Near the end of “The A-Team,” the big screen adaptation of the inexplicably popular 1980s television show, Col. John ‘Hannibal’ Smith (Liam Neeson) intones through clenched teeth, “Overkill is underrated.” That could be the mantra for the whole movie and not just its bombastic (emphasis there on the “bomb”) climax. Overkill indeed. The explosion budget alone for “The A-Team” could probably fund ten other, less fiery movies.
In an echo of the original series, the movie follows the adventures of the Alpha Team—A-Team for short—four highly trained but unorthodox U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers framed for a crime involving the illegal importation of counterfeiting printer plates. Branded war criminals and sentenced to jail time, they hatch an elaborate escape, involving the CIA and branches of the military. Then, as federal fugitives-turned-mercenaries, seek their revenge on the men responsible for their imprisonment. Cue the explosions.
“The A-Team” is a testosterone fest that can’t even be neutralized by the presence of the comely Jessica Biel. It is about boys and their toys—which in this case happen to be rocket launchers, motorcycles and Mohawk haircuts. It’s the first real action movie of the summer. Notice I didn’t say first great action film of the summer. It’s not great, but it is a fun summer popcorn flick jam packed with the kind of pedal to the metal action that makes guys go “Whoa!” every time something blows up in an extravagant mushroom cloud of flame and smoke.
The action sequences are rather spectacular. In one crazy scene the team “flies” a tank through the air. It’s obviously a bit of CGI trickery, and as such has less real impact than say the stunts in “The Dark Knight” which were (mostly) done without the aid of computer imagery, but the sheer “wowness” of it all will make you gobble your popcorn a bit faster.
Of course all the action in the world doesn’t mean much if the characters aren’t interesting. Luckily the cast is, well, if not exactly Oscar caliber, enthusiastic in their renderings of the familiar television characters. As “Hannibal” Smith Liam Neeson is slumming it a bit, but is a solid presence and a believable hard man. Bradley Cooper as “Face,” a specialist in that most oxymoronic of military oxymorons—military intelligence—brings the same kind of charm to the movie as he displayed in “The Hangover,” and “District 9’s” Sharlto Copley as “Howling Mad” Murdock seems to be having some off the hook fun. Ironically only UFC superstar Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as Bosco B.A. Baracus (the role Mr. T made famous) struggles to be heard above the clatter of the action, but don’t tell him I said that. He’s the only real-life bruiser in the bunch.
“The A-Team” is not just a remake of the television show but also an entertaining love letter to the cartoon violence, the wild action, the one-liners and cardboard characters of guy oriented 80s action movies.