Rating: 3 stars out of 5
When there’s something strange in the neighbourhood, you've got to call the Ghostbusters.
If you want to run a covert operation in improbable, somewhat indiscreet ways, call The A-Team.
One thing in common for each ragtag team? They both know how to blow stuff up, utterly destroy everything a hefty Hollywood budget can offer, make some noise – and a few passable jokes – along the way.
In the grand tradition of summer blockbuster popcorn movies, this adaptation of the hit 1980's television series, is an easily forgettable action-adventure with a plot that nobody will dissect with any enthusiasm five minutes after leaving the cinema.
What many fans may come away with is the lingering awkwardness of star Liam Neeson, the lone 'serious actor' in the cast, in the role of Hannibal Smith, the ringleader of this loony, pyromaniacal four-man crack squad.
Snarling, guffawing and basically chewing the scenery, trademark cigar at the side of his mouth, Neeson recalls his Darkman days in a performance that seems way over the top, even for this kind of movie.
What kind of movie, you ask? This is a movie where the good guys are a bunch of former military elite, each with skills needed to tackle any mission, against any opponent, despite being at some kind of disadvantage.
One action sequence has the guys escaping a stricken aircraft in parachute-fitted tanks, and blowing up enemy aircraft in mid-air; another has them tossing containers around via massive cranes before the container ship is obliterated.
In between the explosions, there are needless twists and turns in a convoluted plot, whereby rival intelligence agencies go after a priceless set of US treasury plates captured during the Iraq War, and the A-Team of Smith and his men stuck in the middle of cloak-and-dagger machinations, wrongly accused of murder and treason.
The film gets tiresome, to say the least, despite the best efforts of Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton Jackson to provide comic hi-jinks as members of the vaunted A-Team.
Mixed-martial-arts fighter Jackson, in the role of B.A. Baracus, which made original A-Team star Mr. T a cultural icon, is a pale facsimile, while Cooper, as the pretty-boy Casanova of the group, aptly nicknamed 'Faceman', isn't quite as funny as he was in The Hangover.
South African actor Copley, last seen in a remarkable star-making turn in District 9, is the lone highlight in the team, his peculiar behaviour, penchant for accents and irritation of Baracus as 'Mad' Murdock eliciting some of the few heartfelt laughs here.
The increasingly one-dimensional Jessica Biel plays a government agent once romantically linked with Faceman with little conviction or presence, while Patrick Wilson (Little Children) is enjoyable for a while as a surly, egomanical CIA agent whose shifting loyalties are key to the fate of the A-Team.
Directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc) and produced by Tony and Ridley Scott, the film is technically proficient, with effective action scenes and a commitment to the spirit of the original series.
But while the TV show worked because it was silly, had squabbling characters, and featured cartoon violence as well as ridiculous MacGyver-like schemes and inventions, this update is a little too shiny and self-important.
At nearly two hours long, it is somewhat drawn out, and concludes with a typical, yet, unsatisfying big explosive finish required for such summer action flicks. The tagline of the film reads: There is No Plan B.
Upon first viewing, one kind of wishes there were.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!"
– Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III