Mark Reviews Movies

THE A-TEAM

1  Stars (out of 4)

Director: Joe Carnahan

Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson, Gerald McRaney, Brian Bloom

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking)

Running Time: 1:57

Release Date: 6/11/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 10, 2010

Ignore the self-admittedly ridiculous (more like over-planned) schemes and improbable physics needed for them to work and just look at the jumbled way these sequences are tied together in The A-Team. First, it's an origin story, then it's another origin story, then it's a lot of incomprehensible motives and back-stabbings, then the introductory narration to the TV show plays with the new faces on screen reminding us what the point of their running around doing crazy things is in the first place.

If the movie's intent is nostalgia, fine, but co-writer/director Joe Carnahan might at least work up a little fondness for whatever memories he's trying to elicit. Instead, he forces a lot of loud, cluttered chaos without any sense of caring how to control it.

Here is a movie that cares so little about its cohesion that the opening scene takes place "Somewhere in Mexico" and the next scene occurs "Somewhere else in Mexico."  After the future soldiers of fortune get together, suddenly, they are in Iraq, eight years and 80 successful missions later. They are still talking as though they met just last week in different places in Mexico. One's making the plans, another is charming the ladies, the other is a bad ass (his initials tell us so), and that guy is just downright crazy, cooking meat with antifreeze. After eight years and 80 jobs, one would think they'd be used to each other.

Characters are unimportant to the movie. These are the guys from the television series, and that's all Carnahan and fellow writers Brian Bloom and Skip Woods want to get across.

Col. "Hannibal" Smith (Liam Neeson) is their leader, who loves when one of his unnecessarily elaborate plans comes together almost as much as a cigar. "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper) loves himself a lot more than the women he runs into. When first introduced, he's about to suffer death by tire necklace for sleeping with the wife of the man he's supposed to bring from Mexico into the United States. Why is he doing this? It doesn't matter any, because it's just how the team first meets, just as the plot that follows doesn't matter any. It's just fodder for the beginning of a hopeful franchise.

Bosco "B.A." Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson) loves his van more than his Mohawk, which he grows out after spending six months in prison for being framed for an illegal operation. During that six months, he also discovers a conscience, quoting Gandhi before Hannibal quotes a different Gandhi line. "Stop being a wuss, faking this non-violence stuff when you know you want to bash some skulls," is the gist. Gandhi put it better; no one could fit it into this material and make it sound convincing.

Murdock (Sharlto Copley) is insane, based on his nickname "Howling Mad," which may or may not be used during the course of the movie. People talk a whole bunch over and under other characters and the loud noises on the soundtrack as things blow up and guns fire and fireworks go off. It becomes an aural blur.

The plot involves the team going after counterfeiting plates that Saddam Hussein's regime possesses. Their commanding officer General Morrison (Gerald McRaney) tells Hannibal about them, tells him the powers-that-be want them back, then tells him not to go after them. Hannibal plans a heist involving crawling through the sewer, an industrial magnet, a zip line, and an editing trick that has the team executing the mission while Hannibal plans it out. Things go wrong, the military brass don't recognize a winking suggestion as a direct order, and they all go to jail. Face's old flame Sosa (Jessica Biel) warned him about the whole thing and spends the rest of the movie chasing them and ignoring opportunities to catch them.

Bad guys come and go in the form of Pike (screenwriter Bloom), the leader of a private military force, and CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson), who comes from a long line of Company men named Lynch.  Another villain fakes his death, comes back, dies for real, and then is made to appear to still be alive as part of the movie's most convoluted mission. Using a full-scale shell game of giant cargo crates and a crane, fireworks, and remote-controlled cars, it is meant to play on the ego of Lynch, although any person with the remotest hint of common sense would recognize it as a diversionary tactic.

The cast members, at least, have fun with their archetypal roles, but it's not nearly enough for the messy narrative and incomprehensible action sequences to achieve a similar feeling. All of this, and The A-Team features a scene, surely to be dissected by science buffs for years to come, in which the rogues make a tank "fly."  Don't ask how they manage to drive it away after the water landing.

Copyright 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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