The opening credits for The A-Team go on for an inordinately long time—at least 10 minutes. We are introduced to the various members of the team—their names stamped across the screen in a bold font—in a flurry of action and dialogue that is meant to prepare us for the joy ride that is to follow. Except for one thing: The opening action is lame and the jokes are lamer. By the end of those credits, I wasn’t thinking, “Hell yeah, strap me in!” I was thinking, “Is it over yet?”
The A-Team is smugly convinced that it’s a wild ride—“the perfect blend of action and laughs” as one of the commercials touts—but it’s really just another busy, generic mess. I wasn’t a fan of the 70s cult TV show on which this film is based, so I’m not really able to compare. But I can’t imagine any of the characters in this A-Team becoming beloved or iconic. If anything, the film actually diminishes the star power of some of its leads.
A miscast Liam Neeson seems adrift as the tough-as-nails Hannibal, who famously “loves it when a plan comes together”—he barely bothers to suppress his Irish accent. Bradley Cooper preens to an obnoxious degree as Face, the team’s oft-shirtless pretty boy. District 9’s Sharlto Copley shows some comedic chops as pilot Murdock, but his character is so sloppily written—bonkers one minute, lucid the next—he doesn’t stand a chance. And while The A-Team of TV made Mr. T a cult figure, this film’s iteration will do nothing to launch the career of wrestler Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, whose B.A. Baracus barely registers. (They give him a personality tic—he’s afraid to fly—that they milk for what they think are endless laughs.)
The plot is incredibly loose: The gang, former army rangers, are framed for the theft of treasury plates and the death of a commanding officer and have to break out of prison, find the plates, and clear their name. Meanwhile, they don’t know who to trust: The shifty CIA agent who helps them break out of jail (Patrick Wilson) or the hottie army ranger (Jessica Biel), who thinks they’re thugs. Taking its cue from the series—I guess—the film is just a series of loosely cobbled together escapes and missions. It seems to think that chaos and high decibels are a substitute for dialogue and plot. I hate it when a plan falls apart.