Directed by Joe Carnahan
Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper
The early-’80s smash hit TV series doesn’t exactly hold up to repeated viewings. Watching it now kind of makes you wonder how it ever got to be a smash hit. Watching the new film that somehow evaded Hollywood’s TV-to-film craze all these years isn’t going to get any uninitiated viewers interested in checking out those old shows. Nor will it make fans of the series very happy.
Oh, the gang is all there: cool and calm Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), hyperactive loverboy Faceman Peck (Bradley Cooper), seething B.A. Baracus (Rampage Jackson, looking and acting frighteningly like Mr. T), and probably crazy Murdock (Sharlto Copley, most recently starring in District 9).
Amid the film’s action and yelling and gunfire and loud music, there are stories of bad guys beating up on good guys, of good guys being framed, of crime and punishment and revenge and, in sticking with the original’s format and message, friendship and camaraderie being more important than anything else.
So here are our four unruly heroes, bonded at the hip only because they’re all Army Rangers, regularly called upon for clandestine black ops missions only when nobody else can do the job. And they always get the job done, no matter how nasty the assignment, no matter how many bodies must fall or how many inanimate objects need to be destroyed. They are, as one armed forces higher-up whispers, a valuable military asset.
Actually, in this rather sanitized movie, they get by more with faking accents, picking pockets, and stealing large objects (and kisses) than by killing people. And by having a plan … no matter how convoluted.
Alas, that’s part of the film’s problem. Everything is complicated, from too-close close-ups to myriad random storylines to a bad case of too many crooks spoiling the plot.
We get a central story of a search for high-quality counterfeit Ben Franklin plates, a funny nod to the current 3D movie craze, a few quiet moments to move along different characters’ situations, a straight-laced Army captain (Jessica Biel) who’s more annoying than formidable, and a flurry of visual effects that are overdone to the point of looking like rejected Michael Bay sequences.
There are some good actors aboard, but their talents take a back seat to blowing things up. Yeah, that can be fun for a while, but this all would’ve worked much better as a trimmed-down one-hour TV episode. Too bad no one had that plan.