The A-Team

The previews lied. The full movie is nowhere as fun as the previews promised. Too bad. The A-Team has some of the most astonishing stunts ever, but in the end, the story leaves you saying “so what?”

I never saw the TV series that inspired this film, so my only reference was indeed the previews. What I wanted to see was a good old-fashioned over-the-top action film where rugged guys punctuate their derring-do with silly male banter. That I did get. All the brave Rangers on the A-Team are rugged manly men: Hannibal (the always watchable Liam Neeson) is the wise, brave leader, “Faceman” is the naughty and charming ladies man, Murdock (Sharlto Copley, the South African actor from District 9) is a certifiably insane pilot and B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) is a big, bad dude topped by a Mohawk.

The movie opens several years ago in Mexico where we meet our four heroes when Hannibal rushes to rescue Faceman from nasty Mexican banditos with Baracus driving his precious 4-wheel drive vehicle and then they all escape in rusty helicopter, piloted by Murdock whom they just released from the loony bin. Good intro and terrific flying shots, especially in the helicopter where Murdock is so insane Baracus (who’s done hundreds of airborne jumps) becomes terrified of flying.

Flash forward to Bagdad where they are all prepping to leave the country. Marching in to ruin their farewells is luscious Capt. Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel) who warns her former boyfriend, “Faceman,” not to be enticed by anyone mentioning a covert operation. Which of course turns up — the challenge to retrieve the engraving plates that Saddam’s cronies have made to print counterfeit American money. Hannibal’s oldest friend, General Morrison (Gerald McRaney), also warns Hannibal not to do the operation. But of course when The A-Team is told not to do something, then they have to do it — so the boys accomplish the impossible assignment. It’s a doozy plan and comes off like the workings of a huge Swiss watch– but our guys don’t get new medals. They’re thrown in the slammer thanks to a double-cross by the resident bad guy mercenary named Pike (Brian Bloom), who also happened to co-write the script.

Of course the boys eventually break out of prison to seek justice and clear their good names and the movie goes on all over the place with all kinds of stunts. Unfortunately, The A-Team, never hits a resonating tone. Is the movie supposed to be a somewhat realistic action tale or is it a buddy comedy? It would have made a good, albeit excessive serious adventure story but too much TV-residue goofiness interrupts the flow. So you never know if you’re supposed to take these guys seriously or think they’re clowns. Since life-and-death issues run through the movie and there are some meaningful story lines–betrayal and political incompetence being two of them–you wish the movie would have stuck with being serious so you could at least care for these guys risking life and limb every minute.

The irony is that The A-Team was directed and co-written by Joe Carnahan, a talented filmmaker who is a very serious guy–he wrote and directed 2002’s Narc, a brilliant undercover cop movie which is one of my favorite movies of all time– another reason besides the previews that I was quite eager to see this movie. Alas, all the grittiness that was in Narc got dissipated in The A-Team’s bloated budget.

Bottom line: see it at the bargain matinee or wait until the DVD release.

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