THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Coplet, Liam Neeson, and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson get an F for The A-Team.
I'm a total child of the 80's, but I can't honestly say that I was ever a huge fan of "The A-Team." I watched the show because everyone else watched it, yet never had any deep attachment. Even so, I went into the new movie version willing to be a bit nostalgic. While not a particularly great show, it nevertheless had its charms, which I hoped would translate to the big screen. The A-Team really didn't need to do anything other than to be fun, but it can't even get that right.
This is the story of four Special Forces soldiers: mastermind Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), lothario "Face" Peck (Bradley Cooper), mentally unhinged pilot "Mad" Murdoch (District 9's Sharlto Copley), and ass kicker B.A. Baracus (UFC star Quinton "Rampage" Jackson). They're charged with retrieving some stolen engraving plates that could be used to make phony money. The plates were retrieved from terrorists who wanted to collapse our economy, but now a shady CIA agent (Patrick Wilson) wants them for…well, I'm not sure about that. One of many serious problems with The A-Team is that the plot is incomprehensible. It's pretty clear that, despite three credited writers, no one really gave a damn about telling a coherent story. The TV show never had brilliant plots either, but at least they were simple to follow.
The main draw for a lot of people will be the action, which, frankly, I think sucks. In any action-heavy summer movie, you need to suspend your disbelief. One must forget about realism and just go with the flow. However, the action sequences in The A-Team are so blatantly preposterous that it's impossible not to scoff at them. Consider the moment when dozens of gigantic freight containers are toppled onto B.A. and he somehow manages to dodge them all safely. He'd have to be downright psychic to know where they weren't going to roll. A scene involving a flying tank similarly defies all known laws of physics. If a tank is dropped from 20,000 feet, the people in it are going to die. You cannot break the force of the fall by firing the cannon into the ground.
So far, we've got a stupid plot and bad action. I haven't even mentioned the atrocious acting (particularly from the almost-always-awful Jessica Biel, who is hilariously miscast as a high-ranking military officer). What is Liam Neeson doing in crap like this? The man is one of our finest, most subtle actors, yet here he is stuck in an underwritten role that utilizes none of his talents. Sharlto Copley was great in District 9; in The A-Team, he's supposed to be broad comic relief, but the material isn't funny, and so he is more annoying than anything. Only Quinton Jackson comes off okay. Then again, he's playing to type as a brawny he-man.
The A-Team was directed by Joe Carnahan, whose 1999 low-budget feature Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. (Even worse than this one.) Carnahan is all about trying to be badass. Every shot is designed to be tough and edgy in its visual style, while the editing is frantic. What Carnahan doesn't seem to realize is that his style is far from original, and therefore not as hip as he thinks it is. His directorial posturing, which is like a low-rent cross between the styles of Michael Bay and Tony Scott, doesn't actually make The A-Team gritty or hard-hitting. If anything, I found it very boring.
This movie is creatively bankrupt. Where the TV show was campy, the film is violent and, at times, kind of nasty. Of course, it has the requisite cameos from a couple of the show's stars, but that scene is placed after the end credits, when the vast majority of the audience has already left. The tendency is there for me to use Mr. T's famous 'I pity the fool" line to make a joke about The A-Team's badness. I'll refrain, because that would be stupid, and I've had enough stupidity for one afternoon
( 1/2 out of four)
The A-Team is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking. The running time is 2 hours and 1 minute.