Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Squalor: The A-Team

I love it when a plan comes together.  My plan was: find a friend, go to the theater, see a fun ol' rollicking summer action flick.  My plan came together.  Like magic.  I didn't even have to steal 20 airbags, rig up an elaborate diversion, or hijack a helicopter to do it.  Oh, how simple life is.  Seriously, I love it when a plan comes together. That's an A-Team catchphrase.  I'm assuming it was also a catchphrase on the actual TV series as well, but since the show ran while I was barely conscious...I'd be playing into some huge Wikipedia-based charade if I claimed to know for sure.  Either way, Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) and company say it about a million times.  There are a lot of plans coming together in The A-Team.  Elaborate ones that fall like dominoes one after another in a straight line of action from beginning to end credits.  It's the sort of blockbuster action movie that only comes along in the muggy dead of summer.  A few big names, a lot of explosions, and an enjoyable enough shred of story to keep an audience sufficiently entertained.
No, The A-Team is no great movie.  Our elite group of certifiably insane military fugitives is two parts charisma and pyrotechnics, one part poor acting.  Colonel Smith puffs his cigar and leads the rag-tag team through adrenaline draining feats of lunacy.  Pretty boy "Face" Peck (Bradley Cooper) plays second in command, "Howling Mad" Murdock (Sharlto Copley) provides the straight-outta-the-asylum comic relief, while mohawked "B.A" Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson) is alternately the source for bad-assery and bellyaching.  Their places and traits are established before the opening credits, and the actors play out their pre-destined archetypes as two-dimensionally as appropriate.  Jackson, a UFC fighter, isn't cut out to deliver convincing dialogue, but we have Copley there to throw the audience off the scent.  Cooper gets to take his shirt off a lot, which is probably great for those who care.  Neeson looks better with a salt & pepper hairdo than he maybe ever has before, and he seems to be having a good time.  Past that, I pity the fool who walks into this film expecting depth (that one I know is rooted in the series).  There isn't anything here.  The A-Team is a B-action movie.  It doesn't cash in on fancy technical special effects, but sticks to stunts and flames.  It's also a sort of prequel.  If the show chronicled the adventures of the group as mercenary fugitives, the film shows how they reached that point and attempts to prep the world for a shiny new franchise.  Based on the opening box office numbers, that future isn't exactly set in stone, but if there's room for a third Transformers film, there's certainly enough space for a second silly old school romp.
It's hard to actually describe the plot, but that's of little consequence.  All you need to know is the A-Team gets wrongly accused, jailed, and they break out to prove their innocence. Before, after, and in-between all of that, there's a lot of plans being hatched.  Jessica Biel is on hand as a military Captain who runs about in fancy shoes and plays bloodhound in tracking down our team of half-deranged action figures, this seems important to mention but otherwise not especially noteworthy.

Of course, all of this makes it sound like I hated the movie.  I didn't, actually.  The A-Team is kind of a warm, happy, bounding dog of a summer blockbuster.  It might just run about chasing its own tail, but it's fun to watch.  Most of the joy of The A-Team comes from its basic mechanics: hatch a plan, carry it out, repeat.  There might not be enough time to develop the inner-workings of the characters, but you can't find time to run out to the bathroom or refill your popcorn if they're constantly in the midst of a chain reaction.  It's repetitive, but works.  "Why did they need all those airbags?" you ask yourself.  Sit back and wait, it's only a matter of minutes until all will be revealed.  Oh, how simple life is.  No, The A-Team is no great feat...but, it wisecracks its way to diversion and never burdens you with the darkness of anything that resembles real life.  The lack of darkness may not lead to award shows, but it does bring enough superficial fun to provide you with the break you just might need.  All in all?  It's not so bad.

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