Sigh. When you watch something that manages to make strictly bog-standard fare like The Losers look good, you know things are bad. Yet this is the improbable scenario that latent nostalgia trip The A-Team manages to ram home.
The sad thing is that this should have been easy to see coming, but the impressive ensemble cast made an effective smokescreen: Liam Neeson has reached the stage of his career when he can have pretty much any role he desires; Bradley Cooper is one of Hollywood’s most up-and-coming properties, and Sharlto Copley sprang out of nowhere to enliven the excellent District 9. As for Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson…well, you can’t have anything. And the TV series was Mr T’s first gig, let us not forget that.
In all fairness, the utter ridiculousness on show ensures that the source material remains firmly at the forefront of the memory. Hannibal loves the coming together of plans; B.A pities the fool; Face is ace, and Murdock is in a mental home. So far, so faithful.
Yet there’s one teensy weensy problem here, namely that the original TV series wasn’t terribly good. Actually, it was just plain terrible. There, I said it. Shoot me. Again, tradition has been adhered to, as so is this. It’s knowingly terrible, and gloriously, self-knowingly so, but terrible nonetheless.
As you would expect, the script and plot are contribute heavily to said mediocrity. Firstly, it takes far too long to get going. Without spoiling the plot, essentially the end of the film marks the point where we should have been at the beginning. It’s exactly the same reason why Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood didn’t work – no-one wants to see the Hood playing lord of the manor, they want to see him in the forest ambushing the landed gentry. Both films spent way too much time on explanatory exposition that could just have been easily done in the opening credits (see Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk), and give the impression of treading water.
In the case for the defence, The A-Team does have a hell of a lot of action – over-the-top and slapstick at that - but for what other reason would you be watching it? Unfortunately, this is mostly garbage too. The flying tank scene is somehow far less impressive than it looked in the trailer, and the less said about the dreadful dockyard scene at the end, which resembles a badly rendered game of CGI explosive Jenga, the better.
The cast is hit and miss also: Neeson breezes through, but those hoping for a rehash of his ass-kicking capabilities showcased in Taken will be disappointed. Bradley Cooper clearly has a ball as libido-unleashed and all-round GQ posterboy Face; his ad-libbing is second to none, but somehow it appears that the concept of ‘restraint’ may well be an alien concept to him. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing in a film with a plot as dire as this.
The ‘best thing in the film’ award undoubtedly goes to Sharlto Copley, who’s madcap turn is nothing short of genius. Effortlessly stealing every scene he’s in, it’s unfortunate that he probably gets the shortest shrift of the four in terms of screen time. All the more miraculous is that all this was achieved while having to bounce off Rampage Jackson, who’s appearance represents probably the most ill-advised career move since John Barnes took up rapping. Admittedly he looks the part, but so did Mussolini. You can’t fault his effort, but he’s so out of his depth at times it’s actually embarrassing. Of the supporting cast, Watchmen’s Patrick Wilson does his level best as the generic, cackling, secret service bad guy, whilst Jessica Biel flounders in probably one of the most limited roles ever committed to film as a former love interest existing solely to highlight Cooper’s credentials as a walking hard-on.
I’m not asking that every film be directed by David Lynch or Christopher Nolan, but the merest modicum of character development and plausibility really wouldn’t go amiss. Ultimately, the sole purpose of this film appears to be the creation of yet another money-spinning franchise, and with further installments in the Clash of the Titans, Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean series lurking ominously ahead, do we need yet another brainless action flick? In a word, nope.