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Feature


After a series of fortunate coincidences, current and ex Army Rangers John "Hannibal" Smith (Liam Neeson), Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper), Bosco Albert "B.A." Baracus (Quinton Jackson) and H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Sharlto Copley) form a highly specialized Special Forces group. While finishing a tour of duty in Iraq, the team is approached by CIA Special Agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) to do one last thing for their country – steal back a set of $100 U.S. Treasury plates from Iraqi insurgents. After they succeed in their impossible mission they find themselves set up, and soon are imprisoned. Now, Hannibal has a plan to get the team back together for revenge.

A-Team, The
I’ll preface this review by admitting I’ve never had much interest in the original A-Team. I was very young when the series originally aired and wasn’t allowed to watch it. So I come to this A-Team looking for more wacky action from Smoking Aces director Joe Carnahan. Carnahan’s best work, Narc, appears to be a thing of the past, but Smoking Aces was a fun time, and a nice brainless escape, which is exactly what I expect from a film based on an action television series from the 1980s. Carnahan has a tendency to over-edit his action set-pieces (I don’t think there’s a shot that lasts longer than 30 seconds anywhere in the film), but his newly found sense of scale is occasionally devastatingly cool, and the film’s pace is enough to keep the disinterested watching. The plot proper doesn’t live up to the 20 minute intro story, but does its job in getting us to the next gag on time (if not in an episodic manner). This extended version is a little too much of a good thing, but the rougher, unrated quality serves the film well.

Besides Carnahan’s eye for action, The A-Team also benefits from an above average cast. So many generic action movies set their entire production on one superstar, or cast a bunch of pretty people that can’t take the material above mediocrity. The A-Team cast sells their characters, and their one-liners aren’t total groaners. There isn’t a weak link in the main four characters, but I’m most excited by Sharlto Copley, who deserves every part he gets for his District 9 debut, even though his accent is all over the place (on purpose?). The supporting cast is just as strong, though one gets the feeling no one really knew what to do with Jessica Biel. She’s fine in the role, but she doesn’t really need to be in the film outside of offering a slight female perspective on things (she plays a male character for all intents and purposes.)

A-Team, The

Video


The A-Team shoots its way onto Blu-ray with a sharp, high detail 1080p transfer. Carnahan and cinematographer Mauro Fiore keep the colour palette mellow, but really crank hard on the shadows. Even daylight shots baking in the Iraqi sun are cut by super sharp, deep black shadows. The most impressive bits are the extreme facial close-ups, which capture every little hair and pore. The film’s CG effects aren’t among the best I’ve seen recently, and the utter clarity does them no favours. The big, wide shots aren’t as perfectly crisp as some of the more perfect discs I’ve seen, but a little edge-enhancement isn’t enough to make the experience less than impressive, and worth the HD upgrade.

A-Team, The

Audio


Carnahan’s hyperactive style is made for hyperactive surround sound mixes, and this DTS-HD Master Audio track pulls out all the stops. There are plenty of subtle additions that push the whole thing out of reality, and into live action cartoon territory. This isn’t to say the action scenes aren’t also realistically rendered with their bone crushing explosions and crunching metal. The LFE warbles a little bit with some of the music, but bursts nicely with gun fire, exploding vehicles, and rumbles well with Liam Neeson gritty baritone. There are one or two moments where the centered dialogue features inconsistent volume levels, but that’s about it for complaints.

A-Team, The

Extras


Extras begin with ‘The Devil’s in the Details: Inside the Action with Joe Carnahan’, a mixed PiP/audio commentary with the film’s director, available only on the theatrical version of the film. On screen options include step ‘count ups’ of all five ‘Plans’, and PiP information about the various weapons. These are frankly kind of worthless, but what the hell, if someone’s willing to program it and the disc has the space, why not? As a commentary it matches Carnahan’s other commentaries in general information levels. He has a habit of narrating what happens on screen, but usually pulls something important out of this narration. There’s not a lot of blank space, and I can’t think of much I still need to know about the production. Occasionally the film proper will disappear, and Carnahan will appear nearly full frame to discuss something specific, and a small window with behind the scenes footage will open. Unlike similar in-movie extras, the film does not stop for the footage.

Next up are six deleted/extended scenes (9:00, HD), each with a title card. These include quick jokes, arguments, a little extra chase, and other unneeded tidbits. This is followed by a gag reel (7:20, HD), and then ‘A-Team Theme Mash-Up Montage’ (1:30, HD), choice bits set to the original theme music. ‘Plan of Attack’ (28:40, HD) is the behind the scenes featurette, or EPK. This is made up of random behind the scenes moments, and interview footage with Carnahan, Neeson, Cooper, Copley, Jackson, Biel, Bloom and the original series creator. It’s all fluff, but not entirely un-entertaining. Copley and Cooper are both especially funny. ‘Character Chronicles’ (23:10, HD) is cut into five parts – ‘Liam Neeson: When a Plan Comes Together’, ‘Bradley Cooper: Fully Automatic’, ‘On Set with Rampage Jackson’, ‘On Set with Sharlto Copley’, and ‘The B-Team’. As the titles indicate, these are actor specific behind the scenes featurettes (‘The B-Team covers the supporting cast). The disc finishes out with a look at the visual effects (6:00, HD) and the original trailer.

A-Team, The

Overall


I honestly can’t anticipate whether fans of the original A-Team television series will like this movie version. It’s really a prequel to what fans are more familiar with, but is semi-true to the characters…so far as I remember them. As a stand alone action film, and homage to Dirty Dozen style team-ups the film is just fine, but not good. The editing is too intense and the story too muddled and episodic, but I enjoyed the actors and dialogue enough. The Blu-ray doesn’t look perfect, but is unmistakably a high definition transfer, and the DTS-HD surround is top of the line. Extras are better and more entertaining than anticipated.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray's image quality.


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