The Karate Kid looks a model of coherence and charm next to The A-Team. Please tell me the TV show wasn't quite so fatuous as this farrago of action stunts and non-liners (the opposite of a one-liner).
"Overkill is underrated," says team-leader Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), ominously, and the next two hours proceed to give overkill its due. After eight years together as the US Army's most bad-ass Special Forces unit, the cigar-chomping Smith leads Face (Bradley Cooper), B A Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson) and Murdock (Sharlto Copley) on a dangerous mission into Baghdad to recover a billion dollars in counterfeit currency and the printing plates that go with it. Let's not even start on the unbecoming practice of exploiting a place that's still a war zone and claiming real lives on a daily basis. Our brave quartet duly plunge in, extract the loot and bring it back, leaving mayhem in their wake.
But, boringly, they are stitched up by a CIA bad apple named Pike (Brian Bloom) then damned in military court and packed off to prison. Can they escape, clear their names and bring the villains to justice? Put it this way, there's still an hour and a half to go from here. Thus follows a long, Mission: Impossible-style hoopla of triple crosses, which reach an apogee of confusion when a character who died in a car bomb returns disguised as an Arab. Jessica Biel alone is perplexing enough as a captain who's demoted to lieutenant and then mysteriously heads up the hunt for the fugitive foursome. These implausibilities are less exasperating than action sequences that thumb their nose at gravity, geometry and mortality. Can a tank burst from a plane mid-air and be flown to safety? Here it can. Is it possible for a man to launch his motorcycle out of nowhere and land precisely on top of the goon who's about to shoot his buddy? Here it is.
You can get away with a movie full of daft stunts. Look at Point Break. You can get away with a movie about rogue military units on the loose in Iraq. Look at Three Kings. But you can't get away with such a movie if there's not one moment of wit or intelligence or visual panache to leaven the surrounding nonsense. The A-Team seems to imagine it can survive on "overkill" alone: if you do it loud enough, if you cackle hard enough, if you blow it high enough, the entertainment will take care of itself. Only it won't. It looks like what it is: junk.