Review: The A-Team

(M) ****

Director: Joe Carnahan.

Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson.

REVIVING old TV shows for the big screen is fraught with danger. Finding a balance between updating the source material and remaining faithful to the original is a challenge - the need to appeal to new and old audiences can be near impossible. That's why many remakes just pick a few elements they like and throw out the rest. It's also why many fail.

Sometimes, no matter how well you cast it or how much money you throw at it, it's just never going to work. Get Smart is a good example, where the corniness of the original series didn't mesh with a modern blockbuster, no matter how good Steve Carell was at filling Don Adams' shoe-phones.

But action director Carnahan and his scriptwriters have harnessed the OTT recklessness and cartoonish mayhem of The A-Team, pumped it full of steroids and delivered a proudly loud and bombastic rendition that pays tribute to its roots without being distractingly slavish. The outer shell may have changed but the spirit lives on.

It would have counted for nothing though if their Team wasn't Grade A and, praise Mr T, it is. Hannibal (Neeson), Face (Cooper), "Howling" Mad Murdoch (Copley) and the mohawked pain-bringer BA Baracus (Jackson) are brought to life with believable camaraderie, making their interactions between the action a joy to watch.

The basic premise is the same as the show - they're "a crack commando unit... sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit" and although it takes 40 minutes of set-up to get there, the film never lags.

The latter half is concerned with their revenge, as they deal with a shifty CIA agent (the excellent Wilson), Face's old flame Lt Sosa (Biel) and the location of some missing money-making plates but really it's just an excuse for increasingly ludicrous set-pieces that repeatedly go above and beyond the levels of sanity.

Thankfully the sense of humour is always in tact and the tongue is never far from the cheek (the parachuting tank scene in particular is a hoot).

Just as Hannibal loves it when a plan comes together, action fans will love how The A-Team falls into place.

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