“The A-Team” surprises by not being completely awful. The idea of remaking a cheesy television show from the 1980s is one based on dollars and not any sense of creativity. The results are predictably silly, self-referential and soon to be forgotten.
But not, for even a moment, ever boring.
Director Joe Carnahan launches right into one action scene after another, so we feel dizzy at the amount of stuff that’s always happening. Even the talkie scenes where the team makes their intricate plans are split up with shots of them actually executing it, so we never feel like the movie has any down time.
If you don’t remember the TV show: An elite military squad is wrongly court-martialed, and turns freelance in order to clear their names. The movie opens with the group’s first meeting, in an unlikely adventure south of the U.S./Mexican border. All I can say is that for members of the military, they seem to have rather long haircuts and a lot of free time on their hands.
They’re led by Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), a crafty veteran who says that if you give him enough time, he’ll come up with a plan to defeat anyone. His right-hand man is “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper, clearly having a lot of fun), a confidence man and acquirer of valuable commodities.
Hannibal literally stumbles into Bosco Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) in the middle of the desert. Nicknamed B.A. for his bad attitude, Baracus is a mechanical whiz and expert wheel man. Hannibal shoots, then recruits B.A. after they discover they have identical Army Ranger tattoos.
The last member of the team is Howling Mad Murdock (Sharlto Copley), a genius pilot who can fly anything with wings or rotors, but is a bit lacking in the sanity department. Hannibal gets Murdock sprung from a military hospital for the insane, and they’re off.
Flash eight years to the future, and the A-Team is now the toast of the military, having single-handedly won the war in Iraq (or so the movie seems to imply). General Morrison (Gerald McRaney, an ’80s TV exile himself) greenlights Hannibal for one last job to steal back the engraving plates Saddam stole from the U.S. Mint, allowing him to print his own money.
Somewhere in the background is Lynch (Patrick Wilson, ladling on the smarm) as a CIA boss who’s got his hand in the pie.
On the opposing side is Pike — played by Brian Bloom, who also co-wrote the script with Carnahan and Skip Woods — the sneering head of a Blackwater-esque private military outfit. He’s got his eyes on the engraving plates and pinning the blame on Hannibal and company.
I won’t belabor further plot developments, since it’s just one big convoy of chase-chase, bang-bang.
The action scenes are heavy with computer-generated assistance, to the point that some of the action was spat entirely out of a computer rather than photographed with any of those actor thingees. But they’re so over-the-top daffy, we can’t help but smile.
All four of the A-Team seem to be doing a little homage to their predecessors in their respective roles (George Peppard, Dwight Schultz, Mr. T and Dirk Benedict). Neeson delivers all his lines in a combination snarl/grumble, and Copley seems to be doing a South African accent by way of Tennessee.
The world really didn’t need a big-budget film version of “The A-Team.” But at least they have the good sense to plant their tongue firmly in cheek while grasping for the easy bucks.
Make sure to stick around after the credits for an Easter Egg with some familiar faces.