The A-Team is back with blockbuster bang. Actually, make that many, many bangs, since entire buildings and even whole city blocks go boom in this fiery tribute to the 1980s television series.
Once an Army Ranger, always an Army Ranger.
That's what bonds B.A. "Bad Attitude" Baracus and John "Hannibal" Smith when they randomly meet in the middle of a Mexican desert. Never believing in coincidence or chance, Hannibal takes it as a sign and recruits the big bruiser to his ragtag band of mercenaries which already includes Templeton "Faceman" Peck and H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock.
The foursome becomes one of the most valuable—and covert—military forces available to Hannibal's lifelong friend, Gen. Samuel Morrison.
That is, until the double-cross.
After a risky mission chasing counterfeiters in Iraq, the guys in The A-Team suddenly find themselves in hot water. They're unjustly accused of treason, stripped of rank, dishonorably discharged and imprisoned. Their reputations are just about as shot up as the enemies they've targeted. So there's only one thing for them to do: escape—with the help of a CIA agent named Lynch—and try to set the record straight.
It won't be easy. Capt. Sosa, Face's ex-girlfriend and biggest hater, is in hot pursuit of these Rangers-turned-soldiers of fortune. And Pike, a military bad boy, also wants to see them go down in big flames.
Like the TV series, the movie focuses on friendship and camaraderie among soldiers who would risk their lives for one another. Loyalty, truthfulness, justice and believing the best in friends are highlighted. When Face feels unprepared to lead a mission, Murdock encourages him, telling his buddy he believes in him. And when indicted, as a symbol of solidarity, all four agree to be tried together.
B.A. is a teddy bear around the kids who adore him. When he takes a vow to adopt a nonviolent lifestyle, the team questions but supports his decision to make peace instead of war. (He eventually reconsiders this pledge, deciding that there are just and righteous causes worth fighting for.) Sosa comes to recognize the A-Team's innocence and appreciate their determination.
Hannibal believes in destiny. A Mexican villain calls himself a "bad Catholic." Hannibal says, "There is a God," after Murdock does something extraordinary to get them out of a jam. Hannibal also tells a joke about Satan. A CIA spook says, somewhat sarcastically, "God bless."
Ever the ladies' man, Face makes out with several women—at least one of them a complete stranger—and he's caught in an adulterous relationship. A very attractive assistant is facetiously said to have been hired for her "great personality." Sosa and Face share a sensually violent moment in a photo booth. Later they kiss passionately.
At least one woman is briefly shown wearing revealing clothes. A pair of panties is seen on Face's prison bed after a conjugal visit.
To put it in standardized test terms, violence and explosions are to The A-Team as cuddliness and purring are to kittens.
Scores of people are brutally punched, kicked, shot or shot at, held at gunpoint, pummeled and/or hit over the head. Helicopters, fighter jets and small arms let loose what must be hundreds of thousands of bullets and missiles. Multiple aircraft and military vehicles are shot down and/or crash, causing Armageddon-level explosions. A ship, a dock and countless shipping containers detonate and crumple into a massive fireball. Buildings explode into infernos after being bombed.
The A-Team's plane gets shot down at 20,000 feet, so they "fly" a military tank (that was in the plane's hold) to safety instead, maneuvering its parachutes and firing its machine guns to "steer" into a lake. A man runs into traffic, causing a head-on collision. Vehicles crash through walls or other structures. Gasoline is used to start fires. Several people are shot pointblank, one in the head. (Two of them are protected by Kevlar, but we don't know that until after the violent assaults.)
A noose is placed around Face's neck. Later he latches onto a moving vehicle through a manhole, catching a dangerous ride. B.A. escapes a prison van by "arranging" for another vehicle to drag him away while he's sliding on a blown-off door. He also "skies" down a building, eventually falling and hitting a roof—hard.
A man is thrown out of a skyscraper window, freefalling until he's caught by a parachute and a helicopter. Threatening him, Hannibal shoots just inches away from an injured man's head. A crowd is gassed. Men rough up a woman. We see close-ups of a wound or two. Murdock tries to jumpstart an ambulance with a defibrillator—and gets mightily zapped.
Murdock's insane piloting knocks B.A. out of a chopper. (He dangles by his fingertips.) A C-130 and an SUV play chicken on a runway. Murdock intentionally sets Face's shirt on fire with a blowtorch. Electroshock therapy is shown. Hannibal regains consciousness in a crematorium vault, just as the furnace ignites. He escapes only mildly singed, but it's still an intense sequence.
Crude or Profane Language
One full "m‑‑‑‑‑f‑‑‑er" and at least two more that stop short of the full obscenity. Around 25 s-words and three obscene gestures make for an even fouler adventure. God's name is misused about 10 times, often coupled with "d‑‑n." Jesus' name is abused nearly that many times. There is also a couple-dozen uses of "h‑‑‑" and about a dozen each of "a‑‑" and "a‑‑hole." Other language includes "d‑‑n," "p‑‑‑ed," and "b‑‑ch."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Hannibal (of course) smokes stogies. Beer and hard liquor show up whenever the team is relaxing or, at least, not directly in the line of fire. There are toasts made before and after a mission. Face reminisces about drinking cheap cabernet with Sosa and says that they were also "doing something else."
The team drugs B.A. several times to get him on airplanes peacefully. (He hates to fly.) Hannibal ingests a carefully prepared drug cocktail to make himself appear dead.
Antifreeze is said to be used as marinade.
Other Negative Elements
We hear Face vomit. Shortly afterwards he makes out with a woman—apologizing for his dirty mouth. When he's accused of adultery, he shows no remorse, instead treating the husband's anger like a joke.
Though The A-Team rightfully wants justice, their quest starts with a jailbreak and is laced with doses of ignoble hatred and revenge. Lying is commonplace—about everything from personal whereabouts to matters of national security.
Military officials commit treason. And, indeed, the U.S. government and military are consistently cast in a negative light. While there certainly are corrupt people everywhere, in every government, The A-Team and movies like it seem to want to plant unreasonable doubt and suspicion. The CIA, for example, is continually panned, and two of its agents act illegally without consequence.
A callous and smirking CIA officer says that the massive destruction he caused looks exactly like the video game Call of Duty. A little person is mentioned jokingly.
I was a kid—and something of a fan—when the original A-Team television series first aired. But even though people say the things of childhood look smaller when you revisit them as an adult, in some ways this cinematic A-Team seems a lot larger. And by that I mean the movie version contains more violence, more language, more double-crossing, more explosives and more general pandemonium.
It's as if director Joe Carnahan and producer Ridley Scott agree with Hannibal when he says, "Overkill is underrated."
Now, obviously, a 2010 movie has a bigger budget and better special effects than a 25-year-old TV show ever did. But I can't help but think that The A-Team movie is different for more pressing reasons. For one, our 21st-century brains have unfortunately been so conditioned to expect more of everything—including firepower, sensuality and crass language—that the comparatively tame TV show would bore modern audiences to tears on a big screen.
Oh, the original program's framework is in place. B.A. still pities the fools he knows. Murdock's still clinically insane and looking for his next near-death experience. Face still "romances" the ladies and Hannibal continues to "love it when a plan comes together." But why oh why does everything have be so much more … explosive?
Mr. T., who played the original B.A. Baracus, told WENN, "People die in the film and there's plenty of sex, but when [the original cast] did it no one got hurt and it was all played for fun and family entertainment. These seem to be elements nobody is interested in anymore."
So does Mr. T pity the fool who goes to see this film?
Maybe director Carnahan should put Mr. T. at the top of the list when he starts writing refund checks. After all, he promised at the movie's premiere, "I think you can expect the best time you're going to have at the cinema this summer. … Guaranteed. I will give you your money back if you prove me wrong."
Put me down right underneath Mr. T.