Army rangers Hannibal (Neeson), Face (Cooper), B. A. (Jackson) and Murdoch (Copley) are a badass Special Ops team until theyre stitched up and jailed. Can they escape, find stolen US Mint plates and capture sleazeball Pike (Bloom) in under two hours?
You could write reams trying to explain the plot of The A-Team. Which is ironic, given it’s the least important element to this boisterous upscaling of the ’80s TV shoot-’em-up. The half-inched treasury plates our “Alpha team” are tracking put the guff in MacGuffin. Really, you won’t care. And if you make the mistake of engaging your brain, you could fly, say, a tank through the plot holes. Yes, that tank. The airborne armoured vehicle was the trailer’s talking point, and it’s a shame marketing robbed the movie of this surprise. But at least you know what you’re paying for: something as big on spectacle as it is short on sense. This, though, was always part of the original’s appeal. It was daft — often deliriously so, with its four ’Nam vets playing Robin Hood for various unfortunates, often with the aid of DIY weaponry knocked together as quickly as you could say MONTAGE. The conflict may have changed — from the Far to the Mid East, with Iraq the setting for the team’s initial disgrace — but, pleasingly, little else has.
As with the show, the plot exists to showcase the characters — characters director/co-writer Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin’ Aces) has largely preserved. This is important not in order to satisfy thirtysomethings nostalgic for their erstwhile teatime telly carnage, but because Hannibal, Face, B. A. and Murdoch are what make the A-Team unique. In today’s cinema, action scenes are often interchangeable — crash, bang and CG-wallop, there’s nothing that can’t be done — but people are not. 20th Century Fox must see this as their Bond, their Bourne, but with a four-fold chance of viewers finding a hero: the wise one, the fit one, the hard one, the mad one. The actors go from solid to strong. Pro fighter ‘Rampage’ (Quinton to his mum) is convincingly muscular, if lacking Mr. T’s charisma. Liam Neeson has George Peppard’s decency, but not his smugness. It’s Cooper and Copley, aceing swagger and insanity respectively, who best both capture and yet re-forge their iconic characters.
The introduction to each is quickly, slickly made, then — snip — “eight years... 80 successful missions later”, it’s time for things to get FUBAR, messed up by mercenaries Hannibal dubs “assassins in polo shirts”. The action is episodes from the off: the intro, the set-up, the escape etc. Initially effective — particularly in a sequence that cuts back and forth between the plan and how it plays out — it becomes chaotic and meandering, undercut by an ineffective narrative sleight of hand that provides zero surprise, but robs the story of a strong villain. What we’re left with is a movie of moments and people we’d like to see more of (naturally... this couldn’t be more attuned to a franchise if it were called A-Team: The Curse Of The American Mint). The end plays out like a bad video-game, replete with bodies that disappear like so many pixels, so keeping the ultra-violence 12A-rated. Still, in this again it shares the silliness of its progenitor, which was noted for its bloodless brutality. For good or ill, Carnahan has captured the tone of the TV series. Although deciding the soundtrack works without properly utilising the glorious original theme is like deciding sex is better without orgasm. Pity the fool…
An energetic escape from Development Hell: suitably OTT, often fun and always loud. The villainy is underpowered, the plot a mess, but Cooper and Copley impress. We, er, quite like it when a plan comes together.