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Sometimes a plan never really comes together
on 24 April 2012
Despite an eternity in development and an army of writers, The A-Team never really comes together. Taking more than an hour to get to the point the TV series tossed off in the title sequence is part of the problem (as it is, it's a full 21 minutes before the film's opening credits sequence ends in the extended director's cut version). A bigger part of the problem is that a film this silly really shouldn't leave you time to think, especially since the plot is just an excuse for the action, but so many of the action scenes are so truncated that they seem over before they begin and then it's back to more setup that gives you plenty of time to mull over how little sense it's making. Even the failed op that sees our heroes framed is largely botched by constantly cutting away to Hannibal briefing how things will go down instead of just showing us and letting us enjoy the action (it's hardly so complex that it needs a map and models to explain). It's not until the halfway point that we finally get one all-out uninterrupted action scene that isn't over before it begins with the mid-air tank vs. planes shootout - only to be immediately followed by more explaining of what we're about to see.
The script is a bit of a mess and some scenes - particularly the court martial or the mental hospital scene - are remarkably shoddy and unconvincing even for a dumb fun summer popcorn movie. It's one of those films that feels like it had so many writers that nobody actually ended up writing it, the shooting script pasted together from dozens of discarded drafts, throwing away some good ideas and never giving its well cast quartet quite enough to do to capitalise on the chemistry they manage to display against occasionally overwhelming odds. Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper are fine as Hannibal and Face, but it's Quinton `Rampage' Jackson and Sharlto Copley who really nail their roles as B.A. and Howling Mad Murdock, even though the former has been reinvented as Mr Passive Resistance (he'll blow things up but he won't hurt anybody) and the latter becomes increasingly sane as the writers run out of things to do with him. At times it's left to Patrick Wilson's villain to make the biggest impression, his CIA double-dealer and his backroom cohorts coming across like spoilt frat boys with too much money and too many toys to play with. It all ends loudly, though with a bit too much reliance on CGi building blocks rather than old-school stuntwork, though there is a decent but far from original 3D joke along the way.
The main differences in the extended version included only on the Blu-ray are more profanity, a bit more violence and the cameos from Richard Hatch and Dwight Schulz that are thrown away as post-credits Easter eggs on the theatrical version are incorporated properly into the film, but structurally it's just as messy and frustrating as the theatrical version. It doesn't even use the theme tune to give the film a bit of much needed kick. The end result certainly isn't unwatchable, but with a better script and more confidence in letting the action scenes speak for themselves it could have been the kind of enjoyable brain-off dumb summer fun action movie that it clearly desperately aspires to be.
Plenty of extras on the Bluray release - picture-in-picture commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel and a small army of featurettes and trailer - but the emphasis is on promotion rather than information.