The A-Team

Photo: allmoviephoto.com
(Neeson, Cooper, Jackson and Copley make the film worthwhile)

Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson. Directed by Joe Carnahan. 117 Minutes. PG

The A-Team refuses to cross cliché middle-ground. Instead, the film bypasses some action-flick stereotypes - flat characters, pointless sub-plots - and exaggerates others - the explosive-driven storyline, international manhunts and testosterone overdrive.

Based on the popular 80s TV series, The A-Team follows four ex-U.S. soldiers in a wild money-plate chase, as a CIA agent (Patrick Wilson) and DCIS Captain (Jessica Biel) follow them. Of course, it's more complicated than that, involving a sly escapes (by both living and dead), good guys turning bad and a personal journey for B. A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson), but this is all secondary to saving America.

By far, what most brings the film to life are its characters. Jackson plays the iconic B. A. "Bad Attitute" Baracus, the biggest of the four but the softest at heart, with a fear of flying and doubts about personal choices. Bradley Cooper plays Templeton "Faceman" Peck, the clever, sex-crazed, impulsive womanizer. Sharlto Copley plays H. M. "Howling Mad" Murdock, the, well, howling mad doc. And Liam Neeson plays John "Hannibal" Smith, the cigar-smoking leader. Such well-constructed characters are like such a rare find in action flicks that they're reason alone to watch this film.

If that's not enough for you, there's at least one more good reason to watch: director Joe Carnahan's creative scene mash-ups. In one scene, the four are going through their action plan which is mashed-up with the action plan going down. In another, the four are facing their court sentence, mashed-up with funeral that led to their sentencing. It's so much more effective and exciting.

Aside from these, there's not a whole lot more reason to watch, other than the fact that it's one of the better action flicks out there. It just does things right. It's exaggerated and cheesy, in a very acceptable way. Explosions drive the plot but are all legitimate in that action flick world of legitimacy. In other words, a high-speed airplane chase that ends in mid-air fireworks is totally right. And the four good-guys-turned-bad-guys-turned-good-guys are saving the country because if they don't do it, no one can. It's very much an 80s hero-series vibe, and that's because it's supposed to be, but in that, the retro zeitgeist feels new again.

In short, it's a dude-flick that won't bore the ladies - and I didn't even have to mention Cooper. B

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