A group of Iraq War veterans looks to clear their name with the U.S. military, who suspect the four men of committing a crime for which they were framed. (from IMDB.com)
In the 1980's, we were treated to a television series about four mercenaries who were former Vietnam vets framed as criminals. The A-Team were four unique heroes, hired by those who could use their devoted - and unusual - expertise. As Hollywood continues to revisit the past and reboot franchises long forgotten (by many, but not all, mind you) for a new generation, The A-Team comes to the big screen nearly 30 years later as its first feature film.
Rated-R mob movie Smokin' Aces was director Joe Carnahan's previous feature, with Narc preceding it. For some reason, 20th Century Fox decided this was the perfect man to bring the television series to the big screen. To Carnahan's credit, The A-Team has a great modern look and feel, and an excellent cast to carry the film. But where the modern re-invisioning of The A-Team does falter, is in converting the show into a very violent, profanity-laden, frantically edited summer blockbuster flick. While this past April's The Losers shared a similar plot - a team of soldiers-turned-vigilantes out to clear their name - it seems much too abrasive in content, and was ultimately a rather rough PG-13 film. Sadly, The A-Team is only slightly less graphic but just as brutal... something the television show was not.
I suppose the content wouldn't be so jarring if this wasn't based on a rather mild 80's TV series centered around a team of heroes who refused to kill anyone. And the 2010 A-Team seems to get their kicks by racking up a body count. There is, however, a strange segment where B.A. turns Buddhist while incarcerated, but inevitably turns that around so revenge can be had. It's sad too, because the 2010 A-Team is a ridiculous amount of fun to watch if you enjoy summer action "popcorn" films. Liam Neeson is an inspired choice for Hannibal, as well as Bradley Cooper as "Face," Sharlto Copley as Murdock, and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson as "B.A." Barcus. The foursome seldom stop the amusing banter and the over-the-top scheming and action sequences keep the film fun and entertaining. There's a lot of who-to-trust, good guy/bad guy twists and turns that ends up being a bit contrived, but the windy story-telling works for the most part to keep things as disjointed-but-entertaining as the central four heroes' personalities. All four characters are relatively nutty, and the actors clearly are having fun here. They individually pay homage to their predecessors while giving enough unique qualities to their 2010 renditions to make the characters their own. And Copley is just genius as Murdock - being convincingly imbalanced and unpredictable, making just about every bit of his screentime quite funny.
It's tough to talk about the other characters in the film without giving away some key plot twists. After you see the twists, while you may not have seen them coming, you may feel like "Oh yeah! Right..." because you've probably seen it done a few times in films before this one. But the way it's done here should keep most viewers on their toes until the end. But The A-Team have every reason to be on their guard from beginning to end and it makes it difficult for even the audience to know who to trust. There are also some love story elements injected into the plot between Face and Jessica Biel's Charisa Sosa that feels a bit like it was merely included to appease any ladies accompanying their fellas to this film, but make no mistake - they've fashioned The A-Team as a man's film through and through. It's a buddy film, a blow-'em up action film, and a comedy all rolled into one fast-moving package.
As mentioned before, the content is just as ridiculous and over-the-top as some of the action sequences (if you saw the tank sequence in the trailer, that was nothing compared to how the rest of that sequence goes OR the film's explosive finale). The biggest drawback to The A-Team is the language. In the pre-title sequence, Face shouts an incomplete "Mother f..." that is only interrupted audibly by an explosion or crash, and then he shouts another incomplete "You mother-" shortly afterwards. While no clear uses of the "F" word are heard again, those were accompanied by other colorful phrases, many of which that continue quite frequently until the end credits roll. Both the "s" word and "h*ll" are used roughly 24 times each, while "g*dd*mn" is said about five times, along with several uses of "J-sus"'s name and "J-sus Chr-st." While those conditioned to more vulgar R-rated films may find my beef here ludicrous, it still not only seemed a bit excessive even for a PG-13 film, but especially for a film based on a 1980's television series like The A-Team which never included language like this. It's unnecessary to include any of that here, and it felt completely out of place.
In addition to the language, there's a great deal of violence throughout the film. Not much of it is graphic, but there is a brief shot of a man stitching up a wound, some fake blood being splattered on a wall (but we don't know it's fake right away) and some other brutal moments that include deaths via explosions, fire, etc. Lastly, there are a few suggestive remarks and hints to Face being quite the lady's man, but there are no explicit sex scenes.
In the end, The A-Team as a film is a fun action flick that doesn't take itself very seriously at all and aims to entertain first and foremost. When Sosa is heard in the film's trailer as saying that the A-Team "specialize in the ridiculous," that is the perfect way to sum up the direction many of the action sequences take. And while the free-falling tank scene is too fun to write-off as too ridiculous to stomach, the finale includes a couple moments where the viewer will really have to suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy it. Unfortunately, this fun action romp is loaded with profanity (and an especially unfortunate assortment of blasphemy), and it therefore makes this impossible for me to recommend with a clear conscience. It's unnecessarily over-the-top when it comes to violence and language and it really didn't have to be like that. The movie is poised for a sequel if the reception of it is good enough, so let's hope that either Carnahan passes this franchise off to someone with a more intelligent vision for the series, or softens things up a bit. I'd love to see another installment... just not if it's going to be handled in the same vein. (And as a side note, if you do see this film, stick around until after the credits for a pair of cameos of the original cast!)- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/11/10)
The summer big screen adaptation of the 1980s TV show, The A-Team comes home on Blu-Ray in the form of a combo pack that includes the Blu-Ray film and a bonus disc that offers a digital copy for download to a portable device (like an iPod or iPhone). Although there is a distinct absence of a bonus DVD as well, there is the addition of an Extended Version, to the Theatrical Version (which is what the Digital Copy is of), that adds back into the movie a series of character and story building scenes (but not really much additional action). Let's take a look at how these versions differ (I've included a rundown of the Extended Version's profanity count at the bottom of this page).
Extended "Unrated" Version (2:13:33) - The "Unrated" Extended version of The A-Team on Blu-Ray adds almost 20 minutes of additional scenes to the theatrical film. Basically, it's a lot of additional moments with General Morrison and Jessica Biel's Charisa Sosa which don't add a whole lot to the movie but do seem to fill in a few gaps. It does, however, slow the faster pacing down of the original cut which hurts the movie a little bit. There's only a tiny bit of additional violence, nothing graphic, just a brief scene with the villain Pike shooting some soldiers through the window of a car (we don't see their deaths directly) and when Hannibal breaks Face out of jail, Face's first impression is to spar with Hannibal. In addition, the scene where the A-Team confront the mysterious "Arab" is extended. In it, Face pulls a gun on him and threatens to shoot him, with the rest of the Team pleading for him not to. Then, like the theatrical version, Hannibal orders them all to leave, but in this version, Face mutters "this is f---ing stupid" as he exits. At the end of Hannibal's interrogation of the man, we hear "the Arab" use the "F" word too as he shouts at the guys as Hannibal exits the room. Both completely audible "F" words are not in the theatrical version. Other than that, there does appear to be more profanity overall in the Extended version. It's not a better cut than the Theatrical version, and it's unfortunate that such unnecessary language was added to a movie based on a pretty tame action TV show.
The Devil's In The Details: Inside The Action With Joe Carnahan (1:57:00) - This is a feature-length commentary from the director of the film that is only for the Theatrical Version on the Blu-Ray disc. During the film, Joe Carnahan talks about the actors, the shots, cinematography, etc for the making of the film. There's also an overlay at the bottom of the screen that breaks down the "Plan" of each action sequence, telling you the steps to each sequence. It seems a little unnecessary if not entirely silly, but because The A-Team were always about executing plans, it's appropriate. There's also a top bar that will highlight weapons used in the movie and when the movie showcases one, you can hit "Enter" on your BD remote and then view a pop-up with more info on that weapon or vehicle. Then there are certain moments where the movie cuts to a visual of Carnahan sitting in a warehouse (with the movie playing behind him) and an inter-cutting of some behind-the-scenes footage (like how they did the Murdock-defibrillating-the-van shot). It's intriguing stuff (Note that Carnahan does uses some language like "h*ll" especially during the commentary. And he very proudly reveals that he "always" likes to push the envelope with language, using "243" uses of the F word in his previous film, and how the "closest" he got in the Theatrical Version was in the opening sequence with Face (which is rather childish, Carnahan). When Face uses the incomplete "F" word during the helicopter chase, Carnahan finds it necessary to say the full profanity.
Deleted Scenes (9:05) - These are additional, extended scenes in addition to what were in the Extended Version. The first scene is a pointless shot where B.A. goes to get his van and a huge, muscular dude steps out from a back room. B.A. prepares to fight him, but the big guy points to a cup of tea he was drinking and leaves. The second has B.A. calling Face "Pecker" when they're at the hospital to recruit Murdock (since Face's real last name is Peck). Face then threatens B.A. not to call him that again and the two bicker briefly (with some added profanity). The third is an extended scene of them driving the Humvee away from picking up Murdock is a later scene and stealing the plane, revealing that the Humvee was no longer fit for driving and that's why they took the plane. Next is a brief exchange between Face and Hannibal at night when Hannibal gives him a list of supplies they need. The fifth is a really pointless inclusion of the phone call between Hannibal and Lynch with just a few seconds more of dialog between the two. It wasn't even worth including here. The last has Lynch tracking Hannibal and finding a talking doll and then shooting it when he finds that it's producing the voice of Hannibal. None of these were really worth including.
Gag Reel (7:16) - The gag reel is an unedited look at mostly line flubs on the set. There are about 9 uncensored uses of the "F" word from the various cast included here unfortunately (and other profanity and crude remarks). It's not a must-see gag reel.
A-Team Theme Mash-Up Montage (1:36) - This is literally just highlights from the film cut together with the A-Team theme playing over it.
Plan Of Attack (28:39) - This is the making-of featurette for the film, but like the Gag Reel, it's also an unedited look at the making of the film. So even in the intro to the featurette, we hear the director utter the "F" word. It's irritating when PG-13 films are given unedited special features because there are movie watchers like us who actually don't like to hear strong profanity all the time, especially in their entertainment. It seems nonsensical to put "R-rated" language in these featurettes for PG-13 movies, but every once in awhile, a studio or filmmaker will opt to present this stuff unedited. Otherwise, it's a solid making-of featurette that highlights the fun aspects of the story and the production of the film. There's a notable amount of profanity used here, unfortunately, including at least 4 uses of the "F" word.
Character Chronicles (23:11) is a break down of the cast and highlights each actor playing their iconic television characters. It's interesting to see how they adapted the characters for film. Face's profile actually focuses almost entirely on Bradley Cooper's success at training with guns and his love for the M4, while B.A.'s focuses on this being Quinton Jackson's first acting role (and he uses the "F" word in some behind-the-scenes footage at least 3 or 4 times). The Character Profile for Murdock featuring Shalto who played him in the film pretty much jokingly paints the actor as a diva on the set. But, unfortunately, it also shows the actor using the "F" word at least 11 times (with another bleeped out?!) during on-set footage. Lastly is a profile on Jessica Biel's Charisa Sosa as what they dub "The B Team." She mainly just reflects on working with the main gang and about her character - and there's more profanity in this one as well.
Visual Effects Before and After With Commentary By Visual Effects Supervisor James E. Price (6:11) - The last significant special feature is a really quick look at the original filmed elements altered with special effects to create some of the action sequences in the film -- from the tractor trailer chase and explosion sequence to the helicopter flying over a base in Baghdad to the digital effects-heavy finale at the docks. It's a nice additional feature. The last bonus goodie on the disc is the original theatrical trailer.
Overall, there are some good special features on the Blu-Ray release of A-Team, but the additional profanity in the Extended Version (although not as extreme as most "Unrated" releases seem to be), and the profanity-heavy behind-the-scenes bonus features taint the viewing experience and push the Blu-Ray features into R-rated territory. Director Joe Carnahan obviously doesn't care for taming of the content for a more friendly film (then why direct it?!), which is really unfortunate. Hopefully if they ever greenlight a sequel, Carnahan won't be a part of it. The vulgarities in the special features makes this a tough one to recommend, and it's a shame, too. The A-Team is otherwise still quite a fun action comedy.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 12/23/10)
Theatrical Version: Parental Guide: Quick Summary of Content
Extended Version: Parental Guide: Quick Summary of Content
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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