Sunday, June 20, 2010

We are "A" Go

Seeing a movie in the theater is a trying experience.

Now I don't know if it's different in the suburbs' multiplexes and I know it's not the same as the above statement would suggest at smaller, independent theaters that would show you something like, say, Cyrus. I'm talking about the multiplexes in the city. I live in Boston, and when I want to see a big blockbuster movie, I head down to the AMC Loews Boston Common to watch it. And for the most part, the theaters are in great shape. Everything works. Then you take into account the people around you.

To be fair, most of your fellow viewers in the theater are quite normal. But all it takes is one pair of teenaged parents bringing an infant into a PG-13 movie or one guy shouting out "Yeah, boyeeeee!" When the guy on the screen gets the girl. It's annoying. It's disrespectful, and I can only think to myself how the hell do these people graduate to regular society? Be a jackass at home, leave the outside world to the more mature of us.

And that's what's wrong with watching movies in city multiplexes. And yet even those people can't disturb the image of one of the best action films I've seen in years. The A-Team is everything you expect, fantastic action, unbelievable circumstances, and, possibly most importantly, a believable group of friends who'd go to hell and back for one another in a heartbeat.

Director Joe Carnahan, producers Ridley and Tony Scott and original series creator and producer Stephen J. Cannell and their crew have done something amazing here. Not only did they create a fantastic action movie (lately an oxymoron with more examples than will be recounted here) but in the first thirty minutes they created a sequence that, rest of the movie be damned, I could watch back-to-back for days with a smile if I had to. That I could enjoy the rest of the movie after a chase on land and in the air is a tribute to the overall quality of the film, and the charisma of the characters.

Ah, the casting. It's always a challenge to cast actors when the parts they're trying to land are characters beloved by millions around the globe, perhaps most notably Mr. T's B.A. Baracus. So to land four actors who can perfectly embody the souls of such characters it's a glorious thing indeed. Starting with Baracus, we have an almost-unknown (except perhaps to fans of UFC or Pride Fighing) Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, who for all anybody outside Hollywood was going to be a disaster. And you know what? Label Jackson "B.A." right now because I honestly thought he captured the part perfectly. It helps that the character was written very faithfully to the original, complete with Baracus' fear of flying and physicality (though thankfully leaving out the gold chains). He truly pities fools and that's what the part needed to keep the film afloat.

District 9's Sharlito Copley was perhaps the surprise casting decision of the foursome. Copley, who's only prior major role had been in last year's Oscar-nominated sci-fi film, worked out great in Dwight Schultz's "Howling Mad" Murdock shoes. It helps that in District 9, Copley had to be a bit crazy, because that was a perfect lead-in to this role, which makes R.P. McMurphy look like the man on the street. Copley is afforded the best comedic dialog, which he delivers with perfect precision, such as in one scene in a customs gate in which he gets a chance to show off his Swahili, an allusion to his African descent.

The most unsurprising of the cast is possibly Bradley Cooper as the lothario Templeton "Faceman" Peck. Originally portrayed by Dirk Benedict, Cooper makes the perfect chameleon, able to mask his appearance via subtle methods and also seduce the ladies, his specialty. This is the first movie I've actually seen Cooper in (That's right, I've yet to see his breakout in The Hangover) and I was definitely pleased by his performance. He toed the line between charm and honesty perfectly, and the performance was all the better for it.

Finally we get to Hannibal. Who would have thought that such a distinguished and serious actor like Liam Neeson would do a film like this, but something must've been right in his mind, because he's here, he's awesome, and he kicks ass as John "Hannibal" Smith, the leader and brains of this rag-tag outfit on the run from the law and out to get back at those who set them up. Neeson, like the others, gives a fantastic performance, not allowing himself to be bogged down by his signature catchphrase. He comes into this role as a more believable military leader than in the original series (with respect to the late George Peppard) and doesn't fail to inspire us with his ability to totally become his character completely: There's Hannibal, and there's Neeson. Two different souls.

The cast is rounded out by Patrick Wilson as CIA operative Lynch (a reference to the original series' first season villain, Colonel Lynch) and Jessica Biel as Lt. Charisa Sosa, A DOD operative who once had a relationship with Face before leaving him and is now in charge of hunting him and his fellow teammates down. Both are good in their roles, with Wilson doing an outstanding job in developing his character throughout the film, and Biel being solid overall pulling double duty as Face's love interest as well as s serious hunter with killer instincts. She doesn't let feeling get in her way, and she could be the team's most dangerous enemy.

It may be somewhat unbelievable for a group of men to escape an exploding plane in the safety of a parachuting tank and then safely land in a lake in sed tank, but that's the A-Team. I don't expect normal people to do it, but then again, when were these people ever normal? Most importantly, the effects are actually believable, unlike those you occasionally see where it's obvious it's green screen, or it's obvious it's CGI, and so on and so forth. The effects actually feel fluid to the rest of the film, and it simply makes the experience even better. Some film editing, however, seems a little choppy, but that's just picking at gnats at this point. A great editing job would have secured the incentives, not nailed the contract.

The A-Team is not only a great action film, but a good movie overall with great effects, perfect casting and a sense of humor that didn't get too out of hand. I'm glad I was in the theater to see it, even if the jackasses of the world continue to congregate there. And on top of that, I saw for the first time theatrical trailers of Predators and Scott Pilgrim, so I came away with perhaps two future posts for you guys. It's win-win-win, and as Hannibal says early on, "I believe that no matter how random things may appear, there's still a plan."

 And I love it when a plan comes together.


steve said...

Yikes! "The A-Team" was GOOD? Not just good but REALLY good? Not what I expected at all!

A great review, leaving me with two burning questions:

You haven't seen "The Hangover"??? Even I'VE seen it!


You will, I hope, be reviewing "Scott Pilgrim" for us? It's certainly got the most engaging preview I've ever seen

Gianni said...

Yes, it's true. I've been worried that The Hangover would be too overrated to fully enjoy, but it's been put off enough, I'm sure I can go back and watch it now without that worrisome disappointment on the horizon.

Scott Pilgrim was by far the best trailer I saw when I was at the movie. I'd heard some things about it and had noticed how the comics had been big sellers, but until now I didn't know much about it. I'm pretty much guaranteed to review the movie at this point, but I may do a double movie/graphic novel review in the style I've done before. I want so desperately to see Michael Cera in something good (besides Arrested Development and Superbad) and personally can't wait for it.

Gianni said...

...And Juno. That was a good movie he was in too.