Movie vs. Movie: The A-Team vs. The Losers
By Reagen Sulewski
April 19, 2010

With all her Avatar money, Ms. Saldana takes it one step beyond fireworks.

A group of specially trained black ops forces are framed for crimes they didn’t commit, turned into outlaws and forced to fight against the system in order to clear their names, utilizing their improvisational skills to their advantage. As a plot of a movie, that can only be The A-Team … or The Losers.

In this new feature, we pit movie versus movie in order to best identify the placement of your hard-earned movie money for two films that just happen to bear a lot of resemblance to each other – not that Hollywood has a habit of doing things like this (*cough*ArmageddonDeepImpact*coughcough*).

Source Material: For the seven people out there that aren’t aware, The A-Team is based on the 1980s Stephen J. Cannell (also responsible for The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero and Hunter, among others) series which made a household name out of Mr. T, which, if memory serves, was all about pitying fools, plans coming together, and building functional Abrams tanks out of spare parts. Ridiculous to the core, it was a cultural phenomenon and now exists mostly as kitsch.

The Losers, meanwhile, enters the world with much less awareness, and baggage. Based on a DC Vertigo comic series (so, read by 18 nerds), it touches on more or less the same plot points and themes, though with a touch less ridiculousness. As a touchstone of culture though, it’s starting from scratch. Advantage: A-Team.

Director: The A-Team is helmed by Joe Carnahan, who rose up through the northern California indie scene to create the cult class Blood, Guts, Bullets & Octane, then went to direct the underrated Narc. After pissing off Tom Cruise and getting himself kicked off of Mission: Impossible III, he gave us the dreck of Smokin’ Aces … which is probably worse than disappearing for eight years would have been. Still, we at least know he’s familiar with what overly-testosterone filled action looks like.

The director of The Losers, meanwhile, is Sylvain White, whose work so far includes a straight-to-video erotic thriller, the second sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer that you didn’t know existed, and the step dancing movie Stomp the Yard. OK, even James Cameron worked for Roger Corman once upon a time, but that’s not the resume of a budding Richard Donner. Stranger things have happen, but Advantage: A-Team.

Team leaders: Stepping into the role of Hannibal, the weather-beaten chief planner of The A-Team, is Liam Neeson. Aside from being a decent ringer for George Peppard, Neeson’s turned himself into a fairly credible bad-ass in the past few years, starting with the villain role in Batman Begins, and most recently in the surprise hit Taken.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan leads The Losers, and is arguably best known as the dad on the WB show Supernatural or as the heart patient Denny on Grey’s Anatomy. I think we can draw our conclusions here, right? Advantage: A-Team.

Muscle: MMA fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson takes on the unenviable task of stepping into an iconic role as B.A. Baracus, which could potentially both make him a laughing stock and end his career before it starts. Judging by the trailer, he’s not going for a straight impression, which is a wise choice, but mostly is taking on the broader elements of the character – jive-talking and quick-tempered with a big heart, and of course a fear of planes.

There’s not really one character who’s there to beat people up in The Losers – most take their turn – but Idris Elba, Stringer from The Wire, or Charles Miner from The Office, is the closest thing to it as Morgan’s second in command. As a ruthless drug dealer in The Wire, Elba is far more intimidating pound for pound than Jackson could ever be. Advantage: The Losers.

Comic Relief: Technically almost everyone in The A-Team is comic relief, but main duties fall to Sharlto Copley, breakout star of last summer’s District-9 as the unhinged pilot Howling Mad Murdock. He’s a natural comedic presence and seems to slot right into this broad character.

It’s also the case that most characters in The Losers have at least some comedy in their roles, but largely we’re talking about Chris Evans and Columbus Short. Evans plays a bit of a variation on Johnny Storm (the only good thing about the Fantastic Four movies), while Short (best known from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) gets to be the wisecracking pilot (it’s a type, apparently). Two to one, people, two to one. Advantage: The Losers.

Eye candy: Jessica Biel is the female liaison for The A-Team but looks to spend most of the film buttoned up in Army greens. Don’t expect the film to really utilize her much, as the original series was a boys’ club in all senses of the term.

The Losers, meanwhile, grabbed up one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood, Zoe Saldana, fresh off Star Trek and Avatar, and if the trailer is to be trusted, actually puts her talents in this area to use. We’re nothing if not easy to please here, but lingerie scenes = win. (And to be fair to our female and/or gay readers, there’s Bradley Cooper versus Chris Evans, which is an easy win for Cooper. The weighting’s pretty small on that, though). Advantage: The Losers.

Screenwriters: Comb through the credits of the writers of The A-Team and you’ll find some of the biggest pieces of crap in recent movie history. 2 Fast 2 Furious. Wanted. X-Men: Wolverine. Swordfish. The sole bright spot is that two of its writers penned 3:10 to Yuma. Are we expecting genius from The A-Team’s plot? Hardly. But making sense would be a start.

The Losers, on the other hand, has Peter Berg as one of its credited writers, the man behind the transcendent Friday Night Lights, while its other writer, James Vanderbilt (a name you should get to know as the new Spider-Man scribe) gave us Zodiac and The Rundown. Easy win here. Advantage: The Losers.

Watchmen alumnus: Both films, in a strange coincidence, feature actors from last year’s comic adaptation Watchmen. Patrick Wilson, Nite Owl in that film, appears in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene in the trailer as the man tasked by the Army to track down the fugitives. He got to do it with Malin Akerman, but you’d probably be hard-pressed to remember anything else he did in the film.

The Losers has the already mentioned Morgan, who played the fascist super-hero The Comedian, a woman-beating, cold-blooded murderer. Still, you remembered him, right? Advantage: The Losers.

Ridiculousness Factor: The A-Team was a show that prided itself on making up stuff that simply couldn’t happen or at the very least defied rational belief. Lock The A-Team in a shed for an hour with tools and some scrap metal and they’d build an undefeatable mobile fortress. Here, they up the ante with scenes like capturing a man thrown out of a skyscraper with a helicopter, and shooting down a plane with a tank that fell out of another plane. That’s the spirit.

The Losers … well, it tries. There’s lots of insane gun fights hinted at, and sniping the gas tank of a moving motorcycle is a neat trick, but there’s just no competing here. Advantage: A-Team.

Final Verdict: Even though The A-Team is the more iconic of the two mercenaries-on-the-run products, by far, it can’t make up for a couple of key deficiencies in story and character. So by a 5-4 score, The Losers defeats The A-Team in Movie vs. Movie.