Then: The A-Team, an 80s television show good for pathetically bad stories, overall bad acting, a shitload of random explosions, gun battles in which no one gets shot, and the rise of a mohawked bad-ass Mr. T (a man, by the way, that had no right to find himself in that situation). It did, however, have an iconic van I wanted to own and catchy theme music . . .
Now: The A-Team, a movie adapted from the above mentioned show that pretty much mirrors all the same descriptors above! Bad story, check; bad acting, check; explosions galore, check. The only differences are people actually get killed in the movie and, whereas the television show relished in its cheesiness, the film believes itself to be a serious work. Had it embraced its ludicrousness, my review would undoubtedly have been different.
The problems start off immediately — a chance encounter between Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson) and B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) results in the saving of Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper) from one of those notoriously bad scenes in which a bad guy chooses to pontificate instead of just killing his prisoner. A run-in with Capt. “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley) in, of all places, a mental facility ensures the safety for all as he manages to out-backflip drones and missiles with an antiquated helicopter.
These just-by-luck conclusions to all of Hannibal’s “ingenious” plans are a common thread throughout The A-Team. The main story arc has the quartet conducting a surgical strike to recover some stolen currency printing plates in Bagdad. The job itself goes off as planned (no matter how incredulous it is) but the team find themselves jailed thanks, in part, to the death of General Morrison (Gerald McRaney) and the theft of said plates. Who is behind it? CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson)? Mercenary competitor Pike (Brian Bloom)? Army officer Captain Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel)? The motives of all involved are transparent, thanks to the simplistic writing of Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods. They’re not, however, so obvious to our protagonists, so they chase leads to clear their names like a dog chases its own tail. It all gets revealed during a poorly choreographed, clumsily rendered and terribly shot climax that takes place on a cargo ship loading dock. Why it had to take 110 minutes to get there is questionable as well.
Pleasantly, to those who were fans of the show, there is little deviation from the characters. Actually, there is no character development other than what one would know from the show. Liam Neeson does well as the wise, cigar chomping leader of the on-the-run mercenaries. It’s a shame, however, that he’s dumbed down his abilities — he’s a much better actor than what’s showcased here. Plucked from his UFC gig, Quinton Jackson manages a good B.A. Baracus, delivering the trademark “fool” lines just as well, if not better, as his predecessor. Bradley Cooper is definitely a step up in casting for “Face”. I always felt Dirk Benedict made the role a bit too spirit-fingery — Cooper brings a harder edge to the role while embracing his good looks, chiseled abs and chauvinistic ways.
Jessica Biel, well, she’s in the movie strictly for eye candy. Only the candy ain’t so great since she’s always buttoned up tight in jackets and other armor-like clothing. Just another missed opportunity sure to irk the male demographic.
I’m not so sure there was ever a real opportunity for The A-Team to be the summer blockbuster Twentieth Century Fox was hoping for. It’ll make a few bucks for sure, but that’ll come mostly from curious onlookers and the old fans of the show kicking the tires to see if there is any life left in the vehicle. I can safely say, there isn’t much.