The original TV series was hardly a probing character study, instead relying on a certain innocent charm (despite the abundant violence) to amass a sizeable global audience. That is lost in the movie version, which is a charmless affair brought down by the laziness of its script and a plot that would be stretched out for a 45 minute show let alone a two-hour feature.
Frenzied speculation had surrounded the casting for years, but only the commanding Neeson as the mastermind strategist John 'Hannibal' Smith and District 9's Sharlto Copley as manic helicopter king 'Howling Mad' Murdock walk away with credit. Bradley Cooper appears to turn in the same performance as he has done in most of his previous movies and lacks the necessary swagger and glint in the eye to play the suave 'Faceman' Templeton Peck with aplomb.
Worst of all is Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson as B.A. (Bad Acting?) Baracus. The curious term 'damp squib' deserves to be trotted out to describe his apologetic turn, which makes his plane-fearing character into an all round softie. Jackson tries to deploy Baracus's famous fierce gaze, but even camp comedian Alan Carr exudes more macho menace. It's a shame that no one in the editing suite had the balls to splice into the film some footage from those recent Mr. T Snickers adverts. Of course, comparisons to the original cast are always likely to be unfavourable to the newbies. Yet in this case it's very valid to do so because the movie desperately and frequently trots out the TV show's catchphrases in a bid to tap into the audience's assumed collective nostalgia and win favour. The famous black van and Baracus's haircut also come under needlessly close inspection by the camera lens. The foregrounding of these, plus woefully underwhelming post-credits cameos from two of the original cast, hardly help to create a new cinematic entity that stands on its own two feet.
As for the unengaging storyline, that involves the attempts of the quartet of skilled war veterans to bring down some badass dude who has framed them for a crime they did not commit. There are lots of explosions and Jessica Biel keeps popping up in an annoying role as an inquisitive government bod and love interest for Face. That's about it.
A lot of dollar bills have clearly been thrown at this project and fortunately the money is up there on the screen in a succession of impressive airborne set pieces. An early helicopter chase certainly alleviates the boredom for a brief period, as does an audacious sequence involving a tank parachuting through the skies. If only a similar amount of attention had been shown towards injecting some wit, verve and invention into the script.
If you have a problem, if no one else can help and if you can find them - maybe you can fire – not hire - The A-Team. Or at least the poor misguided souls who made this mess. Go and rent the far superior and similarly themed The Losers instead.
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