Over the past twenty-odd years, filmmakers have rarely been hard on mainstream audiences. By that, I mean that most films were non-challenging and dull, so that the lowest-common-denominator could happily leave their brains (and taste) at the door and watch an explosion highlight reel. This is part of the reason why I enjoy the film Fight Club so much. It never talks down to its audience, never explains things to them outright. It doesn’t help you keep up with it. You have to do that on your own. Even better, Fight Club was also a very entertaining film, with great performances and unique visual style. If Fight Club had a complete polar opposite, it would be Joe Carnahan’s cinematic water torture known as The A-Team.
When people think of this era in moviemaking, one of the defining factors of it will certainly be bombastic, over-the-top action extravaganzas. In that respect, the original 80’s television series on which the film is based was ahead of it’s time. However, the show worked mainly because it didn’t take itself too seriously. We knew that the gang would get out of trouble no matter what, adn the show knew it too. I mean, they had an episode in which Hannibal literally walks away from an explosion in slow-motion. Those guys knew that they were making The A-Team. Joe Carnahan, on the other hand, doesn’t. The film plays like a strange mix between a diluted Bourne Identity and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. There are a lot of jokes that feel out of place, and most of them aren’t funny. The best lines go to Murdock, played fantastically by Sharlto Copley. If District 9 proved his dramatic chops, than this film shows that he has a promising career as a voice actor. Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper are decent, if one-note. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as B.A. Baracus is even alright, given that he’s a UFC fighter by trade. Jessica Biel didn’t even annoy me that much. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Patrick Wilson. He wasn’t willing to go as over-the-top with his performance as the script ultimately demanded, and the film suffered for it. Speaking of which, the script was awful. It contained some of the laziest screenwriting I’ve ever seen, and I’m not using that word lightly. Having the names of the characters explode onto the screen when we first see them is fine if it’s part of the film’s style, but when you do it in a totally different way, for a peripheral character, long after the opening credits, you are being lazy. Not only that, but the script goes out of it’s way to talk down to us. We have the scene where our heroes plan the attack. One of them says that they need to use “distraction, diversion, and division”. Later, during the attack, we flash back to him saying that while those aspects of the plan go in to effect. Then, not five minutes later, they need to use those tactics again, so once again we flash back to his little speech. It is, to be frank, insulting to be treated this way as an audience member. There are countless times throughout the film where relevant items or phrases are flashed back to once they become relevant again. It’s as if they took Chekhov’s gun, grabbed it, and repeatedly punched it in the face.
Normally, I don’t mind if a film has a simple story and lots of explosions. However, if you do that, you have to know that your film is stupid. If you understand that, then fine. However, The A-Team wants me to feel as if it’s characters are always in genuine danger, and I just didn’t. I felt baffled that they could escape such dangerous situations, but I never felt concern for their predicament. You simply cannot make an action film and not have me invested in the action. The film was very loud, very dull, and very bad. Grade: D+