Col. Hannibal Smith, played here by a dusty-haired, cigar-chomping Liam Neeson, doesn’t subscribe to coincidence. He believes that no matter how random things might appear, there is still a plan.
If that’s the case, perhaps there is a plot buried under the chaos of The A-Team. Maybe underneath the quick cuts, endless explosions, and mid-action quips lurks a sense of purpose, other than brand nostalgia or franchise potential. It’s entirely possible that the 11 different writers and 10 years of development were dedicated to hatching a deliberately pointless adaptation of the ’80s series by carefully extracting the fun. I love it when a plan comes together.
As the latest trashy entry into a recent subgenre of ’80s revival mediocrity, The A-Team assembles the ammunition but not the firepower for another aimless, mindless blockbuster that substitutes frenetic action, noise, and CGI for entertainment. I almost expected their signature black van to transform into an alien robot.
Partially through coincidence, of course, Hannibal forms a quartet of one note characters and Army rangers into an Alpha unit, or A-Team, who “specialize in the ridiculous.” Bradley Cooper plays Lt. “Faceman” Peck, a ladies man who never stops cracking wise. Murdock, the psychotic pilot, is portrayed by lovable District 9 star Sharlto Copley as a goofy wild man who is clearly insane. Well, it’s clear because the characters never stop calling him crazy. After eight years of fighting side-by-side they still yell at Murdock, “You’re insane!”
“UFC” fighter Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson‘s B.A. Baracus is considerably less “bad ass” than the Mr. T incarnation, trading in the flashy neckware and catch phrases for a fear of flying and a mood that changes with his hairdo. Don’t worry fans, Baracus may not vocally “pity the fool” anymore, but he has the words tattooed on his knuckles. Subtle.
After a rapid-fire opening that brings the band together, the team is framed for the crime they didn’t commit and forced to operate on the run to clear their name. The MacGuffin, a suitcase of printing press plates of the dollar bill, is juggled in a cloud of characters. A grizzled General Morrison (Gerald McRaney), a smarmy CIA agent named Lynch (Patrick Wilson), a Blackwater Blackforest soldier (Brian Bloom), and a military officer and old Faceman flame (Jessica Biel).
Hannibal may utter the line ”overkill is underrated,” but it seems to be the mantra of director Joe Carnahan, whose Smokin’ Aces was a pulpy personification of the phrase and whose A-Team attempts to embody the same principles of excess and comic violence. Of course I wasn’t expecting high-minded material from an A-Team movie, but the battles fall somewhere between a suspenseful conflict with real consequences and the cartoonish ridiculousness of something like the self-aware The Losers or even the aforementioned Aces.
The action sequences are expected death-defying exaggerations, like a parachuting tank unloading bullets mid-air or a repel down the side of a building with automatic weaponry, but the over-the-top absurdities are mired in the inter-departmental politics and double-crosses of a script that takes itself much too seriously.
Carnahan’s amped up A-Team feels planned to appeal to teenage boys, or anyone looking to relive those days, instead of anyone who might ask a question, any question, during this nearly 2-hour nonsense.
2 out of 5.