Joe Carnahan | 134 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 12
I’m a bit young to have experienced seminal ’80s TV series The A-Team first time round, though I swear I caught some repeats when I was young — enough that I know the basic premise but can’t specifically recall ever seeing any of it. Which means I approach this big screen update with perhaps a different mindset to someone who has a distinct opinion (be that good or bad) on the original.
As it’s presented here, The A-Team is an origin story. A double origin story, in fact: a long pre-titles sequence (technically a title sequence) shows us how the four guys originally met each other, before the main plot expands on the famous opening voice over — the whole “a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit” bit. The film is set today, unsurprisingly, with Vietnam switched for the Middle East. The action roams around the globe a bit, not that it really matters where it occurs. The lead cast seem to gel well, which is good for the humour quotient. There’s not enough use of the cool theme tune for my liking — they don’t use it on the title card or to kick off the end credits. What?
As it’s presented here, The A-Team is a lighthearted action movie. We’re in broadly the same vein as RED and Knight and Day, both of which were released the same year — clearly there was something in the water. You might also make a comparison to Shoot ‘Em Up, or even the Rush Hour films. All films that are primarily about action (well, maybe not Knight and Day) but done with a wink or a nudge, and certainly not po-faced seriousness. As much as I like serious action, I enjoy this kind of film too. I gave RED four stars; Shoot ‘Em Up the same. You may see where this is going. I am, once again, probably being too generous.
As it’s presented here, The A-Team is a bit silly. If you’ve seen the trailer you know there’s a bit where they fall out of a plane in a tank. Then they battle with fighter jets from this free-falling tank. Clearly no one is meant to think this is actually possible. At least, I hope they’re not; I didn’t read it as the filmmakers trying to sell it as plausible. Carnahan and co are not shooting for a Bourne vibe here. As I see it, your reaction to that tank bit in the trailer will dictate your reaction to the whole film: if you thought it looked bloody stupid, extrapolate; if you thought it looked frickin’ cool, extrapolate; if you thought, like me, that it looked enjoyably far-fetched, extrapolate.
As it’s presented here, The A-Team is an “Explosive Extended Edition”, which is a funny name for it because nearly all the additions are dialogue — no explosions, barely any new action, mostly just people talking for one reason or another. It totals just under 15 minutes longer (I don’t think there are any cuts involved in that, just extensions or alternate takes). If you enjoy the film’s humorous side and the banter between the leads, this version would seem to be superior; if that doesn’t or didn’t interest you, there’s no need for it. That said, one scene is apparently “big and puts some drama and emotion into the movie, maybe a bit too much for a PG rating”. (In the UK, both cuts are rated 12, despite some additional bad language and the fact the theatrical version was cut for language to get said 12. Ah, the BBFC.) There’s a full list of changes here, if you’re interested.
The A-Team is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I know some people only like their action po-faced; others just won’t think it clicks at what it’s trying to do; I don’t know if it measures up for fans of the original (nearly two years after its theatrical release, I imagine they know by now anyway). It didn’t go down well enough to earn a sequel, and that disappoints me a little — it was everything I expected from the trailer and I enjoyed it as much as I hoped I would. Can’t say fairer than that.