Friday, June 18, 2010

A-Team review

* * / * * * *

Property The Daily Gamecock

“The A-Team” is everything wrong about the summer blockbuster: a movie so determined to shove you back in your seat over and over, it uses characters and storytelling as sidesteps to get the spectator to the next explosion. A movie so manic in its direction it’s like visual alphabet soup — signs and elements lumped together on celluloid, begging to make sense of things.

Yet “The A-Team” is also everything right about the summer blockbuster — a movie that all but forces you to turn your brain off for nearly two hours, shredding physics books and logic while remaining thoroughly tongue-in-cheek about the proceedings.
Yes, there’s nothing louder or dumber in theaters than director Joe Carnahan’s (“Smokin’ Aces”) version of the ‘80s television show, now centered around a set of contemporary concerns — the movie begins with an interrogation scene and features a shady Arab businessman.

There are tanks all but freefalling, characters repelling down skyscrapers, helicopters catching people in midair, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle detonations — of which one character remarks, “it looks just like ‘Call of Duty’” (what better way to sum up how this film is so reliant on the interactive presentations of modern warfare?) — and after a while it becomes a little too much to bear.

The screenplay, co-written by Carnahan, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods, tries to anchor the film around the members of the A-Team, including “District 9’s” Sharlto Copley, “The Hangover’s” Bradley Cooper and Oscar-nominee Liam Neeson, who play over-the-top with mostly good results. They don’t generate much chemistry and seem to only tangentially care about each other, but as individuals they all pack serviceably campy performances.
“The A-Team” is sheer excess. It’s cinema without plausibility or point, with barely enough coherence to justify itself. While that might sound like sheer derision, it’s not. There may not be anything particularly remarkable about Carnahan’s film, but it is a tailor-made fit to its core audience: action film junkies who get high off of ludicrously staged set pieces.
Director Carnahan tries to layer so much sound on top of so much editing — close-ups and bullets and things that fly and go boom all get jumbled up under sounds of yelps, one-liners, explosions, vehicle noise and orchestral scoring. Even for a Hollywood summer film, it’s a cacophony, shamelessly stretching the limits of visual and aural intake.

While many will no doubt find the film repellant — and rightfully so, for it creates an arena of violence, a free-for-all of sectioned-off absurdity with barely any connection to present anxieties — there will also be an equal number who happily succumb to the stupor of the action.

“The A-Team” is far from subtle and canyons away from intelligent, but it does entertain and satisfy in its own beguiling way. It is mass spectacle, an empty exercise that parades set pieces of global locales and macho mayhem, content to never give a moment’s thought to the wreckage it trails in its wake.

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