The A-Team’s titular aggregation of Army Rangers-turned-outlaws spend an awful lot of time cracking up and flashing shit-eating grins. They’re such a smiley, guffaw-happy bunch that it can sometimes be hard to tell what they’re laughing about, beyond their palpable delight in being awesome manly men whose lives are filled with heroism and derring-do. That spirit of smug self-satisfaction pervades the film, which high-fives itself at every opportunity.
Newly minted action hero Liam Neeson chomps on a cigar and plenty of scenery as Hannibal, the alpha-male leader of the A-Team, a quartet of Army over-achievers who go on the lam after a daring Iraq mission goes awry and they’re framed for a crime they didn’t commit. Bradley Cooper flashes a ubiquitous smirk as Face, the preening, narcissistic lothario of the group, while District 9 standout Sharlto Copley outmugs Neeson as the team’s lunatic pilot Murdock, and UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is burdened with the thankless task of impersonating Mr. T in his signature role as B.A. Baracus.
Smoking Aces director Joe Carnahan and his co-screenwriters, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods, litter the film with constant crowd-pleasing references to the most remembered, iconic elements of the original ’80s TV show; if audience members were to take a shot every time Jackson pities a fool or expresses reservations about air travel, or Neeson expresses his supreme satisfaction with a scheme being successfully executed, they’d pass out within the first half-hour. It’d be tempting to say The A-Team reduces its leads to glib cartoon characters, but the characters were already macho caricatures in their television incarnation. The A-Team merely soups up Stephen J. Cannell’s campy action hit with expensive production values and lots of shit blowing up good. The film’s featherweight tone and self-conscious excess would be a lot more palatable if everyone didn’t seem so insufferably pleased with themselves. The film acts as if it’s won the race before the starting gun has even been fired.