Friday, June 11, 2010

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This Team Gets an A!

There are two chief flaws in Joe Carnahan's cinematic remake of the TV series The A-Team.

One is the editing/cinematography of some action sequences. Oftentimes, it wasn't until the last punch was thrown that I would finally figure out who was winning or what was happening. I hope they eventually stop editing action movies like this, because it really pisses me off. Shouldn't I be able to enjoy the action in an action movie? And the murky cinematography of some of these sequences is no help, either. It's strange because this isn't a big problem throughout most of the film, but as soon as the adrenaline starts running, the picture suddenly gets all blurred and bizarre. Weird.

The second is the way they've padded out the running time by going back to some scenes to remind us of information we didn't need reminding of. OK, so Bradley Cooper gives Jessica Biel a phone. He tells her to hold on to the phone. Five minutes later, she's in her office, and the phone rings. She looks at it...and we flash back to the scene where he says, "Hold on to that phone." Really? Did you really think the audience was going to think, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, where'd that phone come from?" Really strange and condescending choice, that.

These two problems stick out because the movie is just SO GOOD. After seeing Splice last night, it was a surprise to see that the more negatively-reviewed action flick -- one that I saw because I just wanted brainless action that "specializes in the ridiculous" -- was the more consistent and together one. The characters were all distinct and consistent! The music serviced the story! There were actual arcs that were believable! Yes, believable character arcs in what very well might as be Macho Posturing: The Movie!

I can never fault a film for being consistent and knowing what it is. Half the problem with the movies this year is that they don't know what they want to be, even the ones I like (The Runaways, Get Him to the Greek, Alice in Wonderland). The A-Team has no such problem. Everything is big and broad, but consistently so, and it within the universe it creates for itself, everyone's behavior makes sense. It's outrageous and audacious, especially with the pro-violence message that, according to Mr. T, is completely at odds with the original series.

What's refreshing is that everyone seems to be having a good time. I don't just mean the actors are having fun picking up a paycheck and and firing weapons; I mean the characters themselves are having fun. The chemistry between the four leads carries the film. Liam Neeson is both a solid action hero and a reassuring father figure. Bradley Cooper is always great with the one-liners, while Rampage Jackson has a great screen presence. Also, he's a big teddy bear. Sharlto Copley, the star of District 9, almost manages to steal the show as crazy Murdock, oddly convincing with his perfect redneck accent and crazy eyes. Yet no one really stands out from the pack, because all of them are very giving co-stars, never upstaging each other, always working as a team.

Jessica Biel is fine, though she's given the leats to work with. This movie doesn't care about women...though considering this, Biel's character never has to be saved, remaining a strong female protagonist and sometimes threat; it's just the romantic subplot with Cooper doesn't always make sense. Patrick Wilson's CIA agent is deliciously wonderful, playing the maybe-he-is-maybe-he-isn't villain as an overgrown fratboy hilariously, though still convincingly a threat. Co-writer Brian Bloom appears as another villain, and the greatest shame of all is that he doesn't get more screen time. The guy's tops.

I totally recommend this movie. The script really doesn't make a lick of sense, and the editing is sometimes awful, but the cast absolutely sells it! A welcome relief after last night's mistake.


RC said...

i loved your comments about unnecesary flashbacks -- says something about their expectations for their audience doesn't it.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Seriously! *Michael Bay* has more respect for his audience! Ugh!