THE A-TEAM Blu-Ray Review: Light on Substance, Big on Brainless Thrills

In 1972 (Ten years ago), 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.

Or if you prefer, you can buy it outright, as the Blu-ray is now available to buy. I'm here all week...

In case you missed it, or have spent the last twenty years living under an impenetrable rock and thus have no knowledge of what The A-Team was and is all about, here's the official synopsis line:

Four Iraq war veterans, led by Col. John 'Hannibal' Smith, on the run from the US military who suspect them of committing a crime, set about trying to clear their names. Becoming mercenaries and employing a wide range of uniquely offensive skills mixed in with a healthy dose of eccentric behavior, Smith and his cohorts, 'Faceman' Peck, 'Howling Mad' Murdock and 'B.A.' Baracus, set out to right the wrong done to them by any means necessary - and some that aren't.

The only situations in which any TV or film property should be remade are as follows: firstly, the film deserves and will indeed gain from modern advances in technology (hardly ever the case, as film-makers have always had a wonderful knack of adapting to their conditions), and secondly if the original material doesn't quite meet the nostalgic fervour attached to in terms of quality. When this project was announced, everyone and their sister came out to shout their disapproval, claiming the original 80s show to be an untouchable, and pointing at Starsky & Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard and Halloween as recent examples of why this route shouldn't ever be taken. But, really, when you think about it, The A-Team was just a well-formed idea replayed over and over, with some of the most ridiculous plots and incredibly flimsy narrative expediency, and a great big excuse to have cars blow up and men fall over without ever hurting themselves too much.

I for one welcomed the remake- though I have a lot of love for the original, I can recognise that it's appeal is more about its silliness and the fact that it showed (in Britain at least) at a golden tea-time slot on a Saturday, than any real quality, I always thought there was room for a new go at the material. And as long as their was some homage in there, I'd remain happy after viewing.

The excellent cast all pull their weight too: I was especially impressed with Liam Neesson in charge of the motley crew of military chancers, and Sharlto Copley on board after his career-making turn in District 9. And the cast certainly don't disappoint- although Rampage Jackson is wooden, he is no worse than legendary "actor" Mr T ever was, though there is a definite open homage to the man with the mohawk, just as there is in every one of the performances. Such a development may seem a given, but a lot of remakes fail because they attempt to add a new spin to the original while abandoning pretty much everything it stood for, aside from the most basic framework. Thankfully, The A-Team (2010) channels the camp, high action/low brainer mix that made the original TV show so watchable. The new film is essentially no more than a homage to the original, as the main players act out not what they think the characters would be like, but what their predecessors have already offered in the roles. It's affectionate aping, and the mechanisms of the film also follow the same trend. It's all very silly; some of the lines are just so terrible and throw-away that it's impossible not to squirm slightly when they are thrown away, and there's obviously an incredibly silly plot held together with explosions and shooting and running, and Bradley Cooper with his top off just a few too many times.

It may seem an odd thing to say, but I am thankful that there weren't too many shocks here: the homage approach encourages comfort with the material, which is a good thing to encourage when approaching a project with such an established property (let's face it, it's verging on being a sub-culture thanks to the endless zeal of the retro heads who control a significant proportion of film and TV merch markets these days). And I like that the new film didn't just piss all over the original and slap the name-tag on it.

And at the end of the day, it is very enjoyable. For exactly the same reasons as the original series- the ridiculousness is the film's shining achievement, and there is such an endearing comic tone to the film (even though none of the actors play it over the top particularly) thanks to the obvious fun spirit on set (check the gag reel if you doubt it), that The A-Team makes The Expendables look like the po-faced, takes-itself-way-too-seriously messy actioner that it really is.

Extras The A-Team: Extended Explosive Edition contains the Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions (yawn), four character postcards, and over 90 mins of additional content including: The Devil€™s in the Details: Inside the Action with the Director Deleted Scenes Gag Reel A-Team Theme Mash Up Montage Plan of Attack Character Chronicles Visual Effects Before and After The A-Team Blu-ray is now available to buy.

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