The A-Team follows the same basic plot as the show. An elite military unit, comprised of four men, is convicted of a crime they did not commit. They promptly escape custody, and go on a righteous quest to find the people who wronged them and clear their name. The four men in question are team leader John "Hannibal" Smith, smooth talker Templeton "Face" Peck, mohawk sporting badass Bosco "BA" Baracus, and lunatic flyer HM "Howling Mad" Murdock. Together, these four are a force to be reckoned with. Trouble always seems to find, but they are masters of dispensing with it in the most ridiculous way possible. The plot is pretty straightforward, although there are some ill-advised turns involving corrupt CIA agents, a private military group not all that dissimilar to Blackwater, an old flame, and various twists and bends in the road. It's an attempt to give the plot a good jolt of Bourne-esque espionage and such, but it comes across as tired and lazy! The movie is strongest when it focuses solely on the team and their exploits, which it does for the most part, thankfully. However, there are enough instances where the team is not the center of attention that it is noticeable, and annoying.
Three of the four actors playing the leads are great. The fourth one? Not so much. Liam Neeson plays Hannibal. He's great! Coming off his action star legitimization in Taken, Neeson kicks ass and takes names as the A-Team's leader. Bradley Cooper, in another strong performance, plays Face. He's charming, funny, cunning, and hard as nails. He provides some serious laughs, a ton of "DAMN!!" moments. The real scene stealer, though, is Sharlto Copley as Murdock. Copley exploded onto the scene with District 9 last year. Everyone was speculating that he wouldn't be up to the task of acting again, that District 9 was a one time thing, a fluke, if you will. Nope, it was no fluke! Copley is awesome here, playing this crazy maniac! He does need to work on his accents though, as definite tinges of his South African heritage can be heard in his souther drawl, but that's a small qualm in an otherwise great performance by an up and coming star! The weak link in the team is Quentin "Rampage" Jones as BA. Jones probably had the hardest role, as Mr. T's character is easily the most iconic. He's not bad, but he's clearly not up to the task. A lot of his dialogue comes off as really monotone, so that you can tell he is just reading his lines in some places. He does kick a sufficient amount of tail though, and, in that sense, he's great. Other roles include Jessica Biel, sleepwalking through the whole movie as Sosa, an agent hot on the A-Team's trail, and an old flame of Face's, and Patrick Wilson as the enigmatic and mysterious CIA agent Lynch, which, if you are familiar with the show, should give you a hint about his character. Look, most of the performances here are inconsequential. All you need to know is that the four main actors, with the possible exception of Jackson, all do a good job, have great chemistry with each other, and each bring their own spin to the characters. Take it or leave it, but there it is!
Getting the perfect olive tone is what keeps Face going through the day!
Director Joe Carnahan does fine job handling all the mayhem on screen, but, as with his last film, Smokin' Aces, he is shot down by a weak script and dumb story. This is a much better product then Smokin' Aces, to be sure, but some of the same problems exist. He does do a great job of staying true to the campiness of the show, and the ridiculousness of the violence. The big action scene seen in all the trailers involving the falling tank is just the beginning. There's an inspired heist in the streets of Baghdad, and surefire crowd pleaser of a finale. The CG is really sketchy at times, especially in the third act, where the explosions and flying debris is amped up significantly, but, maybe that was sort of the point. The violence here is supposed to be cartoonish and over the top. Carnahan's real problem, like it was in Aces, is his inability to make the plot twists seem believable. There are some good ones here, but they can all be seen from a mile away, and you do not buy a single one. In Aces, we were just supposed to believe that Buddy was the son of the mob boss, but we didn't, because it came out of left field at the last second, and it's much of the same here with A-Team. Again, maybe it's the point. In cartoonish action, plot twists come out of nowhere by habit, but still, it's distressing.
The A-Team is perfectly adequate action movie fare. There are plenty of exciting scenes, and some good performances to boot. A script with too many twists, and lack of knowledge of what to do with those twists holds it back from being a BIG movie, but, as we wait feverishly for the next thing on the horizon, A-Team will be alright. I love it when a plan comes together. When it barely comes together? I'm just mildly enthused!