Thursday, 11 August 2016

The A-Team

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them maybe you can hire:
The A-Team.
Wait, wrong A-team!
Let me be perfectly honest. I grew up with the original A-Team. George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Mr. T. and my favourite, Dwight Schultz.
You may know them better as Hannibal, Faceman, B.A. Barakus and Howling Mad Murdock.
But that show is from the Eighties, so naturally when 2010 rolled around we got a reboot.
Six years later and no sign of a sequel, so let's figure out what went wrong.
The movie starts somewhere in Mexico. It's not specific where, but it involves an American soldier being beaten by corrupt Mexican cops so it's presumably inside one of Donald Trumps' fever dreams.
I kinda want to move to Mexico and found a town, just so I can name it 'Somewhere'.
The Mexicans insult and beat the American before attempting to kill him with his own gun. They are stymied in this endeavour due to his guns' lack of a firing pin, so they decide to just let the dogs eat him alive instead.
After the Mexicans leave the American picks his handcuffs using the firing pin he had concealed, before subduing the dogs and finally revealing who he is to the viewers.
Qui-Gon Jinn.
Yup, Hannibal is played by Liam Neeson. I can find no fault with this casting.
He follows the two Mexicans using a tracker hidden inside the cash he tried to bribe them with.
But first off, elsewhere in Mexico, a high speed chase is going on.
Well, there was, but it happened so fast that I couldn't get a decent screenshot.
The orange car pulls into a garage and a large black man with a mohawk clambers out.
Weren't we saving the name plates until their faces were revealed?
He talks to some other Mexicans, but they upset him so he beats them all up.
It's also revealed that he has 'Pity' and 'Fool' tattooed on his knuckles.
At first I thought this was rather witty, because he could say something along the lines of "The only thing I got for fools is pity." Then punch them in the face with 'Pity'.
But the fact that he has 'Fool' tattooed on the other fist means that this makes no sense.
Also, he never says the word 'Pity' in the entire movie.
Seriously not once. Not even when speaking to Murdock.
When people say that a movie is trampling all over their childhood, this is what they mean.
At least they have the van.
On a side note, as B.A. beats up all of the Mexicans, the camera tries very hard not to reveal his face. This means that the action is very choppy and poor, making the 'shaky cam' seem slick by comparison.
But at least they have the van.
Not a gold chain in sight, but at least they have the van.
We cut to a different place in Mexico where we're introduced to the third member of the team.
Ok, so Hannibal had an introduction showing his planning skills. B.A. had one showing how good he is in a brawl. They weren't very good introductions, but they at least attempted to showcase what the characters can do.
So, let's see what the next character introduction is.
"Face was the suave con man, the smooth talker who could always get people onto his side by power of his charming personality alone. Who should he hire to play him?"
"Let's find the most punchable face we can."
I dig, but Bradley Cooper is a decent actor who can be very charming, that picture just isn't very flattering. So let's look at the situation.
I believe the military phrase is 'FUBAR'.
Face got himself into trouble on the mission because he couldn't resist seducing the drug-dealer's wife.
Ok yeah, that seems accurate to the show.
Luckily, Hannibal is racing towards him when he stumbles upon B.A.
The movie didn't make it clear, but this is when the team originally got together, so Hannibal and B.A. are meeting now for the first time. I mention this, because I was initially confused as to why Hannibal was aiming a gun at one of his own soldiers.
And even a member of the A-Team can't miss from that range.
B.A. starts back-talking, saying that Hannibal won't shoot him.
So Hannibal shoots him.
Only a graze along the arm, but it still counts.
Luckily though, this reveals B.A.'s Army Rangers tattoo, so Hannibal shows his and they instantly become best friends.
What a wacky coincidence.
They race to save Face (I made a pun) from the angry Mexican, who has now covered him in petrol.
And then the heroes arrive.
"Does anybody else hear something?"
The big damn heroes arrive, shoot up the place, rescue the girl and free their friend.
And it's... Ok.
The action scene isn't amazing, but it's not bad either.
The only really memorable bit is how they decide to rescue Face.
He just needs to learn to roll with it.
Whilst the drug-lord calls in a helicopter the team pull into a medical facility, where Hannibal has arranged to meet a pilot.
Oh, and B.A. finds a Doctor to stitch up his wound.
Well that ruins the surprise.
Hannibal speaks to Murdock's psychologist, who explains that Murdock is quite frankly an absolute fruitcake.
Best part of the movie so far.
Of course, just as Murdock is finishing stitching up B.A. (Doing a cute little lightning bolt) a nurse comes in and asks why he's off the ward.
This scene could have been really funny for those who had never seen the show, but it got ruined by the name-plate showing up immediately.
Hannibal smooths everything over and they get inside their helicopter, which Murdock checks to make sure it's safe to fly.
Thanks to bad composition it's hard to tell, but he's using the rotors to spin around in circles.
Whilst singing.
The bad guys arrive and start shooting at them, so they hastily take off. Murdock uses the rotors to attack the villains, but misses and damages the building instead.
Tell me they didn't just do that.
Tell me that they didn't just destroy the A-Team van.
In the opening mission.
Oh, and I checked, the van never makes a reappearance.
A visual representation of my emotions right now.
That van is one of the most iconic vehicles in cinematic history. It's up there with Ecto-1, the Delorean and K.I.T.T.
And this movie just drops a piece of debris on top of it like a joke?
Who is this movie made for? It can't be made for new viewers, since the name-plates ruin the reveals about the characters. It can't be made for longtime fans, because anybody with an IQ score to speak of would know that you just don't do things like that.
The same reaction any true fan would have.
I never saw this movie in the cinema, but if I had, this would be the part where I storm out and demand my money back.
But alas, as an internet movie critic, I must continue to torture myself for your entertainment.
So they have a helicopter chase scene, where Murdock breaks the laws of physics, B.A. almost dies and Hannibal constantly reassures Face that this is all a part of his plan.
Yeah, Hannibal repeatedly says that he not only has a plan, but that it's all coming together perfectly.
"I told you to keep your hands and legs inside the helicopter at all times."
Face manages to drag B.A. back into the helicopter before he passes out. Then they cross into US airspace where a jet is waiting to blow the Mexican out of the sky.
And that's when Hannibal utters his famous catchphrase about plans coming together.
NO! Just no. You can't do that.
The joke doesn't work because you quite clearly had a plan. You were constantly going on about your plan. You repeatedly stated that everything was going to plan.
The catchphrase only works if the audience didn't believe that everything was going to plan.
I hate this movie and the A-team hasn't even been wrongfully imprisoned yet.
After an 8 year time skip we get caught up with the team as they have a barbecue.
Murdock adds just the right ingredient.
What happens next gets rather confusing, but several characters get introduced more-or-less at once. Each of them has something to do with the team's next mission, which involves some stolen US currency plates, which can be used to mint fake Dollars.
First off, Face's ex shows up to warn him to not take any mission involving the plates.
This girl.
Meanwhile, Hannibal is approached by CIA Agent Lynch, who asks him to go on a mission to retrieve the plates.
This guy.
Since Lynch is CIA and this is a movie, he will be our main bad guy for the film.
But be quiet about it, the movie would like to think we haven't worked that part out yet.
They discuss things with General Morrison, Hannibal's superior.
This bloke.
Morrison wants to let Hannibal go on the mission, but his higher-ups want a different team to do the job. The other team is lead by a man named Pike, who Hannibal refers to as a thug.
Despite Morrison's objections Lynch overrules him and leaves, where he gets temporarily spotted by Face's ex.
I should probably point out that she's named Sosa and works for the D.O.D.
She's also the only member of the US military to have either morals or a brain, at least in this movie.
And then there's this asshole.
That's Pike and his mercenary team. He belittles the team, but Hannibal easily out-brags him.
The team meet up and plan the mission, with Hannibal assuring B.A. that he won't be getting into any form of flying device.
The montage is pretty good, with Hannibal listing stuff he'll need and the scene shifting to the members acquiring said items.
Usually from Pike's supplies.
"Somebody stole all your flags? How terrible."
As for the action scene itself? It's actually pretty decent. Every item Hannibal had them collect is used and in rather creative ways. It's edited pretty well too, with scenes of their planning session interspersed with the mission itself. This way they can still pull off surprises whilst showing that yes, they did plan this out.
Once the shipping container storing the plates is returned to the military base Hannibal calls General Morrison to come collect the plates.
And that's when it all goes FUBAR.
I'm pretty sure we saw the General get into that car.
The team rush to the car but it's too badly exploded for them to be able to help the occupants. They turn around to see Pike and his men making off with the plates, but the container also explodes before they can do anything.
I'm going to have to double-check to make sure Michael Bay had nothing to do with this.
More military show up and point their guns at the team. They get arrested and put on trial for stealing the plates and murdering the General.
And since the only person who knew about the mission was the General himself, the team are stripped of their ranks and battle honours before being thrown in prison.
They accept the verdict gracefully.
You may be asking yourself where Agent Lynch is, since he also knew about the mission and could easily have the team exonerated.
Well he does show up again, with an offer to help the team clear their names.
It only took him 6 months to do so.
In case the viewers hadn't guessed that he's the bad guy.
He tells Hannibal that he can help, but only if Hannibal can get the plates back.
I should throw up a Spoiler warning, but there's no point in hiding it. He was working with Pike to get the plates and make a mint (Ha!) but Pike stabbed him in the back, stealing the plates for himself and cutting Lynch out of the deal. The reason he waited 6 months was because he had no leads on where Pike was.
He slips Hannibal a drug which will allow him to fake his death, then leaves.
And Hannibal uses the drug to escape, timing it so that he wakes up at the opportune moment.
Just as he's about to be crispified.
There is a rather amusing moment when he clambers out and casually makes a joke to the crematorium worker, who faints.
I guess you could say his joke knocked him down, eh?
He busts the team out one at a time, starting with Face, who's actually living the high life in jail.
He could have at least gotten some posters for those walls. It really throws off the feng shui.
After freeing him from his terrible fate, Hannibal moves on to B.A. 
Who's made some changes.
To be fair, would you give a guy nicknamed 'Bad Attitude' a razor?
The hair isn't the main change though. Whilst inside, B.A. started reading some books. He hasn't found religion, he's found Ghandi.
That's right, B.A. Baracus now refuses to hurt people.
My reaction.
He quotes Ghandi a few times in the movie, which gets really grating.
Not because of the pacifism, I'm totally with him there, but because I'm fed up of Ghandi being held up as some icon of morality.
Check out what he had to say about black people.
Let's just say that I am not a fan of Ghandi and move on.
Move on to what? Breaking Murdock out of the mental asylum he's in.
Of the four breakouts, this one should have been the most entertaining, but it wasn't. Partly because of the method of extraction. They ram a vehicle into the side of the building, only barely stopping short of running several patients over.
They even avoided running over the person they didn't know was there.
The second problem is that they get Murdock into the correct room by sending him a film to watch. That film being The Greater Escape, which not only uses the original A-team music, but also lists the star as Reginald Barclay.
Ok, I can't be the only nerd who got this joke immediately.
Reginald Barclay was the name of a character in Star Trek, played by Dwight Schultz (The original Murdock).
This just reminds me that there are two amazing tv shows I could be watching instead of this movie.
The escape goes off with only a minor hitch, that being that Sosa was there to see if they would try to bust out Murdock. So when they do, she jumps into a car and chases after them until they reach the airfield, where they steal a plane.
Don't worry, it (Mostly) clears the car.
As they're happily flying away Murdock notices some blips on his radar which are getting closer.
These things are called UAVs, or drones. They are incredibly expensive. Why two of them are being sent after one plane is beyond me.
Murdock breaks the laws of physics again to escape the drones, but they eventually blow up the plane.
But not before the team figure out an effective escape strategy.
Only the A-Team could make driving a tank out of a plane seem like a good idea.
Despite being in a tank with parachutes the drones are still coming after them, so Face shoots one down with the machine gun attached to the pintle.
Well now, this is just awesome.
But wait, this scene actually gets better. After shooting down one of the drones, they start to come up with a plan for actually landing safely (They lost a couple of parachutes to the drones).
I'm not even going to describe it. I'm just going to get a screenshot.
Suffice to say, tank turrets have a tremendous amount of recoil.
Not only do they manage to manoeuvre themselves over a lake and slow their descent enough to survive the impact, but they also manage to shoot down the remaining drone.
Ok, so none of this is even remotely plausible. But it's just too awesome for me to care. This was probably the most fun I've had watching this movie yet.
Meanwhile, both Sosa and Lynch keep tabs on the team, causing them to discover each others' involvement. They chat on the phone a bit, but Lynch basically just blows her off, before telling his men to keep track of everything she does, just in case.
Back in Germany (For some reason Murdock was in a mental institute in Germany) and the A-Team are planning how to catch Pike and the unknown Arab he's been spotted doing business with.
But before that, they intercept Sosa at a train station and warn her about Lynch, sneaking a burn phone into her pocket.
She's excited to see him.
I was going to skip this bit since it only seemed to reinforce the fact that Lynch is following Sosa, but then I remembered about the burn phone, which shows up again later.
Back to the main plot about Pike.
Their plan involves firing a smoke grenade into their room and literally throwing the Arab out of it.
Did I forget to mention how tall the building was?
Luckily they also planned for Murdock to catch the Arab with a helicopter, since they want to know who he is.
The other part of the plan involves taking the case of plates from Pike and jumping out of the window with it, but Pike messes it up by actually being competent.
And by being just as balls-out insane as they are.
B.A. manages to get to the case first, but Pike catches up and corners him. Because of B.A.s' oath of pacifism he's unable to shoot Pike, but bluffs long enough to Hannibal to rescue him.
Hannibal loves crashing vehicles into things.
The A-Team manage to escape, leaving Pike injured in the street.
Of course, Pike was firing an assault rifle in the middle of Berlin whilst jumping out of a skyscraper (Which is also a bank). That kind of thing doesn't go unnoticed.
Surely she's freezing in that outfit?
Despite Sosa being the one who arrested him, Lynch comes along and claims custody, because he's CIA and they receive special training on douchieness.
Speaking of douche moves, the A-Team discover the exact identity of the mysterious Arab seen working with Pike.
That is a very impressive beard for six months.
Yep, that's General Morrison, who supposedly got exploded in his car. Turns out he, Pike and Lynch were planning on stealing the plates, but Morrison and Pike betrayed Lynch, fulling expecting him to betray them.
And to be fair, Lynch probably would have.
Hannibal talks to Lynch on the phone, taking careful note about how Lynch focused on the plates before anything else. This tips him off to the fact that Lynch was planning to betray them, allowing them to escape before sharing Morrison's eventual fate.
They just got Michael Bay'd.
Lynch and his men pick up Pike and are about to execute him (In a rather hilarious scene), Hannibal makes a new plan. He phones Sosa and tells her that he's got the plates and Morrison, who's willing to testify against Lynch. They do this using a phone that they know Lynch is listening to.
Then they phone her using the burn phone and tell her what's actually going on, that Morrison is dead and that they're going to draw Lynch out into the open where they can trick him into a confession.
This is actually a really good plan, but the actual plan on how to get Lynch to accidentally confess is even better.
Face explains to the others the concept of a shell game. It's that fairground game where a guy hides a ball under a cup and moves the cups around, challenging you to guess which cup the ball is under. The whole point of the game is that the ball isn't under any of the cups, because why risk even a 1/3 chance of losing when you don't have to?
In other words, never keep all your balls in one cup.
The actual event is spectacular. They parade 'General Morrison' in clear view, knowing full well that Lynch is watching. So they hide Hannibal and 'Morrison' in one of three containers being swung around by cranes.
"It's called a hustle sweetheart."
They use fireworks and some remote-controlled cars (Full size cars being remote controlled, not dinky toy versions) to cause a distraction and eliminate most of Lynch's goons.
Everything is going well as Lynch looks on, utterly baffled, but then a wrench gets thrown into the plan.
More precisely, the A-team didn't count on Lynch giving Pike a second chance. 
A second chance, and a rocket launcher.
I wish more movies had competent villains.
Pike blows up the entire ship, causing containers to shower everywhere. It eventually boils down to Pike and Face having a shootout which Pike gets the upper hand in, at least until B.A. comes along like the big damn hero he is.
While I'm personally glad they used the classic overhead throw, I'm disappointed that they used it in a lethal manner.
Meanwhile, Lynch finds Hannibal, 'Morrison' and the plates.
After actually somehow beating Hannibal in hand to hand combat, Lynch straight up shoots 'Morrison' in the head.
That'll leave a mark.
Lynch and Hannibal fight some more, this time Hannibal getting the better of Lynch, but Lynch picks up a pistol he dropped and pops Hannibal in the chest. Just as he's remarking that a Kevlar vest won't save someone from a bullet in the head, Hannibal retorts that it does if you melt it down.
Was nobody wondering where Murdock was hiding?
Just as Lynch is wondering what exactly is going on, the container they were in suddenly lifts into the air, showing Sosa and a small army pointing guns at him.
"It's called a hustle, sweetheart. Boom."
Lynch is smart enough to surrender, so the scene transitions to the aftermath, with the military arresting Lynch. using his real name, which rather surprises him.
But then another Lynch shows up and claims custody. Just as the A-Team get re-arrested.
Funny thing, in America it is illegal to escape from federal custody to prove your innocence, even if you manage to be successful.
But that's ok, because they're the A-team, they just escape again.
"I love it when a plan comes together."
Close, but no cigar.
The movie reads out the opening monologue from the series (Leaving out the exact date, obviously), but just when you get pumped for the theme, they use some other music instead.
Which sums up this movie, I think.
Which is a serious shame, because several parts were balls-out amazing. the action scenes were over-the-top in enjoyable and imaginative ways. The characters and the actors chosen to play them were spot on. The overall plot was really good and the villains were done well. Pike was as enjoyable to watch as any member of the team.
But there was a lot of wrongness to get through before we could get to the good parts.
The opening in Mexico was unnecessary and added 30 minutes that we could have done without. As I mentioned in the review itself, if it weren't for this blog I would never have gotten past the destruction of the van.
Next time I'm going to be reviewing an animated movie about magical girls in high school.

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