It’s taken several years, but now we finally know what a mainstream action film from director Joe Carnahan looks like with the release of The A-Team, which hits theaters nationwide today. Carnahan proved himself capable of delivering a hard-boiled indie crime feature in 2002′s Narc, directed one of the best BMW Film entries (Ticker), and although I have issues with 2006′s Smokin’ Aces, I still admire that film for what it gets right.
Now with The A-Team, a big-budget remake of the classic 80′s TV series, Carnahan has a shot at becoming more than a beloved indie director.
The film was one of the few big releases this summer that I was actually excited for, and I’m glad to say that it lived up to my expectations completely. Carnahan, along with screenwriters Brian Bloom (who also plays a major villain role in the film) and Skip Woods, have crafted a dumb-yet-fun action film that pays homage to the original series, but also manages to modernize the material well. It’s also surprisingly hilarious at times, thanks to some inspired casting (Sharlto Copley, in particular), and Carnahan’s own quirky sensibilities.
Liam Neeson continues to become more of a badass with age (the opening scene gave me chills), Bradley Cooper seems to play a good-looking asshole almost too well, and Rampage Jackson steps into Mr. T’s shoes with ease — turning a formerly one-note character into something far more interesting. Patrick Wilson also has a spectacular turn as a slimy CIA agent — putting Jason Patric’s overly-quirky attempt at a similar role in The Losers to shame.
Speaking of The Losers, I realize that comic series was heavily inspired by the original A-Team, but it’s sort of funny how similar the two films are structurally as well. But while I merely liked The Losers, I absolutely loved this film — despite its flaws.
Carnahan does get a bit over-excited during some of the action sequences, but overall I think he makes good use of the hyper-editing action style. (Let’s not forget that even Paul Greengrass’s shaky-cam expertise didn’t work for every single Bourne action scene.) There’s also a handful of set pieces in this film that are unlike anything I’ve seen before, and for that alone I give it credit.
Overall, the film worked for me because Carnahan managed to find the exact right tone for the film, while doling out enough action beats to make us forget about the simplistic plot.
But what did you think? And feel free to get into spoilers in the comments.