A for explosions 

'A-Team' is big, dumb fun.

'THE A-TEAM': Bradley Cooper, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Sharlto Copley and Liam Neeson star.
  • 'THE A-TEAM': Bradley Cooper, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Sharlto Copley and Liam Neeson star.

If you were a pre-teen boy in the 1980s, there's a good chance you can still hum the theme song from the TV show "The A-Team." I know I still can. The A-Team was must-see-TV around my household, along with "The Dukes of Hazzard." Mr. T, a tricked-out van, and lots of explosions and automatic gunfire every week? What's not to love? One of a crop of action-packed hour long comedy-drama that sprung up back then, "The A-Team" was tailor made for both merchandising and its audience: big, bold, loud and obnoxiously fun. Now comes the big-screen treatment of "The A-Team." It's got a lot in common with the TV show, even beyond its made-for-a-lunch-box cast of characters. To wit: Though it ain't Masterpiece Theater, the fun factor is high, with plenty of stuff going boom to keep you diving for the bottom of the popcorn bucket.

The movie revolves around a crack unit known for pulling off impossible jobs in hell-holes around the world. It opens with a kind of prologue in which we see how the members of the A-Team met while trying to take down a dastardly Mexican general. Heading the team is Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), along with fellow Army Rangers B.A. Barracus (Quinton Jackson, in the role Mr. T made famous), Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper) and chopper pilot Murdock (Sharlto Copley). After some daring do in the Mexican desert, we fast-forward to the Iraq War, with Hannibal and his team a well-oiled machine. The plot kicks into high gear when Smith's superior approaches him with yet another hush-hush covert job: to get back some purloined printing plates from the U.S. Mint, which loyalists to Saddamn Hussein plan to use to start cranking out their own currency. Also seeking to get his hands on the plates is a crooked CIA agent named Lynch (Patrick Wilson), and his gang of thugs who work for a hired mercenary outfit known as Black Forest (shades of the infamous Blackwater, the hired-gun security firm that landed in hot water more than once in the real Iraq War). The problem is the CIA wants the plates for themselves. When things go south, with a couple hundred million in counterfeit currency and Smith's superior Gen. Morrison going up in flames, the A-Team is brought up on charges of disobeying orders and sentenced to 10 years in prison. As with the intro to the TV show, however, they promptly escape and set about trying to clear their names, all the while pursued by Faceman's old girlfriend Capt. Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel), a by-the-book army investigator who is intent on bringing them down.

"The A-Team" is like a lot of summer blockbusters, thin on plot but big on action. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The four leads and Biel seem to be having a great time with their roles, gleefully chewing the scenery. Copley is excellent as the off-his-rocker chopper pilot Murdock, and even Neeson — whose casting in the role made famous by the late George Peppard set off a spate of fanboy head-scratching — does a good job here, though he never quite plays the character with the happy-go-lucky glee of the Hannibal from the TV show. Also noticeably different is Quinton Jackson's portrayal of B.A., who comes across a good bit kinder and gentler than the way Mr. T played him on the show. By the end of the flick, the four main characters have really managed to gel quite nicely.


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