I am sorry I ultimately did not like The A-Team, because, in many ways, it is very smart. The script by Joe Carnahan & Brian Bloom (respectively, the director and one of the actors; the ampersand implying they worked together) and Skip Woods (the spelled out ‘and’ implying he was not in the room with the other two) feels like it had an uncredited dialogue pass by David Mamet. There is a clipped, telegraphic style to the language that sometimes even the editing seems to pick up on, as with the montage where the eponymous team is being wrongly incarcerated while somehow simultaneously attending a funeral ceremony.

I have fond memories of watching re-runs of the original 80’s TV show when I was a kid. But I’m pretty fuzzy on the details (the bonus clips of original cast members after the credits rolled did little for me). I do, however, remember the show being more about the A-Team helping people in need, rather than exacting revenge, which is what the plot of this film revolves around.

Skip Woods also wrote X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and this movie could as much be called A-Team Origins: The Plates. We see the team come together in some kind of generic anti-trafficking mission (?) in Mexico, where Colonel Hannibal (Liam Neeson) and Lt. Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper) serendipitously cross paths with ex-Ranger B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and kooky pilot Murdock (District 9‘s Sharlto Copely). Cut to 8 years later. They are all serving together as a unit in the Gulf (did they re-enlist?) and a mission comes down from a slimy CIA agent (Little Children‘s Patrick Wilson) – to retrieve plates used by Saddam to make counterfeit $100 bills.

Between the Army, the CIA, a DoD team lead by Face’s ex g.f. (Jessica Biel) and a Blackwater-parody mercenary crew, there are a lot of double-crosses over these macguffin plates. Honestly, I think only Tony Gilroy will bother to puzzle them all out. What people will come to The A-Team for is action, which it delivers cartoonishly for more-or-less the entire runtime.

Joe Carnahan (Smoking Aces), his producer Tony Scott (Man on Fire) and the rest of the filmmakers do their usual bang-up job with the action. But as the Team continuously relied upon “plans” that seemed perpetually contingent on them not being shot by speechifying villains or one-in-a-million stunts, I started to pine for a new trend in action movies — less comic-book-style impossible stuff, like para-sailing a tank, and more raw, realistic action which relies on something I can relate to, like the laws of physics.

Well, the laws of box office will surely declare this movie a hit, because it delivers its violence mindlessly. It even has the temerity to quote Ghandi in favor of violence over non-violence. The quote is directed at Baracas who, mirroring his progenitor Mr. T, at one point converts to non-violence. It is the movie’s most original and fascinating subplot and unfortunately resolved with depressing facetiousness.

Things like this, glimpses of an action movie that could’ve broken new ground, ultimately underline how vacuous and empty The A-Team movie really is. The actors are all in great form, the dialogue crackles and the plot hums along. But this big black van is full of manure, and heading nowhere. I hate it when a plan doesn’t come together.