All three criticisms are wholly appropriate. But what in hell were they expecting? For audiences willing to switch their brain into disbelief-suspension mode, ‘The A-Team’ is just as dumb, loud and superficial as it needs to be.
It’s basically an origin story, as our four outlaw heroes meet in a hail of bullets on an undercover mission in the Mexican desert before being posted to Iraq and framed for treason. Eyebrows were raised when Liam Neeson agreed to pick up George Peppard’s stogie-chewing mantle as Captain Hannibal Smith, but he just about maintains his dignity, forming a solid core of thespian gravitas for his wisecracking sidemen Face (Bradley Cooper) and Murdock (Sharlto Copley) to run circles around.
Director Joe Carnahan (‘Narc’, ‘Smokin’ Aces’) marshals proceedings with a thunderous and gleeful absence of subtlety: zip-pans, smash edits and MTV-style freeze-frames abound, and many of the action scenes are so jerky and cluttered that it’s hard to know what’s going on. But when those same sequences involve looping-the-loop helicopters, avalanches of shipping crates and tanks plummeting from burning aeroplanes, perhaps it’s for the best.
So, of course, the plot could be tighter, the script less cliché ridden, the action clearer and the performances not so broad. But as an unfussy, streamlined example of old-school Hollywood summer cinema at its purest and most unpretentious, ‘The A-Team’ scores at least a B.