I love it when a plan comes together.
And I love it when a summer movie delivers all of the chases, crashes, explosions, wisecracks, and sheer exuberant fun that we have a right to expect when the weather gets warm. “The A-Team,” based on the television series of the mid-1980’s, may be silly but it is purely enjoyable.
We get to see how the fearsome foursome first met. That’s Hannibal (Liam Neeson), the cigar-chomping leader, driver and fighting powerhouse B.A. Baracus (Ultimate Fighting Champion Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson), mentally unstable pilot Murdock (District 9‘s Sharlto Copley), and social engineer (okay, con man) Face (Bradley Cooper). As frustrated Lt. Sosa (Jessica Biel) says, eight years and 80 successful missions later, they specialize in the ridiculous. Characters hang from a helicopter. They slalom down a skyscraper. They crash many vehicles and they blow many things up. This is a movie with a flying tank. Well, technically, as one character says, not flying. It’s actually hurtling to the ground after the plane that was carrying it exploded. Why? Could that really work? Don’t ask. This is not that kind of movie. Just pass the popcorn.
There are some understated shout-outs to the original, including a clever disposition of the beloved van and BA’s knuckle tattoos — “PITY” on one hand and “FOOL” on the other. And be sure to stay to the very end of the credits for one last salute.
After the prologue, we are brought up to date. Our team has completed 80 missions in eight years, all successful. Now, American troops are packing up to leave Iraq. One piece of unfinished business is a briefcase filled with engraving plates for U.S. currency. If they get into the wrong hands, our enemies could print money and destroy our economy. And there are a lot of wrong hands out there, possibly including the mercenaries/government contractors who think they’re all that and who are assigned to the retrieval operation.
This provides opportunities for many stunts, ably directed by Joe Carnahan, who co-wrote. Co-screenwriter Brian Bloom is electrifying as Pike, the leader of the contractor team. Biel does her job: fuming or melting, she is very pretty. And the quartet of actors in the lead roles are an A-Team of their own, bringing their own screen chemistry and sense of fun to the characters they play. Neeson chomps on his cigar with panache. Copley makes Murdoch’s proficiency with accents and languages both evidence of his instability and his mastery. Jackson makes BA’s soul-searching feel real without throwing the entire movie off-kilter by making it too serious. Early on, when Face gets punched in the jaw, Cooper’s eyes widen in delight and he says, “Now it’s a party!” Yes, it is.