Action-packed “A-Team” earns a B-, which is a passing grade in summertime


BY SEAN O’CONNELL

Hollywoodnews.comThe A-Team (**1/2 out of 4)
You know it’s officially summertime when a movie crams three fistfights, a dog attack, a daring rescue attempt from a Mexican hell hole, and a full-throttle helicopter chase that culminates with a United States military jet blasting a well-armed whirly bird out of the sky before the opening credits have finished running.

Welcome to Joe Carnahan’s “The A-Team,” a muscled and at times messy adaptation of the 1980s television series that dropkicks the term “action” into the phrase “non-stop action.”

Roles made famous by the late George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz and Mr. T have been recast with Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and mixed martial artist Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. They play an elite band of Army Rangers who are framed for conspiring to steal valuable plates that are capable of counterfeiting U.S. currency. To clear their collective name, the A-Team must evade a dogged yet beautiful army lieutenant (Jessica Biel) and capture a rival Ranger named Pike (Brian Bloom, who receives a co-writing credit with Carnahan).

Prior to initiating one of his elaborate plans, Neeson’s head honcho, John “Hannibal” Smith, tells Cooper’s Templeton “Faceman” Peck that “overkill is underrated, my friend.” That mantra has been adopted by Carnahan and crew, who are locked in a deadly dance of topping their most recent stunt with something even more insane, even more incredible. “The A-Team” is the kind of over-the-top stunt spectacular where the following conversation not only takes place, but makes perfect sense:

“Why are we in a flying tank?” asks a woozy B.A. Baracus.

“Because our plane exploded!” shouts Murdock.

“When?” B.A. asks, incredulously.

“Recently,” Murdock shrugs, as they plummet to the earth.

“The A-Team” ultimately loses points for not being able to sustain its wafer-thin credibility all the way to the bitter end. An explosive finale involving too-heavy crates tumbling off a sinking freighter is ludicrous, even by the cartoonish standards of this otherwise enjoyable ride.

And that’s the thing. “A-Team” won’t be mistaken for smart, but it’s way more clever than you’d anticipate. Neeson’s natural talent and Cooper’s unflappable charisma make up for Jackson’s raw, unpolished performance. And Copley entertains by drifting in a mental state all his own, because in context, that works. Carnahan’s characters have an annoying tendency of chuckling aloud during their exploits, as if they’re in on a secret of a running joke we aren’t yet privy to. But by the time Jackson’s rappelling down the side of a German skyscraper racing to retrieve a briefcase and doge the bullets fired from Bloom’s massive handguns, I’ll bet you’ll be smiling along with this likeable team and going along for the adventure.

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