The A-Team Review
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Ever since Michael Bay’s Transformers movies started blasting their way to box office domination, studios have been racing to cash in on the ‘80s—remaking, adapting, and jump-starting everything from classic ‘80s movies and TV shows to comic strips and toys in an attempt to lure Gen-Xers (and their uninitiated offspring) to shell out their dough at their friendly neighborhood theater. But while many of these ‘80s flashbacks have been less than satisfying, director Joe Carnahan’s adaptation of The A-Team actually succeeds (at least most of the time) in capturing the action-packed cheesiness of its ‘80s inspiration.

Liam Neeson stars as Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, the fearless leader of a respected—though rather unorthodox—team of Army Rangers. After more than eight years of working together, the team—now stationed in Iraq—is contacted by CIA Agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson), who asks for their help in returning a set of stolen US Treasury plates, which Iraqis have been using to counterfeit money.

Though they’re advised against the mission, they execute a detailed plan to retrieve the plates, only to find that they’ve been set up. Their commanding officer dead and the plates in the hands of military contract mercenary Pike (Brian Bloom), the four members of The A-Team are dishonorably discharged and sent to four separate military prisons.

Lynch, however, is still tracking the plates—and he once again comes to Hannibal for help. With Lynch’s help, Hannibal breaks out of prison and sets out to get his men—so they can find the plates and clear their names.

In adapting this classic adventure series for the big screen—more than 20 years after it went off the air—Carnahan resisted the temptation to turn it into either a corny ‘80s parody or a super-serious action movie. Instead, he gives the film the right mix of over-the-top action and self-aware humor.

For the most part, he takes the project seriously, bringing the story and the characters to the modern day—instead of keeping them stuck in the ‘80s, with their ‘80s styles and ‘80s technology. There’s no shortage of action, either. Of course, it’s usually the blurred, shaky variety, which sometimes makes it hard to figure out what, exactly, is going on—but there are still plenty of elaborate plans and explosive chase scenes to keep the film’s pace speeding along.

Still, Carnahan doesn’t take the project so seriously that he’s afraid to make the audience laugh. The TV show was often corny and over-the-top—and so is the movie. The story is often pretty far-fetched, and the characters—from cheesy ladies’ man Face (Bradley Cooper) to certifiably insane pilot Murdock (Sharlto Copley)—are lovably batty, tossing out one-liners the same way they do everything else: with reckless abandon.

Of course, it isn’t quite the same without the original cast—especially Mr. T—but the new cast works surprisingly well. Cooper is definitely over-the-top (a bit too over-the-top for my taste, in fact), but Neeson was perfectly cast as the gritty leader. Copely, meanwhile, is every bit as entertaining here as he was in District 9.

Sure, the team’s elaborate plans don’t always make sense—and, half of the time, you might not be able to follow the story—but The A-Team wasn’t meant to be a thoughtful war movie. It’s an adaptation of a corny ‘80s TV series—and it’s a whole lot of brainless summer fun.

Blu-ray Review:
Fans of Joe Carnahan’s action-packed adaptation of The A-Team will find no shortage of extras on the film’s Blu-ray release.

The disc includes both theatrical and unrated extended versions of the film, along with hours of special features—like The Devil’s in the Details, Carnahan’s extensive (and rather fascinating) audio/video commentary, which also allows you to navigate through pop-ups about weapons and other equipment, as well as follow step-by-step through each of the Team’s five different plans.

Plan of Attack is a half-hour feature that focuses more on Carnahan’s plan and his goals for the project than on the actual making-of details. And the five-part Character Chronicles takes a few minutes to follow each of the main cast members around the set (the best part shows Bradley Cooper and his new-found obsession with automatic weapons).

There are also a number of shorter features—including a surprisingly lengthy gag reel, six deleted scenes, a visual effects feature, and more.

Diehard fans will be fascinated by the longer features—and if you’ve got the time (and the interest), the commentary is worth a look. For just a quick tour of the extras, however, I recommend starting with the Character Chronicles of your favorite characters. If you’ve got a few more minutes, laugh along with Rampage Jackson through the gag reel. And for a touch of action, check out the theme mash-up.

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