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The A-holes

The A-Holes

by Kavish Chetty / 12.08.2010

The A-Team plays cannibal to its own history. Consuming decades of banal Hollywood gristle, it spits out every cliché, every time-worn trope, yanks at every fruit which dares to hang within the adolescent’s grubby reach – and the result is predictably bullshit. The thing is, if you’re the sort of person who buys a ticket for this film, then this is the sort of film that you’d pay to see, which means you’re the sort of person this film was made for. Pardon the incomprehensible logic, there is a point behind it. The point is that action-drama, warlike spectacle, whatever you want to call it – it’s a brainless pursuit designed to flex and spasm some atavistic impulse inside us all. It’s the sort of film that glorifies the instinct to war; that shivers with pleasure when the orgasm of explosion is consummated on screen. It revels in vengeance and violence, swallowed down with vinegary popcorn. It’s inexcusably idiotic and you can’t argue with it, because that’s exactly its point.

There is something so American about this obsession with violence. In The A-Team, the four principal characters (the leader, the playboy, the tough-guy, the maniac) laugh and “yahoo!”, all but fucking bump their pectoral muscles together, when they kill someone. When B.A. Baracus (or Mr. T as everyone knows him) undergoes a spiritual transfiguration while in prison, he gives up on his bloodthirst. But the climax that the film is unmistakably heading towards wants to accomplish one thing: how we can show Baracus that it’s okay to kill again? How can we get him to relinquish his thoughtful pacifism and find the same pleasure in death as the audience? Well, with petrol drums, dynamite, wrestling moves and witless dialogue, of course! That’s character development for you!

As to why the hell they chose to make a reboot film about The A-Team, I’m clueless. Hasn’t the whole of the generation who were alive to watch that show died out yet? It’s impossible to pick a fight with a film which endeavours to be stupid and boorish and charm its audience with the fleeting promise of nostalgia, made from memories best forgotten.

Which brings us, rather arbitrarily, to Sharlto Copley – playing Howling Mad Murdock. If you’ve forgotten already, Copley played one-hit wonder Wikus van der Merwe in District 9. His American accent is as convincing as Schabir Schaik’s ill health. He tries for the southern drawl, but it comes out more Bellville than Bellevue.

So what are you actually expected to see? Well, incoherent and kinetic editing work that could induce epilepsy. Lots of gunshots (rat-a-tat-tat) and airborne dogfights (whoosh). Plot or purpose? Shh! don’t ask questions. Just sink into your seat and suck on your straw. Enjoy the symptoms of a culture now hopelessly entangled in the idiocy of its own punchlines.

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RESPONSES (33)
  1. Cantankerous says:

    Brilliant and angry.

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  2. eddie gruyere-ou says:

    Yeah, well written. That trademark Mahala vitriol channelled in the right direction.

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  3. Mick says:

    Ah the peculiar thrill of eloquent anger..

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  4. Max says:

    Kavish, you nailed it. Maybe it’s wrong for me to say this – but I did enjoy this. If you take it as an action film, yes it is shit. If you see it as an unintentional comedy (kind of like From Paris With Love), well then it kind of becomes a different beast.

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  5. Katoey says:

    Kavish its called a “joint”. From your “incomprehensible” but spot-on logic, it should be patently obvious that you need to smoke one before watching this.

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  6. Max says:

    @katoey hahahahahahahahaahha, but shush, drugs are bad for your superpowers.

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  7. Nicky says:

    Wow. Now I just HAVE to go and see this movie. Thanks!

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  8. Angela says:

    The original A-Team screened in SA in the ’80s which makes those of us who were around then in their mid 30’s now..so no, fortunately we have not ‘died out’ yet you prat! :p

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  9. Angela says:

    The original A-Team was aired in SA during the ’80s which makes those of us who were around then in their mid 30’s now, so no, fortunately we have not ‘died out’ yet!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    one more time please Angela

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  11. tyron says:

    yeah, im 24. I remember the A Team as clear as day. I’m not dead either.

    I think it’s probably playing on nostalgia and sentimentality to make a shit load of money out of us. But I am still going to see it. I suppose this makes me “the sort of person this film was made for” (yes, the incomprehensible logic was not lost on me).

    Thanks for reminding me that the big bad movie companies are just trying to make money out of me. And that I’m a sellout. And that all things conventional are uncool. And that its better to be conventionally unconventional. I think I’ll sign up for some classes on how to be cool soon. Mahala has taught me that I’m a loser. Thanks so much.

    What’s the worst thing that can happen? 2 hours of my time wasted, and a belly full of popcorn.

    And Sharlto Copley is a legend. Don’t be a hater.

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  12. Andy says:

    Waddy is that you?

    Sharlto Copley is not a legend. He’s a one trick pony. Wikus forever. Typecast. Done.

    I used to play with A-Team dollies… They were badly made, but I had them all. This is a nostalgia shoot em up based on a cheesy 80s TV show…

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  13. Andy says:

    Oh and Tyron… your last sentence says it all… you’re going to see it because Sharlto’s in it.

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  14. tyron says:

    Nah, I would watch it even if Woopi Goldberg was playing Mad Murdock. Any step back into the 80s is worth it man. You can shoot down the A Team all you want, but don’t tell me it doesn’t give you a little bit of a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy. C’mon, admit it. You want to whip out those dollies, don’t you?

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  15. Andy says:

    OK… if I still had them… but I think I destroyed them all with tom thumbs and methylated spirits… I was a bit of a pyro. Your unbridled enthusiasm is making me second guess my position… maybe i’ll get it when it comes out on DVD or catch it on MNET or something

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  16. tyron says:

    or you could just go on half price night. popcorn. mmm.

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  17. Larry Claasen says:

    Hey all you haters. Lighten up.
    It’s just a movie. It’s two hours of escapist fun.
    Why are you taking it so seriously?
    Yes there were gaping holes in the plot and improbably stunts but its the A-Team not Hamlet, so get over it.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    It’s a FUN movie! I fucking laughed my way through it, and I’m not exactly a big fan of action movies. I say check it out. Yes..

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  19. eyetaly says:

    Here’s the revised review for those of you who don’t like the one above, and think it’s “just a movie” and just “two hours of escapist fun.”

    “The A-team is a bladdy lekker film! It’s got lots of cool special effects. And Jessica Biel is hot! Remember Wikus van der Merwe? He’s kak funny, man, he’s a lag a minute. You know sometimes you’ve been working all week and your boss has been giving you hell? You don’t feel like staying in and renting ‘The Hangover’ and eating KFC with your girlfriend? Go watch this movie, bru. Have some popcorn, take your friends with you! Then afterwards, have a couple of beers and drive home drunk. Wake up the next morning and read your Clive Cussler novel (jislaaik, he’s interlectual!), then sit in front of the television and watch the rugby. Get your girlfriend to make you lunch (apparently she’s really good and buying chicken from Checkers) and loosen the velcro on your pants a liddel if your stomach is bulging too much. Remember, on Monday you have to go back to work at a job you hate! So you gotta bladdy live life to the full on the weekends!”

    You see, the thing is, films like these are encouraging banality and lameness in the world. Most people are too stupid (sorry, does that sound elitist? The world wasn’t designed with you in mind) to realise how these films are legitimating certain norms for them, pretty much defining their lives for them. Yeah, you can say it’s just fun – but then what’s the point of criticism? Dumbed-down, lowest-common-denominator population – that’s what this kak and all the kak like it is creating. You can say it’s just ‘fun’, but that’s because you aren’t willing to dig a little deeper.

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  20. Roger Young. says:

    @eyetaly

    if it weren’t for your grammatical errors, i’d be in love with you.

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  21. Lizzy says:

    i’d like to see more written about the culture of violence in action films and on tv. i remember the Ateam being full of violent explosions but without any explicit death. these days violence on tv and in the cinema show all the gory details. was the movie true to the series or aligned with current cinema? I think we need to explore our culture of violence a bit further.

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  22. Larry Claasen says:

    @eyetaly

    You are so right. Reading you comments has enlightened me.
    I was so wrong to enjoy it.
    I should have looked deeper into it and seen it as life defining art rather than light entertainment.
    Yes, It is banal and lame but I don’t hold it responsible for society’s ills.
    If you believe society’s moral framework is created by the A-Team, then it means our fragile minds can be easily swayed by any other nonsense on the silver screen.
    Using this argument, we would have all become Jedi knights after seeing Star Wars.
    Yes, there is a lot of nonsense out there but don’t exaggerate the power of a cheap tune.

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  23. eyetaly says:

    @Larry Claasen

    This is exactly the sort of head-buried-in-sand nonchalance that I was afraid of. The A-team isn’t life defining art, as per your false equivalency. But films like this, like all films, like all music, like all art, like all of culture and dialogue and everything else, are creating a society, shaping a society, whether you like it or not.

    “Using this argument, we would have all become Jedi knights after seeing Star Wars.”

    The effect is slightly more subtle than that, perhaps more subliminal than that.

    You weren’t wrong to enjoy it. But whether you enjoyed it or not has got nothing to do with the legitimacy of the reviewer’s claims. Your attitude is, “ag, it’s just a film – just enjoy it!” Some people get paid, or take pleasure out the joyful and humbling philosophy of the interrogative. We need more reviews like this, to offset the maddening sycophancy and braindeadness of the mass who think otherwise.

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  24. Larry Claasen says:

    @eyetaly

    I get your argument about the need for deeper criticism.
    There needs to be a forum for penetrative analysis or someplace just to tell it like it is – Judith Sephuma is ordinary, Die Antwoord is crap and all soup operas should be banned for their stupidity.

    The trick is not to come across as an over educated know-it-all who is taking down to the masses. The opinionated class tends to get rapped up in their own world view, instead of making their arguments in ways that do not irritates the bejesus out of “ordinary folk”.

    ” head-buried-in-sand nonchalance” – now that’s put down. Ouch.

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  25. eyetaly says:

    “The trick is not to come across as an over educated know-it-all who is taking down to the masses”

    I totally get you on that. Although, this review, like many others on Mahala, seems to occupy the genre of knee-jerk fatalism: the surrendered prose of the elitists who realise that the bold, arrogant conquests of civilisation that came before them have long since started to shatter and splinter. This is the age of globalisation and yet more strikingly still, the age of the retreat into self. What is left for the smarter ones to do in the whirlwind chaos of multiplicity, polycentrism and pluralism (all tugging in different directions, all ‘equal’ by mandate of law) but to cry out in the only eloquent language they know – cry out against the banal films that keep people banal, the dry advertisements that keep people materialistic and deadly jealous, the residue of mistakes past that keep girls self-conscious and sexually repressed, that define the concept of the masculine in strait-jacket terminology… This is a pursuit unto itself – self-gratifying and self-elevating, and it’s done the world over. This is the powerful catharsis through elevation (which trickily navigates its closer cousin, despair) and is practised the world over. It is available only to the few.

    And this is why Mahala confuses me with it’s shacks and kombis hemming the bottom and top of the pages: this site is totally divorced from the mass, the LCD, the general – this is the playground of a highly literate upper-middle class clique: look at Edmonds, look at Young, look at Max (sorry pal, forgot what you surname is – anyway using surnames is so stiff and formal, I must sound like a jackass), look at Chetty, look at Dawson, look at Malibongwe (again), look at the whole gang. They’re smarter than thou, they’re more critical than thou.

    If it is the ambition of this website to connect with the morons that populate the upstairs-Cavendish cinemas, then that’s precisely why they’ve alienated themselves. The criticism is the backlash from the uninterrogative mass. But if they’re here for the benefit of the elite, the educated, the well-read and the philosophical, then they’re doing an entertaining job. They’re probably just like you and me: they fuck and dine fancily and read and watch and Experience just like everyone else. They’re just a little more discerning, a little more condescending than the average.

    Long post is long.

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  26. eyetaly says:

    Oh, and no offence about the ” head-buried-in-sand nonchalance” … that wuz a leedle beet unnecessary.

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  27. Larry Claasen says:

    ” head-buried-in-sand nonchalance” – I thought it was funny.
    Mail me. We should chat further.

    claasenl@fm.co.za

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  28. Sean says:

    Haven’t seen this yet but probably will. Who else is hoping they do an Airwolf movie though? Or MacGuyver? Now we’re talking.

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  29. Warren says:

    This reviewer is sadly uneducated on the movie and his review reveals his lack of knowledge on the matter fairly clearly.

    While he is right that this movie is not worth going to see he is incorrect as to why, or what its weaknesses are.

    For one thing Sharlto Copley’s performance is magnificent. If the reviewer had ever seen the original A-Team he would know that the fault in the Southern accent lies with original actor Dwight Schultz. Dwight chose an broad southern accent with no direct identifiers to increase the mystery surrounding the character. Who is he? Where does he really come from? Is he really mad? Copley nailed it. Watch the original and you’ll see that Copley is Murdock.

    Secondly B.A Baracus is not “Mr T as everyone knows him”. Mr T was the original actor. B.A Baracus is the character. Would you describe Christian Bale in Batman as being, Bruce Wayne (Or Val Kilmer as everyone knows him)? Doubt it. Pure ignorance.

    There are more reasons here, but I think my point is made and you can be dismissed. Opinion without knowledge is simple ignorance.

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  30. Kavish says:

    Warren, you sound like an agitator (see: “pure ignorance” and other such hyperbole), so I’ll make this brief:

    1. I haven’t watched the original A-Team, and the adaptative authenticity of this film is the least interesting aspect of it.

    2. I know Mr T. was the original actor (but why do you write that with such vehemence? it’s hardly that groundbreaking) – but people continue to refer to Baracus as Mr T in common parlance, particularly the younger crowd like myself, to whom the A-Team is just a metaphor for campy and gassy ’80s shtick.

    I love your line “the reviewer is sadly uneducated on the movie” … Indeed, it’s sad, terribly tragic: that I didn’t watch the A-Team in my youth – oh how melodramatic a deprivation of my vital education! How can I be expected to be taken seriously as a film critic when I didn’t watch that most formative of television serials?

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  31. anon and on and on... says:

    i never feel cool when i come onto mahala,
    it feels like a hipsters only club, like for the kind of people who felt rejected throughout highschool and now have found a way to feel important by being pseudo intellectuals on a site visited by people who are really bored at work and have nothing better to do but talk shit about crap that’ll become passe in less than tw days.
    i’m tired of trying to keep up with sub-sub-sub cultures founded by spoilt kids with SLR’s and Macbook Pros.

    LATFH.COM

    a place for people liike you…

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  32. WTF says:

    Watched this on Friday,,,,,,,well,well,well,WHAT ALOT OF KAK!!!!!

    Don’t fix it unless it’s broke,,,shit it’s been BROKEN……

    Stick with the originale,,,,

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  33. Craig Rossouw says:

    I think Mr. (chet) T is the real A-Hole around here!!!1! LOL!!!

    A-Lol!!

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