Synopsis: Framed for a crime they did not commit, four Iraq War veterans look to clear their name with the U.S. military who want to bring them in for the offense.
Why We're Excited: Looks like Hannibal & company are set for the best movie version of an action TV show since ... S.W.A.T.? MacGruber makes it hard to take the genre seriously this year, but everyone involved in this nostalgia fest seems in on the joke, too. We're thinking the end results will be serious money and a potential sequel.
Acting as the Army's specialized "fixers", the rest of the squadron -- requisite muscle Sgt. B.A. "Bad Attitude" Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson), tech whiz/ladykiller Lt. Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper), and all around nut burger Capt. H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Sharlto Copley) -- have spent eight years and over 80 successful missions together. But when a CIA stooge named "Lynch" (Patrick Wilson) shows up, needing their help to locate some missing monetary printing plates in war-torn Baghdad, Smith and the guys soon find themselves framed, court-marshaled, and jailed - and then the fun really begins!
Playing into the whole "crime they didn't commit" theme that kept the NBC series on the boob tube for five full years, director Joe Carnahan's (Narc, Smokin' Aces) terrific take on the Stephen J. Cannell show is the first film of Summer 2010 that actually remembers the reason for the season -- pure popcorn thrills and lots of them. As a result, we get stupid helicopter tricks, mid-air flying tank maneuvers (process that concept for a minute, then imagine it realized 70 feet high), a brilliant 3D glasses gag, skyscraper spelunking, a cargo ship implosion, and more angry outbursts from a former UFC Light-Heavyweight title holder than a room full of disgruntled BP stockholders.
The plot is more or less pointless. It's all double crosses, false affiliations, and eventual crash-and-burn heist comeuppance. But thanks to the fine performances and excellent manipulation of the entire revenge/payback narrative concept, we get lost in the brainless anarchy and pray Carnahan can keep up. He does so magnificently. Certainly, some will complain about the rapid-fire editing of the firefights and chases, the post post-modern equivalent of catering to an ADD-addled demographic, but the effect is still electrifying.
Elsewhere, Cooper and Copley steal the movie from their more laid-back co-stars -- especially the latter, who trades his buttoned-down District 9 ID for a truly insane take on the A-Team's chief pilot and psychopath. This is not to say that Neeson and Jackson are bad; they just can't keep up with the wisecracking charisma of their partners. On the other side of the situation, Wilson proves himself viable as a real villain. Similarly, former soap opera star Brian Bloom is dynamite as Pike, rival leader of another black ops organization. Along with Gerald McRaney as a General sympathetic to the A-Team's cause, you have a crackerjack cast who can adequately compete with whatever outsized ideas Carnahan throws at them -- and he lobs quite a few doozies along the way.
The A-Team remembers to entertain, albeit in a hilarious, hyper-violent action flick manner. It paints its characters in broad, easy to recognize strokes, sets up its various conflicts, and then lets the gears of gratuitousness grind away. Staying within a strict PG-13 ideal (meaning there's lots of killing but very little blood), the film develops a ditzy rhythm all its own. Before we know it, we are anticipating the next pyrotechnic payoff and wondering at how gonzo Carnahan will eventually go. The answer, happily, is as far as his ragtag team of highly trained if misunderstood mercenaries need him to.