One of the benefits of “The A-Team” is that you can bask in the sheer idiocy of the story as most of the fans of the series did. Where in the original had four grown men in a black van storming through gates and beating people up, this one has a guy shooting from a tank dropping down to Earth and shooting down fighter planes. It also has a goofy 3D gag involving a truck that is pretty memorable. When all is said and done “The A-Team” doesn’t really want to re-invent the wheel, but instead just seeks to pay homage to the dumb original series that starred Mr. T and made him an eighties sensation.
After the A-Team become the handymen of the government who do the dirty work and pull off missions without fail, a botched grab of stolen currency results in the death of a military official and they’re officially jailed and disbanded shun in to obscurity. Years later when Hannibal is offered a chance to bring dignity back to his name, he breaks his men out of confinement to find out who set them up, and how to bring respect back to their names. This time around instead of television veterans, we’re given up and coming and seasoned actors all of whom take hold of the mantles left behind by legends. The casting of the four key players is rather inspiring as Quinton Jackson is entertaining as Baracus along with Liam Neeson doing a fine job as Hannibal Smith. The two stand outs though are Bradley Cooper as Face, given much more importance and relevance beyond comic relief, now playing a sly slick agent who slowly learns to take control of the A-Team and lead them in to missions as Hannibal slowly passes on to him leadership.
And Sharlto Copley is a scene stealer as the maniacal Murdock, the insane helicopter pilot who may very well be one inch away from being locked in a rubber room, but is at home in the middle of gunfire and explosions, all insane environments. and is hopeless without his teammates. In the same vein Patrick Wilson is effective as the resident villain, a scheming and slick businessman who takes advantage of a golden opportunity to market on the government and does so through deadly force, and his rivalry with the A-Team that leads to a pretty entertaining showdown. Beyond that “The A-Team” doesn’t seek to be much more beyond a series of eye rolling action set pieces, and Joe Carnahan stages them with his usual finesse and swooping pans that promise to suck the audience in at every turn. The entire time I was watching “The A-Team,” I kept asking myself over and over “Does this movie really need to be so complicated?” The entire movie watches like a heist film that thinks it’s cleverer than we realize it to be, but should we have so much plot twists and such a complex plot for a movie based on a series from the eighties about four guys who drive around in a black pedo van and fight bad guys? Seriously?
From what I’ve heard on the internet, this adaptation went through constant re-writes and had about five screenwriters going through drafts to get it just right and boy does it show. Carnahan and co. take some of the wildest decisions during the action scenes that are not only disorienting but distracting. All of the major action sequences are intercut with scenes of the characters explaining the movements of every person inch by inch through models and props and while they think this will be stylish, it’s instead a clear indicator that the writers are aware we’ll have no idea what is happening during the large moments of the movie. Meanwhile, the plot is hopelessly (and sometimes ridiculously) convoluted and muddled to where it feels like three different films altogether. Sometimes it’s a spy movie about the CIA, and covert ops, and revenge, sometimes it’s a buddy action movie with bromance dialogue thrown in every so often to keep us awake, and sometimes it’s a dumb cheesy action film. How else to explain the sequence of Face shooting a machine gun at the top of a tank in mid-air at figher jets (something that screams dumb but fun), and then the climax involves a ridiculous slight of hand sting that is lacking in real action of fighting and more focused on imitating David Mamet?
And did anyone ever really figure out the entire frame job involving the plates? I sure didn’t. Jessica Biel has little to nothing to do here beyond playing a bland love interest, the winks at the television series induce eye rolls, and I never actually figured out who in the movie was a villain and who was just misunderstood. “The A-Team” is the result of too many cooks in the kitchen (the first twenty minutes are the intro, but the frame job is the actual intro, but no the climax reveals this is more of a prequel, how not confusing!), and can only ride on our nostalgia for too long before the audience decides it’s a tiresome and often confusing mess of an action film that can never be sure if it wants to re-work the material in to something adult, or appeal to the young crowds with dumb action fun. Joe Carnahan’s adaptation is two separate movies. On one side, it’s a fun and cheesy actioner that pays tribute to the action tropes of the original series, and on the flipside it’s a clumsy, convoluted, and ridiculously complicated heist film that wastes genuine talent like Shartlo Copley and Liam Neeson with it’s confused and scattered screenplay.