The A-Team

Orange light

I vaguely remember two things about TV’s The A-Team: 1) there were dodgy action scenes a-plenty and 2) it starred a beefy black actor with smack-dab facial hair, an irresistibly gruff demeanour and a surname consisting only of a single letter. His character famously had some sympathy for fools, though one sensed it was never, you know, genuine pity.

Director Joe Carnahan’s big screen A-Team reboot is not nearly as awful as some cinematic soothsayers may have predicted, and so far as junky action no-brainers go it ranks somewhere in the meaty part of the curve: far from awful and sometimes good for a giggle, but clunky and instantly forgettable.

The story is a little odd in the sense that it’s sometimes hard to get a grip on what it’s actually about. It’s a simple plot told in an unnecessarily convoluted way.

The A-Team are an elite military outfit of four men with reputations for being daringly brilliant modern warriors. In the TV show they were Vietnam war vets; now they’re Iraq war vets.

Liam Neeson plays the group’s head honcho, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, the sort of ever-wise leader who sees all the angles, knows which way the wind’s blowing and can do laps around a volcanic footy oval without breaking a sweat.

The plot kicks into gear once the A-team are framed by another covert military group for something they didn’t do – oh the horror and so on and so forth – and the unruly team of four, who spend most of the running time mentally high fiving each other, spend the remainder of the movie attempting to prove their innocence while pursuing bad guys who may or may not have European accents.

There are over-the-top action scenes, ridiculous international escapades and one amusing sequence in which the team “fly” a tank as it plummets towards the ground.

Liam Neeson is the human highlight, nailing the tone and mannerisms needed for Hannibal. Impressively, he manages to ham it up without resorting to all-out silly buggers. The team’s half-mad pilot, Murdock, is played by Sharlto Copley, who appeared on the map last year in the wake of his stunning breakthrough performance in the social allegory ET invasion pic District 9. Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson is passable in the role Mr T made famous, though he never says the famous line “I pity the fool.” Maybe the producers thought they’d better not mess with Mr T’s catch phrase, lest they get schooled in manners by the 58-year-old former actor who is now a Christian motivational speaker. One assumes he now pities the fool who doesn’t follow Jesus.

It’s hard to summon much enthusiasm for the movie’s grand finale, though it’s neat how a chunk of it is presented – weird though this may sound – as a bombastic analogy of the old cup and ball magic routine.

The A-Team isn’t as fun as it should have been, ’specially given nobody buys a ticket expecting to become a better human being. But in what it sets out to achieve it is at least competent.

The A-Team’s Australian theatrical release date: June 10, 2010.