With Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel. Directed by Joe Carnahan. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking. 117 minutes.
Part way through THE A TEAM, you begin to figure out the inspiration for this movie. Yes, the movie is the 1980’s TV series, but the mindless action, sloppy direction, cardboard acting, witless dialogue and destruction (so massive it has to be CGI effects) finally points to the real source: Michael Bay’s over-the-over-the-top “Transformers” movies. No wonder Liam Neeson agreed to be in this – everyone involved clearly hopes that it marks the birth of a new summer franchise.
For those unfamiliar with the television show, the title quartet are ex-Army Rangers-turned-mercenaries who engage in unorthodox methods to get the job done, working outside the law because they have been framed and convicted for a crime of which they are wholly innocent. Don’t bother trying to figure out the details. It has something to do with plates which were to be used to counterfeit American currency which have fallen into Iraqi hands and are now subject to extended fighting between the CIA and the Army. That’s right, the villains here are the CIA who are magically able to extricate their own guys whenever they are caught, with no one in the military chain of command able to do anything about it like, say, tell the President.
The leader of the team is Hannibal (Neeson), who likes to plan several steps ahead and smoke cigars. Face (Bradley Cooper) is the allegedly good looking one, who has been involved with Sosa (Jessica Biel), the Army officer who is after them. Then there’s B.A. Baracus (extreme fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) who strives not to do a Mr. T impersonation, given that’s who played the part in the TV series. He’s both very violent and very sensitive, which is what passes for complexity here. Finally there’s Murdock (South African actor Sharlto Copley), the literally crazy pilot. Fans of Copley who discovered him in 2009’s excellent “District 9” will be disappointed to find that here, he fares no better than the others.
For nearly two hours, we are set up for one preposterous action scene after another, such as the theft of a U.S. military plane which is blown up in mid-air, allowing The A Team to escape in a tank. No, that’s not a typo. They “fly” a tank back down. The problem with all these action scenes is that it’s often difficult to tell who’s doing what to whom, and so we get a surreal montage of explosions, firing guns, crashes and the like, and have to assume our guys are winning. In other words, it’s exactly like Michael Bay’s over-the-over-the-top “Transformers” movies.
At the end, virtually nothing has been resolved. The printing plates which are the focus of everyone’s attention are recovered, but we’ve never really cared about that. Instead, nothing has changed for any of the characters, which leaves the filmmakers with only one out: they end it with a commercial for future “A Team” movies. There are many movies which promised sequels that never delivered. We can only hope that “The A Team” joins that list.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.