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Four Iraq war veterans, led by Col. John 'Hannibal' Smith, on the run from the US military who suspect them of committing a crime, set about trying to clear their names. Becoming mercenaries and employing a wide range of uniquely offensive skills mixed in with a healthy dose of eccentric behavior, Smith and his cohorts, 'Faceman' Peck, 'Howling Mad' Murdock and 'B.A.' Baracus, set out to right the wrong done to them by any means necessary - and some that aren't.
For more about The A-Team and the The A-Team Blu-ray release, see the The A-Team Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on December 15, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writers: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson
» See full cast & crew
The A-Team Blu-ray Review
Does this reboot bring its A-game?
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, December 15, 2010
Our current cultural semi-ironic veneration of the 1980s has sent Hollywood into full-on scramble mode, rapidly assembling pumped-up remakes (Clash of the Titans, Karate Kid, Red Dawn, too many horror films to count), long-awaited sequels (Tron 2, Wall Street 2, Predators), and 80s-inspired modern takes on the action-hero and ski-comedy genres (The Expendables, Hot Tub Time Machine). In its attempt to reboot any and every property that's even remotely rebootable, the industry has even begun to exploit that veritable gold mine of mostly undeserved nostalgia: 1980s television. Let's face it, those of us of a certain age—let's say late-20s to mid-40s—have a tendency to fawn unnecessarily over the long lost TV shows of our Reagan-era youths. We opine, at length, about the merits of He-Man—yes, I did own the Castle Grayskull playset—and troll YouTube looking for the theme songs to our favorite Saturday morning cartoons. For Halloween, we might be persuaded to grow an ironic Tom Selleck-in-Magnum, P.I. mustache. Late stages of the Cold War aside, these were simpler times, and the shows from this period have a certain energetic genuineness that, for whatever reason, still gives us warm childhood fuzzies. But how many of them are really worth remaking? Case in point: The A-Team.
Don't get me wrong. The TV show, which ran for five seasons on NBC between 1983 and 1987, is good clean fun, filled with over-the-top explosions, sanitized violence, and a generous helping of wisecracking male bonhomie. It made Mr. T into a cult icon and is forever responsible for heavily merchandized catchphrases like "I ain't getting' on no plane!" and "I love it when a plan comes together." ("I pity the fool," often misattributed to The A-Team, actually comes from Rocky III.) Nearly everyone over the age of 25 has at least a passing familiarity with the names Face, Murdock, B.A. Baracus, and Hannibal, and the show's infectiously militaristic theme song is almost universally recognizable. But just because The A-Team has earned a corner spot in the dusty museum of our collective pop culture consciousness doesn't mean it should necessarily be remade 25 years later as a big budget summer blockbuster. Obviously, the movie industry is primarily about turning a profit, and Hollywood knows that nostalgia is a potent financial force—we'll pay good money to be reminded that what we loved when we were young still matters somehow. The problem is, most of these remakes and reboots—The A-Team included—are little more than cash-ins, instantly disposable facsimiles that rely too heavily on our fondness for the originals. Is there entertainment value in this 2010 reassembling of The A-Team? Absolutely. Will it ever be as loved as its source? Never. More likely, you'll forget it as soon as you've seen it.
As is the current trend, this reboot posits itself an "origin" story. In a twenty-minute opening sequence, we learn how the A-Team gets together and we're introduced to the individual members, each of whom fits—and has always fit—a tidily pre-packaged stereotype. John "Hannibal" Smith, played by here Liam Neeson, is the cigar-chomping leader, a strategist who believes that "no matter how random things appear…there's always a plan." (He's the one who loves it when a plan comes together.) Templeton "Face" Peck—Bradley Cooper, sometimes shirtless, always flashing a gleaming smile—is the handsome schmoozer of the bunch, able to talk himself into or out of any situation. Hot-shot pilot H.M. Murdock (District 9's Sharlto Copley) is the wild-card—we're introduced to him trying to jumpstart a Jeep with a defibrillator—and, of course, Bosco "B.A." Baracus (Rampage Jackson) is the mohawk-sporting, jive-talking muscle of the group. The casting and performances are as perfect as you could hope for— Neeson, in particular, is a crackerjack Hannibal—but there's an inescapable sense that these actors are merely playing dress-up in the roles that will always belong to George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, and Mr. T. This is an unenviable task. I feel for mixed martial-arts fighter and first- time actor Rampage Jackson the most, as he has to embody a character that's indistinguishable from Mr. T's public persona. The filmmakers have even given him Night of the Hunter-style tattoos across his knuckles; instead of LOVE and HATE, they read PITY and FOOL.
While the intro narration of the TV show only made it known that these soldiers of fortune were on the run for a "crime they didn't commit," the film's nearly incomprehensible story is all about that initial frame-job, transposing the original post-Vietnam timeframe into the pulling-out-of-Iraq present. After the team's last mission in Baghdad, they're unjustly jailed for their involvement in the theft of printing plates that Saddam's loyalists were planning to use to counterfeit U.S. cash. To clear their names, they bust out of prison and go hunting for the plates, spending the remainder of the film running away from—and, occasionally, after—a crooked CIA agent (Patrick Wilson), a Blackwater-style privatized military commando (co- writer Brian Bloom), and Face's former lover, played by Jessica Biel, whose presence here only fills the need for a pretty face.
The specifics of the plot are unnecessary to follow; it's clear from the get-go that director/co-writer Joe Carnahan is intent on simply seeing how much oversized action his skeletal story can support. (If you're curious about the film's style, all you need to know is that Carnahan previously directed Smokin' Aces and Narc.) To a large extent, The A-Team has always been about empty action—enormous explosions, bang-up crashes, cartoonish violence—and Carnahan takes this to the extreme, reveling like a 7-year-old with a CGI toy box at his disposal, suspending the laws of the physics so his characters can barrel roll a helicopter or "fly" a tank. Yes, fly a tank, using its canon as a mode of propulsion. (Really?) There are so many implausibilities and overly convenient contrivances that, as a defense mechanism, your brain starts to automatically shut down by the last act, which ends in a video game-ish climax set around a tipping cargo freighter. What's unfortunate is that the film actually works during the rare quiet moments when the characters get to interact with one another. (Aside from an abortive subplot that finds Hannibal explaining to B.A., a newly converted pacifist, that Gandhi also believed that violence is sometimes necessary.) There are some fun character beats that play on traits established in the original series—like B.A.'s fear of flying—but these are overshadowed by the film's preoccupation with action blockbuster shock and awe. When Face describes the team's three-pronged final plan as "distraction, diversion, and division," we can't help but think he's talking about the film itself, a forgettable amusement that will likely be divisive for long-time A-Team fans.
The A-Team Blu-ray, Video Quality
I love it when a Blu-ray comes together. Whatever you think of the film itself, it's impossible to deny how stunning this high definition presentation is. Occupying plenty of space on a 50 GB dual-layer disc and graced with a close-to-faultless 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, The A-Team makes strong demo material for your home theater set-up. There are moments of softness, especially during effects-heavy composite shots, but the sense of clarity throughout most of the film is exemplary, evidenced in exceptionally strong facial detail and refined textures. Perhaps even more impressive is the transfer's vivid color and contoured contrast. Whether our characters are in the dusty Iraqi desert or the verdant German countryside, the picture is rich and dense, with bold hues, deep blacks, and a degree of dimensional pop that's nearly palpable. Better still, the film's natural grain structure is warm and unobtrusive, the picture shows no signs of heavy-handed edge enhancement, and compression-related troubles are nowhere to be found. The CGI isn't always completely believable—or believable at all—but you can't blame the transfer for that. Overall, The A-Team more than earns its visual, big budget summer blockbuster stripes.
The A-Team Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It gets better. The film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is the kind of non-stop, rock 'em sock'em mix that gets home audio enthusiasts salivating. The entire soundfield is engaged almost constantly, with enveloping ambience and a barrage of cross-channel effects. Helicopters whir and beat the air around our heads. Multiple rockets rip past us in a single pass. Gunshots rip violently through the air and explosions ripple outward with deep, earth quaking, LFE-heavy rumbles. Even the quieter moments are well established. You'll hear convincing outdoor atmospherics filtering though corrugated metal into a dark Mexican warehouse, the clamor of a busy military base, and carefully designed audio details in nearly every scene. It should go without saying that the mix is loud, clean, and dynamic, with clarity throughout the spectrum and heavy bass response. Dialogue has no trouble competing. My only complaint? The classic A-Team theme is severely underused, replaced by a generic action movie score by Alan Silvestri.
The A-Team Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The A-Team Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I've tried to avoid being cynical about this rash of '80s reboots and remakes, but it really just seems like Hollywood is exploiting our nostalgia. That said, as shameless as it is, this new version of The A-Team is big and fun, even if it's dumb and immediately forgettable. (It's better, at least, than the insipid Clash of the Titans remake.) If you're looking for some summer action to carry you through the winter doldrums, you could do far worse, and if you're just after some spectacular Blu-ray eye and ear candy, you couldn't do much better. Fox has put together a solid package, with a gorgeous high definition transfer, ass-kicking lossless audio, and some enjoyable supplements. I'd recommend a try-before-you-buy rental.
The A-Team: Other Editions
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