Last weekend, The Kung Fu Karate Kid dominated the box office, while The A-Team pulled in an okay-but-not-sequel-worthy $26 million. I saw A-Team, and kinda enjoyed it (check out Owen Gleiberman’s spot-on review). But I thought there was one glaring problem with the movie: the PG-13 rating. What could have been an enjoyably coarse testosterone-fest felt pruned and bland. The characters were “badass,” but their badassery was utterly inoffensive. If you ask me, the movie’s mediocre box office is just further proof that Hollywood’s craven attempt to make teen-friendly films has practically destroyed a sainted genre: the contemporary action movie.
I understand why Hollywood aims for PG-13 with these big blockbusters. Giving a movie an R rating means that teenagers with lame parents don’t get to see your movie. (Or, more likely, it means that teenagers buy Karate Kid tickets and then sneak into your movie.) And don’t get me wrong. The PG-13 rating makes sense for superhero movies (which are mostly just stealth dramedies hiding underneath a few explosions) and fantasy films (which are mostly set in beautiful worlds without any naughty language.)
But A-Team is a movie about four dudes with guns who drive fast cars and blow things up real good. It’s utterly nonsensical that these guys use swear words about as often as prep-school preschoolers. (Twice, the movie did the trick where a character screams “Motherf-” and then gets cut off by an explosion. Now they’re just teasing us!) Plus, all PG-13 gunfights are essentially bloodless, so every action sequence looks about as threatening as a paintball match. Finally, PG-13 means no sex, which means our protagonists just seem like tough-talking frat boys instead of actual ladies’ men.
What’s missing is the charming, carefree sense of coarse rulebreaking that used to be the action genre’s main appeal. Just consider Tango & Cash, the late ’80s buddy-copper starring Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone, which bears a vague plot resemblance to The A-Team. Now, Tango & Cash is not a good movie. But it is a fun movie, and that’s because every scene in the movie basically goes like this:
Cash: “Hey, f—you, Tango!”
Tango: “Go f— yourself, Cash!”
[Pause for gunfight]
Tango: “Hey Cash, good shooting! Now get f—ed!”
Cash: “Tango, you’re a m—–f—ing f—d—!”
[Pause for seductive Teri Hatcher dance sequence]
I’m hopeful that Stallone’s upcoming action-fest The Expendables reminds us what a great R-rated action flick looks like (although right now, the film still isn’t rated: fingers crossed!). [UPDATE: According to Lionsgate, The Expendables is indeed rated R. Lovers of casual F-bombs, rejoice!] What do you think, PopWatchers? Am I silly to think that a few extra swears can make a movie more watchable?