The A-Team (7/10)

Hannibal (Liam Neeson) is talking to one of the A-Team members about halfway through the film, and he says with winking confidence, “Overkill is underrated.” This could be the motto for the whole movie – a bombastically over-the-top series of action scenes, each one more ridiculous than the last, strung together by the most basic of plots. The dialog is mere excuse for the action – cursorily inserted in the five-minute lulls between explosions. It’s not concerned with traditional movie-musts like plot, but that’s okay, and the sheer honesty of its camp is actually kind of refreshing.

The excellent cast is a huge part of this. Liam Neeson is the perfect choice to play Hannibal, giving him a sly confidence and leadership charisma that only he could pull off, bringing a necessary anchor of semi-believable seriousness to this campy remake of the already campy 80’s TV show. It doesn’t matter if most of the stunts they pull off in the movie are unbelievable – when Liam Neeson is coming up with the plans, you really believe they can be pulled off. Bradley Cooper as Faceman, the womanizing wisecracker of the group, grins and takes off his shirt repeatedly to great effect, and proves he can make any over-confident ass likeable and extremely entertaining.

Quinton Jackson takes on the role Mr. T had as B.A., a tough guy with a heart of gold and a mean right hook. He plays a perfect badass, but gets a couple scenes here and there where he gets to show a softer side of the character, and it’s to his credit that the scenes are actually kind of touching. Finally, Sharlto Copley, best known for his lead role as the scientist Wikus in “District 9”, proves he’s got both range and talent as Murdock, the slightly-insane loose cannon of the group. He gets a lot of great one-liners and is always good for a laugh. As for Jessica Biel as Face’s love interest Charisa, she has little else to do but sit around and chat on the phone looking pretty while providing the necessary “plot” to bring in the next action scene. Her “relationship” with Face is seriously malnourished and kind of laughable, but you never have to wait long for the next action scene, so it’s not really a problem.

Now, the action. As Charisa puts it, the A-Team “are the best, and they specialize in the ridiculous.” The understatement of the century. The A-Team is unbelievably good, knowing things they can’t possibly know and timing things impossibly right, so there’s not much tension in the action – what’s enjoyable is watching the intricate choreography, which is muddled up entirely too often by quick-cut Greengrass-imitation shaky cam that any shmuck with a camera these days believes equals excitement. IT DOESN’T. IT’S ANNOYING, AND PLEASE STOP. End of rant. In any case, the interplay between the four main cast members, all of whom seem to be having a huge ball with this, is infectiously fun. You know they’ll get out of this scrape, and the next, and the next – it’s not about the result, it’s about anticipating how they get there, and some of the action scenes in this movie rank amont the most memorably entertaining popcorn summer bonanzas in recent years. I won’t give any of them away, but they’re all extremely entertaining.

All this and I haven’t even begun to talk about plot. Well, be honest, do you care much about plot? Is that why you’re going to go see “The A-Team”? Well, just in case it is, here’s a synopsis for you – four Iraq war veterans are framed for a crime they didn’t commit, escape from prison (daringly, of course), and must find a way to clear their name while avoiding both bad guy and good guy gunfire. That about do it for ya? In the beginning of the film, we see how even the movie itself is not much concerned with plot. “Somewhere in Mexico,” reads a quick flash of text across the screen. A scene later, more text: “Somewhere else in Mexico.” A few scenes later, “Somewhere in Iraq.” If the movie doesn’t care about where their characters are, why should I, why should you? It’s pure popcorn camp, a blazingly fast ride clocking in at a easy-to-watch under two hours with a great central cast and action scenes that are only concerned with wowing you. Superficial? Yeah. Childish? Sure. Entertainingly ridiculous? As BA would put it, “Aw, HELL yeah!”

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