By Dave Campbell | June 11, 2010
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writers: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bloom
You know the original TV story setup…
A crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire…The A-Team. BRAT-A-TATATATATATATA! (queue theme music)
The film begins with sequences of inter-cut credits introducing us to our team of characters and how they came together. Somewhere in Mexican desert we meet our U.S. ARMY Rangers Hannibal (Liam Neeson) and Face (Bradley Cooper) who are being held in separate locations by some corrupt police bad guys. Hannibal escapes to assist Face and randomly crosses paths with one B.A. Baracus (Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson) who helps them all break free from their captives to seek out an infamously crazed out pilot named Murdock (Sharlto Copley) being held in the psych ward of a U.S. Army hospital near the Mexican/U.S. border so they can escape back to the States. Linked by their Army Ranger tattoos and together “specializing in the ridiculous” – da da da da, dum dum dum – I give you your new A-Team.
We then jump eight years and eighty missions later to present day with the A-Team sitting on top as the best clandestine operative unit in the Army. Their next assignment takes place during the current Iraq war and involves secretly infiltrating Baghdad and recovering stolen U.S. mint printing plates and a billion in counterfeit U.S. currency. Rivals enter the picture in the form of an old friend of Hannibal’s who is the commanding U.S. General (Gerald McRaney), DOD Captain and former flame of Face’s – Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel), shady CIA operative Lynch (Patrick Wilson), and a private guns for hire contract team Black Forest who Hannibal refers to as “assassins in polo shirts” (think Black Water) lead by Pike (Brian Bloom who is also the screenwriter).
After completing their mission, the team returns to base to meet the General just as his hummer and the shipping container carrying the money/plates explode and Pike and Black Forest are seen escaping off into the distant night horizon. With the General dead and the only person who knew that they were on this top secret mission, the team is arrested, tried, and dishonorably discharged to serve ten years in separate federal military prisons.
Now the team must escape, re-band, and clear their names by tracking down Pike and the others who framed them for a (you guessed it) crime that they didn’t commit.
The A-Team spends so much time trying to complicate it’s easy to predict outcome that it loses out on the opportunity to focus on the characters. They really never experience real development, moments of reflection, or dialogue with any depth, due to the stale one-liners and explosions that fill the film’s running time. Adventure points are short lived because it becomes more of a task to follow the “you got your double cross in my double cross” twists in the plot.
Liam Neeson as Hannibal felt pretty good but lacked development as mentioned above, Bradley Cooper as Face is suave yet not as endearing as one would expect, Sharlto Copley’s Murdock was primed and ready to go but is never allowed to escape quick choppy edits, and Quinto Jackson’s mohawked and muscled take on B.A. Baracus isn’t really enabled to expand beyond a generic Mr. T impression as he rumbles the all too familiar “FOOL!” on countless occasions. Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson lend a great deal of support in their respective roles, but to no fault of their own ultimately take away from time we could spend on the four focal points of the film.
I know what you’re thinking, “Dave this movie is based on a cheesy action TV show from the early 80’s, what did you expect?”. I guess I just expected…more. Not more in the sense of explosions, scope and action, because director Joe Carnahan was entering Michael Bay’s back yard in that department. Hannibal utters the line “overkill is underrated”, but in that department they should have gone with a less is more approach. Given the talent from the great casting list that was assembled, why not provide them with better lines to chew on since we’re asked to go along with a flying tank idea? Testosterone infused adrenalin? Yes. Substance? No.
It’s not to say that The A-Team is all bad, because there are bursts of fun summer popcorn entertainment as well as charm sandwiched between the slices of exploding fail. To quote Hannibal again, this time via his catch-phrase; “I love it when a plan comes together”, but maybe there should have been a plan B.