© 2010 Ray Wong
A popular TV series in the 80s which made Mr. T an international star, the A-Team was unique in its own way, with great characters and adventures. The movie tries to recapture the spirit and chemistry of the series while adding over-the-top cinematic action.
Col. Hannibal (Liam Neeson) and Lt. Pike (Bradley Cooper) are on a special mission in Mexico when they are captured by the corrupt officials. On their way out, they recruit Baracus (Quinton Jackson) and pilot Murdock (Sharlto Copley), both "Ranger" veterans like Hannibal. Together they complete the mission.
While in Iraq, CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) informs Hannibal of a special assignment involving counterfeit US money that is worth over $1 billion. With the blessing of General Morrison (Gerald McRaney), they carry on the mission and successfully retrieve the plates. However, they are set up by Pike (Brian Bloom), the head of special ops called Black Forest, and Morrison is killed. Believing the A-Team is involved with Pike, the military dishonorably discharges them and sends them to prison.
After six months of planning, Hannibal concocts a plan to break all of them out of jail. They are now on a covert mission to seek justice and revenge. They are also working for Agent Lynch to locate Pike and the plates. Meanwhile, Lt. Sosa (Jennifer Biel) is hot on their trail. She is determined to bring the A-Team to justice.
Liam Neeson (Clash of the Titans) is dashing and charismatic as Hannibal, the one who always has a plan. In recent years, Neeson has carved out a niche for himself as a middle-aged action hero, and so far it has worked very well for him. Bradley Cooper (Valentine's Day) ventures into action-adventure and he sure got buff for his role, which calls for him to take off his shirt and have sex with many women. He's turning into Matthew McConnaughey lite.
Quinton Jackson (Death Warrior) is underwhelming as Baracus, the role made famous by the flamboyant Mr. T. He just doesn't make much of an impression, especially among the all-star cast. Sharlto Copley (District 9) is fun as crazy pilot Murdock, but his performance reminds me of what he did in District 9, kind of frantic. Jessica Biel (Valentine's Day) is super sexy - maybe too distractingly so - as Lt. Sosa, but she holds her own against the boys.
Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) plays Agent Lynch with the right cockiness and shrewdness. Gerald McRaney (Saving Shilioh) is good in his minor role as Morrison but we really never got his side of the story. Brian Bloom (G.I. Joe) stands out as the cold and calculated Pike, especially with is unnerving, steely blue eyes.
Written by director Joe Carnahan (Pride and Glory), Bloom, and Skip Woods (X-Men Origins), the script is over the top and big and complicated, full of conspiracies and double-crossings and betrayals. At times, it's difficult to understand what really is going on because the plot moves so fast. At 117 minutes, the movie seems rushed. There is not enough time for character development and we are left to fill in the blanks with what we know from the TV series (if you've never seen it, you're out of luck). As a stand-alone movie, though, it feels lacking because part of what makes the A-Team great are the characters and their relationships.
The plot is simply outrageous and implausible. But we tend to accept such high fantasy when it comes to our action movies, so I'll give it a pass. But the lack of real relationship building is a letdown. Compared to a similar movie earlier this year, The Losers, this is definitely a step down, despite the bigger budget, bigger stars, and bigger explosions.
Carnahan's direction is slick and furious. The action sequences are well coordinated and executed. The production looks expensive. The stunt work is great. The flow is fine. The soundtrack is exciting and the cinematography does its job.
It's just too bad the writing drags it down. By now they should know bigger and louder is not necessarily a good thing, especially if you sacrifice the character development. I'd be a fool to give this team an A.
Stars: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson, Gerald McRaney, Brian Bloom
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writers: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense action, violence, language, smoking
Running time: 117 minutes
Script - 6
Performance - 7
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 8
Music/sound - 7
Editing - 8
Production - 8