Reviews News

"The A-Team" a risible b-movie

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Beginning with the sound era, studios and films producers have longed for a way to eliminate the screenwriter from the filmmaking process.

By and large, writers are prickly personalities who absorb too much time, demand too much credit and need to be kept clear of the set, where they might interfere with the director, who is, after all, the real auteur of the film.

With “The A-Team,” a Fox film derived from a 1980s TV series, this dream now is a reality. The film seems nearly writer-free. Absolutely no time gets wasted on story, character development or logic. The film lurches from one action sequence to another, with little connection between the scenes.

The characters move directly from small to big screen with new actors, of course, but little else changed including their famous catchphrases. So the screenwriting as such has been reduced to storyboards, stunt rigging and visual effects. Of the three writers receiving credit, one is the director, action maven Joe Carnahan (“Smokin’ Aces”), and the other is one of the film’s actors, Brian Bloom.

Carnahan’s reputation among young men for delivering action will mean more than any association with a 25-year-old TV series. So “A-Team” could open on Friday with a weekend box office haul of more than $30 million.

The story’s four Special Forces soldiers meet in an inexplicable series of shootouts in Sonora, Mexico. These are Liam Neeson in the George Peppard role of the cocky, cigar-chomping team leader “Hannibal” Smith; Bradley Cooper as “Face” Peck, a man efficient at illicit requisitions when not baring his chest like a male model; pro martial artist Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as Mr. T -- sorry, B.A. Baracus, the team’s driver and muscle -- and “District 9’s” amazing Sharlto Copley as a mentally unstable pilot.

The quartet seems to operate free of any military oversight through Iraq, Germany, Switzerland, Lake Tahoe and the Long Beach Harbor. At some point, a false crime is hung on the four so they can go “rogue,” which fits the concept behind the Stephen J. Cannell/Frank Lupo TV series. But disconnection from the U.S. military has no apparent impact on supply lines, support personnel or logistical capabilities. Good thing, too, for that would require a writer to figure out where all this backup comes from.

Various people are on the A-Team’s tail, including Jessica Biel, who as Face’s former flame gives the film its only female sex appeal; Patrick Wilson as an apparently rogue CIA officer; and Bloom, a mysterious military contractor.

All the actors can do amid the explosions and stunts is to develop a comic banter among themselves that isn’t about anything other than how unconcerned everyone is over these supposedly life-and-death situations. Because for all the firepower in any sequence, none of the heroes gets more than a bump on the head or clothes that need cleaning. Yes, a writer would only gum things up with suspense and character.