell, the A-Team, the famed - some would say infamous - 1980's action/adventure/comedy TV series finally came to the big screen. With it came all the gunfights, explosions, action set pieces and comedy bits for which the series was known (multiplied, like, 100 fold). And that's more than okay by me.
If you watched pretty much any episode of the A-Team's five season TV run, you know the drill: a group of special forces soldiers are framed for a crime they did not commit, they escape and seek to clear their names. And those names are legendary in the annals of TV action shows: Colonel "Hannibal" Smith, the A-Team's plan-loving leader (now assayed by Liam Neeson); super suave "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper); the muscle and the mechanic B.A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson); and the always hospitalized but ready to slip away in moment's notice uber pilot H.M. Murdock (Sharlto Copley).
Just as in the TV show created by action/comedy vet Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo, when the bullets fly and the explosives, well, explode, we don't see blood and body parts getting splattered all over the place; this isn't Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan, and it never tries to be. Director Joe Carnahan knows the movie, like its TV progenitor, is a live action cartoon. That's not a condemnation, just a simple matter of fact; Carnahan never tries to turn it into Narc 2: The Fugitive Years.
The A-Team is fondly remembered for its characters, and the film version doesn't simply offer us carbon copies but updated versions with the same traits. Neeson is commanding as always, but can still have a twinkle in his eye just as OG Hannibal George Peppard did. Cooper does suave and smooth like he was born to it. Rampage Jackson was a big surprise for me. No one can replace Mr. T. who came out of nowhere to mesmerize 80s audiences on the big screen in Rocky III as the unforgettable Clubber Lang, and then on the small screen as the loveable tough guy with the "Bad Attitude." Jackson was suitably imposing, but also has a knack for comedy. I'd love to see Jackson and Dwanye (formerly The Rock) Johnson in a movie together. The biggest surprise was District 9 star Sharlto Copley as the chatterbox Murdock. I loved that Copley did a huge variety of accents and sort of throw away bits throughout the film. Not all of it stuck (the whole "Attention passengers" bit during some aerial distress has kind of been done to death), but most of it did. I loved a recurring joke about Murdock calming down BA by promising to make his favorite dish of coconut curry tapenade. BA then inquires, "With toast points?" Like you would serve the dish with anything else?
The main antagonist, a shady CIA dude played by Patrick Wilson, was also a lot of fun. He was someone so cocksure of himself and his power that everything was just a silly game to him. He wasn't aloof about it, like the more boring James Bond villains can be, but had a more "regular guy" attitude about himself (his Call of Duty reference was funny and revealing about the character too). The real disappointment is Jessica Biel as a dogged Army investigator. Pretty much any young actress could have played her part. She brought absolutely nothing to the screen. (This had always been a problem with the A-Team TV show - women were always victims, or things to be seduced by Face.) I liked Biel in The Illusionist, but have never liked her in any other movie I've seen. She's one of those actresses who is famous for being famous (and who she was dating), and not really for any standout acting performance.
The whole thing culminates in a huge fireball of action and explosions amid hundreds of shipping containers at the Los Angeles Port. The A-Team is big, loud, often funny and a pretty good popcorn and big-ass soda movie. It won't cure any diseases, or win any awards, but it sure made me forget about my head cold for two hours. And that's a small miracle in and of itself.