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The A-Team ($145M)

Written by Subject: Entertainment: Movies
The Internet Movie Database Review:  7.3/10
Film Critic Review:  4/5
Summary:  Four American soldiers who are in Iraq are sent on a mission to recover plates for printing 100 dollar bills that were used to print a billion dollars. After doing the job and returning to the base their commanding officer is killed in an explosion and the plates are stolen by another operative. They would be court martialed and sent to different prisons. 6 months later, the leader, Hannibal Smith is visited by a CIA spook who tells him he knows where the man who took the plates is and wants him and his men to recover it. So he helps him escape and he breaks out the others and they go after the plates. But after doing it, they discover that the spook might not be ok. And a military intelligence officer who was involved with one of them is pursuing them.

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.

Why We're Not: Feels like a cash grab at little more to us, you can imagine studio execs assessing the potential audience crossover here like army generals with battle plans spread wide. The action seems out of control in a Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle kind of way (Bradley Cooper as the Cameron Diaz of the troupe?), but director Joe Carnahan has a reputation for blow-ups of a different kind -- fights and fall-outs that see him walk away from projects (Mission: Impossible 3) and cancel productions altogether (White Jazz). Also, only two-thirds of the original four vets will cameo since Mr. T declined the chance to appear on-screen.
If the big screen adaptation of '80s TV favorite The A-Team was packed with any more testosterone, it could compete in the Tour de France. It's all men, machismo, and mayhem. Sure, Jessica Biel signs up as the requisite eye candy, but her Capt. Carissa Sosa is no match for the motley crew of over the top oddballs recruited by Col. John "Hannibal" Smith (a likeable Liam Neeson) for his band of well-meaning maniacs.

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.

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