Worst laid plans

New A-Team is much worse than the old one

Hannibal (Liam Neeson) shoulda had a plan B.

Hannibal (Liam Neeson) shoulda had a plan B.

The A-Team
Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel. Directed by Joe Carnahan. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated PG-13.
Rated 1.0

In the increasingly useless spiral of ’80s rehashes, Hollywood is seriously showing signs of bottoming out with The A-Team. Not that there was ever any real potential to the project—even back in the day, the show was pretty weak tea in its own right.

Every week, the action cartoon delivered with over-the-top mayhem and a cast of caricatures going through their motions: Leader Hannibal Smith to come up with a plan, smooth lothario Face to chat up the chicks, madman Murdock to fly them out of the mess and BA Baracas to pity the fools they encounter. Each week our band of lovable white hats (on the run after being betrayed by the military-industrial complex) would arrive in a new town to help some sap through some formulaic scenario. Despite an abundance of cars flipping through the air, explosions and machine guns roaring, it was notable for exiting each episode with no collateral damage. As such, it served as a bloodless primer for gradeschoolers on the verge of sneaking into the multiplex to catch the gnarly catharsis of Rambo and Schwarzenegger vehicles.

Taking out the commercials, the TV show took some doing even filling out the 45 minutes of running time each week. Here, we have almost two hours and 100 million bucks to blow. And director Joe Carnahan blows it all up real good. Just not in a good way.

Carnahan seems an odd choice to helm the project. His last one, Smokin’ Aces, was an interesting shoot-’em-up, but was notable for having an incomprehensible script serving as life support for sporadic bursts of bloody mayhem. Take away those money shots, and with The A-Team all he delivers is the incomprehensible script. And explosions. Plenty of explosions.

It takes almost a third of the running time to get around to the boys getting sent to prison, this time after being framed for stealing the plates for printing U.S. currency. In the interim, it sets up the back story on how all the boys meet cute and bond after admiring each other’s Army Ranger tattoos. Then it’s on to … on to … well, more shit blowing up as they try to figure out who framed them. It doesn’t exactly take a road map to figure that one out, but Carnahan and his B-Team of scripters manage to make it complicated. Not complicated as in having interesting twists that reveal themselves, but complicated in a “What the F-Team is going on here?” sort of way.

The A-Team is seriously one endurance test of CGI stunts, machine-gun editing and eardrum-blowing soundtrack as Liam Neeson and his fellow cast members chew the scenery, out-cartooning the caricatures their characters are based on.

ADD filmmaking can be fun when it’s something like 2006’s Crank, which had its own serpentine momentum slithering through all the cartoon mayhem. But this snake just writhes on the runway with its back broken in several places, spasming on the tarmac. No fun.