PLOT: A group of Iraq War veterans are framed for stealing the tools necessary for printing billions of dollars. Now they must break out of prison and clear their names.
WHO'S IT FOR? Do you like big explosions, big action sequences and the illusion of intelligence, with a touch of 80's nostalgia thrown in? Then this is for you.
EXPECTATIONS: Here's what I wanted ... some well placed one-liners and some cool action. That's it.
Liam Neeson as Col. Hannibal Smith: I don't know what it is, but it did take me a surprisingly long time getting used to Neeson with the salt and pepper hair cut. That wasn't the most annoying part. It was as though Hannibal was in a contest to see how many times he could say "plan." Like he had a bet with his buddy. And trust me, if that's the case, Hannibal is getting paid! That, plus the use of a cigar, and his odd Jedi-like training with Face and that's all we have. It felt like over-the-top bravado and was never fully deserved. Score: 4
Bradley Cooper as Face: He's supposed to be a con-man (at least Face was in the TV series). Here, he's a ladies man, occasionally crazy (like when he jumps out of a falling tank), and otherwise he's just your typical action hero in training. This character has the chance to tap into some of the ultra-cool that George Clooney and Brad Pitt gave us in Ocean's 11. It just doesn't happen. Score: 6
Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson as B.A. Baracus: He looks like B.A., he sounds like B.A., he even has the same fear of flying. So what's the problem? Nothing much, except that's just imitation. It's not hard to imagine that Hollywood could find someone to imitate a couple of catch-phrases. It's the new that they do that doesn't work. They give him a Samson and Delilah (without the Delilah) side story about being non-violent. Making this funny would have worked, but they try for serious. Score: 5
Sharlto Copley as Murdock: He's the crazy one. They choose to show this through almost nonsensical cut away scenes. One that works is when he's dressed up like William Wallace from Braveheart. But when he asks if B.A. has seen the Blue Man Group, and other moments like that, it falls flat. Copley (you might recognize him from District 9) does provide energy. That's saying something. Score: 6
Jessica Biel as Charisa Sosa: So wait, she doesn't trust Face, or she does understand who the true Face is? After all, they had some sort of relationship, so does she really think Face and the rest of the A-Team are capable of stealing billions? It doesn't make any real sense. Then again, besides providing a spark between two sexy individuals (Biel and Cooper), the character of Sosa seems to serve no purpose. Eye candy is rarely enough. Even when talking about someone like Biel. Also, on a technical level, when you are trying to trace a phone call, maybe you shouldn't hang up first, then be surprised you didn't get the location in time. Score: 4
TALKING: The one-liners aren't nearly as cool as they think they are. That's a big problem for an action-comedy. When Hannibal calls someone else a cartoon character, it's the pot calling the kettle black. There is also a heavy dose of flashbacks for a film that isn't very confusing. They also reference that time in Mexico ... and we were there, it's the start of the movie. So constantly saying, "This is just like Mexico," Or "Remember that time in Mexico," ... yeah, we get it. We were there. Also, could you have thrown in a couple lines about how you were able to get all of those tools/weapons to pull off your missions? Score: 4
SIGHTS: Yes, every character looks their part. There are two action sequences that stand out. Getting a man out of a building looks pretty cool, especially when B.A. is flying down the side of a skyscraper with glass blowing up behind him. The other is the tank falling from the sky. Nothing ever feels at stake with these moments, but they are pretty cool to look at. The final fight doesn't pay off with it taking place on a barge with huge explosions and the worst version of three-card monte. My favorite gadget is a super magnet used to grab on to a semi-truck. All hand-to-hand combat fails. It's SCS (Shaky Camera Syndrome) to the extreme. When will these action movies understand that we want to see more than .5 seconds of a fight sequence before taking the next cut? Score: 6
SOUNDS: The classic A-Team theme song from the TV show pops up in the beginning, just to get your nostalgic juices flowing. Otherwise it's good and heavy on the R&B for most of B.A.'s moments. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: That's the problem with this movie. There's nothing that immediately comes to mind with a "best scene." The first mission, when Face uses a super magnet shows some intelligence. Something that is lacking through most of the rest of the film.
ENDING: You get a little more of the cool, nostalgic "A-Team" you grew up with. But here's the thing, all Hannibal seems to care about is getting his team's name clear. Then, at the end, he seems totally content with "doing the right thing." So, which is it? Also, is it just me, or did we just kind of end where we began? Did anything really happen? At least Jon Hamm showed up.
QUESTIONS: Why did everyone decide these four guys would commit these crimes against their country? More importantly, where are all of the costumes? In the TV show pilot I think Hannibal cranks out four or five costumes in the first hour. Yes, the pilot is a two-hour mini-movie, with a different actor playing Face, and it's called "Mexican Slayride." Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Wait a minute, wrong 80's franchise. My bad.
REWATCHABILITY: Again, it's nothing painful. But if you want an action movie that actually is cool and smart, I'd recommend Mission: Impossible 3.
Cartoon or character. This movie just can't make a decision with these A-Team guys. First, the movie hits you over the head with the concept that these guys are smart and cool. Cool and smart. Everybody thinks so. Yet, when we see them in action don't you get a strong realization that they are incredibly lucky? I wish they had an awareness of that. Hannibal loves it when a plan comes together. But every big job they try to pull off involves a probability of 0.01 percent. Couldn't Hannibal have been joking about how his "plans" also work out? That's one issue, the script doesn't provide enough humor. Character development and plot explanation are also kept at a minimum.
Just like The Karate Kid this film has to deal with nostalgia for people (especially guys) my age. While I think The Karate Kid actually improves on some things, I question whether The A-Team does. Yes, 80's action movies would show bad guys desperately trying to shoot the good guys, narrowly missing time and time again. And yes, once the bad guy would catch up to the good guy, he's give some sort of stupid speech instead of just shooting him, clearly giving enough time for the good guy to wiggle his way out. But we've moved on. This movie's logic hasn't. If I believed in giving out .5 along with my rating, then this would get a 5.5. But I don't roll that way.
In other words, Hannibal, I wouldn't light that victory cigar quite yet. Maybe you can save it for the sequel that I'm sure is already in the works.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10