Friday, 27 May 2011

The A-Team

The A-Team was always about the personalities: John "Hannibal" Smith, Templeton “Face” Peck, “Howling Mad” Murdoch and Bosco Albert Baracus (that's "BA" or Bad Attitude"). It’s fairly obvious from the names alone that these are caricatures and not authentic war veterans in the mould of Travis Bickle. So it comes as some surprise that Liam Neeson was cast as ranking officer (and man with the plan) to lead this larger-than-life squad of caricatures onto celluloid. He may be a good actor but, let’s face it, he’s never been the most interesting and here he looks uncomfortable. For knockabout fun like this you need someone with an easy charm and a rogue-ish glint in their eye. It was most likely unsubstantiated rumour but, speaking as a badge-wearing member of his fan club, I was still disappointed when it turned out George Clooney wasn’t playing Smith. Actually, Bradley Cooper is superbly cast as charmer Templeton “Face” Peck, and Sharlto Copley makes an appropriately nuts “Howling Mad” Murdoch but the other two are not great: Neeson we’ve touched upon, and hey, there’s never going to be anyone quite like Mr T. 

Neeson’s casting is reflective of the film in general. It’s all a bit unexciting. Amazing really, how so much can be happening (i.e. ‘splosions) and it is described thus. But if you don’t care about the characters it’s hard to care about what’s exploding. It does, however, have some entertainment value - there are some very creative action set-pieces, and there are a few laughs to be had. It’s a little more grounded in reality than its cartoonish TV incarnation but maybe that takes the fun out of it. The action is transposed to Iraq but the titular team are still accused of a crime they didn’t commit.

Joe Carnahan showed startling promise with his debut, Narc. He switched gears for his next feature four years later, with the lighter Smokin’ Aces. With a gap of four years since he last directed, he is swiftly becoming the Terence Malick of action cinema. (That’s an attempt at humour, by the way.)

1 comment:

  1. I certainly went into this film with no expectations at all. An A-team film has been in development since I was a wee kinder. That elongated development process is clearly evident in a script that feels like a cut and paste job from fourteen others. The action scenes are inventive but strangely lifeless, most clearly emphasised in the finale which has the tension edited out of it by cutting from action to preparation and back again. It also falls into the trap of having massive cgi debris falling randomly as our heroes inexplicably dodge objects that don't exist (a modern yet dull staple of action cinema)
    It's also the mumbliest film I've seen in a long while with most of the dialogue lost under sound editing swooshes and poor enunciation.
    Neeson is perfect for any role that involves super seriousness and freed from irony bit Hannibal he ain't. A role most suited to Mel Gibson, who has the right amount of (screen) charm, sense of danger and sense of humour.
    Sharlto Copley is hideously under used as Murdoch; a character the film struggles to know what to do with. Not under used though is the caper planning scene which pops up at least 54 times, each one lit with a different colour each as dull as the last.
    The biggest gripe must be reserved for the villain who fails to turn up at all. Replaced by a CIA desk jockey and a secret ops agent who wouldn't even have a name in a Bond film.