I don’t know about anyone else, but as soon as I even see the title ‘The A-Team’ the rousing theme tune springs to life in my head. I see crazy chases, lots of men being pistol whipped or hurled long distances by a man who supposedly pities their foolhardiness. It’s a great series of images, and it never fails to make me smile.
Thus I was looking forward to seeing that collection of crazy antics brought to the big screen for a new audience. It is, I think, a rare example of a format that could easily be rebooted without losing the essence of the original. After all, the group are a collection of archetypes, from crazy Murdoch to militant B.A. they all fulfill their roles – and they do it with wit, style, and incomprehensible explosions. What can you really get wrong? Well… the answer is a lot.
Like much of the TV equivalent, the film has very little plot to speak of. Beginning with a short sequence about how the team originally met (a nice touch that attempts to give the franchise its own feel: and destroys B.A.’s van in the process) the film rapidly runs into the middle of their illustrious careers as a crack team of covert operatives in the middle east, and the mission that would ultimately end their run in a heinous act of betrayal. Once they’re court-martialed, the group set about finding the ones who set them up and clearing their names.
The loosely associated sequence of events that comprises this quest is as ridiculous and bombastic as you’d expect, which is certainly a good decision by director Joe Carnahan. There’s the infamous sequence from the trailer, and one of the funniest in the film, which sees the team attempt to ‘fly’ a tank as it plummets from a plane on a parachute, there’s insane helicopter chases and there’s one heck of a lot of battles. These are all fine, and elicited a fair few laughs from the audience. I’d even go as far as to say that this kind of grade-A action excess is fairly true to the original series, and made for some enjoyable moments.
The trouble is that these moments were largely surrounded by some pretty annoying elements.
Chief among these is B.A. Baracus, taken over by Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, is given one of the worst sub-plots ever. After his enforced break from active service, he decides to become a Buddhist. He grows out his battle-ready mohawk, and vows never to kill again. Never mind that the original A-Team never seemed to kill anyway, rather they’d knock them out, trap them somewhere or put them to sleep, this seems to be a big problem for the new generation.
Cue a series of scenes in which it would have been useful for him to be willing to attack but he won’t; and a culminating scene in which we’re supposed to cheer with raucous joy as he smashes a guy into the floor, breaking his neck. It’s contrived, it’s dull, and morally dubious. I can cope with glossed over violence in certain contexts, and I can cope with excessive comic book violence, but I fail to understand how it’s OK that we’re encouraged to will a man on to kill. Not understand the necessity of killing, not will him to battle the odds and succeed, or destroy evil, no we have to really want him to be able to ditch that useless Buddhist malarky and start killing again.
Worse still is the bizarre decision, as we approach the grand finale, to have Face make the plans. Isn’t that what Hannibal is meant to do? I’m sure that’s what he’s good at. But no, low and behold Face is making a plan and, in a nice piece of poetic justice, the plan is terrible. It doesn’t only go wrong in the quasi-dramatic way intended by the script writers, it also looks and feels utterly lame.
Superfluous fireworks, three card monte with cars and poorly computer-generated cargo ships exploding form the backbone of a ridiculous conclusion that tips the whole affair over the edge from enjoyably silly to absolutely retarded. Even a solid performance from Bradley Cooper as the charmer extraordinaire doesn’t make up for the terrible damage this oversight does to the plot. In fact it probably emphasises the poor character change that left Liam Neeson with so little to do.
Worst of all, though, was the ham-fisted cameos. Limited to appearances at the end of the film, these inserts would have been far better used as ironic intrusions into the already haphazard plot. At least that way they’d have hammered home the tongue-in-cheek style of the film rather than letting us fear that Buddhist plots and nasty betrayals were signs of an attempt at a series core to this throwaway action affair.
Though I must admit I’m now sounding more vehemently opposed to this film than intended. The errors of judgement with the roles of Face and B.A. aside, this is a silly action romp that is as nonsensical and crazy as it had to be in order to any way follow the original. It may well annoy a few of you as much as it occasionally did me, but it will probably also elicit a good few laughs, and entertain with some decent effects.
The A-Team opens in the U.K. tomorrow.
This article was first posted on July 27, 2010