If you’re old enough to remember the 1980s, you were there… definitely. Reworking the ‘origin’ story for this crack military unit’s mercenary vigilantism, The A-Team is a gleeful parody of the already parodic seminal TV action show created by Stephen J. Cannell. Utter nonsense from start to finish – it is popcorn fun with the accent firmly on corny, and a surfeit of CGI is probably to be expected, but it’s really no worse than the immensely popular series was in its heyday. This is not plan B… There never was a plan B.
A few years after they first team up for a rescue in Mexico, they’re an elite unit on ops in Iraq, serving – loosely – under General Morrison (crusty veteran Gerald McRaney, post-holocaust sci-fi TV series Jericho), when a mission to retrieve counterfeit money from local crooks ends in a double-cross, and leaves the A-team convicted and locked up in Euro prisons. Colonel Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson, villain in Batman Begins, a hero in Taken, a creepy mortician in After.Life), always the man with a plan, is soon plotting an escape for him, and his men. Lieutenant ‘Faceman’ Peck (Bradley Cooper, Alias), engineer B.A. Baracus (Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Hell’s Chain), and their lunatic pilot Captain ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock (Sharlto Copley, District 9), possibly non compos mentis, whose seemingly deranged behavioural tics and ‘crazy fool’ quirks may well endanger more lives than he’s ever likely to save.
Stalked by a glam federal agent, Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel, Stealth, The Illusionist, Next, Blade Trinity), tracked and manipulated by ultimately overambitious CIA guy, Lynch (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen, Hard Candy), Hannibal’s heroes set about clearing their names with a daring kidnapping, intending to force the real baddies out into the open for a dramatic, wholly spectacular dockside showdown, where a cargo ship is sunk in port, while a chaotic spill of containers mercilessly rains down on nearly everyone’s parade of militaristic braggadocio clichés.
It’s rather pointless to compare this comicbook movie to such modern TV interpretations of the idea as David Mamet’s The Unit (2006-9), which offered an appreciably more serious-minded take on elite special forces heroism. Joe Carnahan previously wrote and directed comedy thriller Smokin’ Aces (2006), a lacklustre concoction which regrettably spawned a sequel. Whether or not there’s a sequel to this A-Team blockbuster effort remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely any new treatment could possibly get any sillier. Obviously, being in such close competition with The Losers means the marketplace could too easily become saturated with big dumb objective-based actioners.
Helicopters are flown for aerial stunts regardless of practical operational capabilities, a battle tank is ‘piloted’ from an exploding cargo plane destroyed by a missile attack, and the various super-heroic antics of the A-team routinely defy logic, commonsense, or the laws of physics. Clearly, Hannibal believes in ‘manifest destiny’ and is typically certain of his purpose in the grand scheme of things (“We did the right thing.”), even when faced with adversity, overcome by unforeseen circumstances (“We trusted the system, and it turned on us.” complains Murdock), and stymied or unfairly stigmatised by cruel twists of fate…
However, none of those potential flaws matter in the least, because when it comes to ‘ridiculous’ exploits, the A-team “specialise in the ridiculous” with “bat shit insane” plans (“Hang on… I wanna try something I saw in a cartoon once!”), which all work out, somehow, always for the best – “no matter how random things may appear.” Despite Smith’s re-coinage of his TV catchphrase (“I love it when a plan comes together”), it’s B.A. who gets the best line here. While in Iraqi desert, where Murdock is cooking up a gunpowder barbeque, he suggests a grilled steak must be burnt, “like it’s damned.” It’s a throwaway quip, but the remark can be viewed as a critical observation of what happens to anything of weight or value or (dramatic) substance here. The A-Team is a flimsy confection of purest whimsy. So, mothball your brain, and just enjoy this daft movie’s deliberate outrageousness.
The extended cut is exclusive to retail blu-ray, and includes about 17 minutes worth of extra footage not seen in the cinema version or this DVD release.