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Thursday, June 17, 2010 01:58 am

Team is Grade A Mayhem

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Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Liam Neeson and Quinton Jackson star in The A-Team.

While I am the first to decry how vacuous summer movies are, I have to admit that I had a blast at Joe Carnahan’s big screen adaptation of the ’80s TV hit “The A-Team.” While it has little in the way of socially redeeming values, it does accomplish its mission, which is to entertain and to take no prisoners while doing so.

Logic is the film’s first casualty in the opening sequence, as we see how Hannibal (Liam Neeson), Face (Bradley Cooper), B.A. (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and Murdock (Sharlto Copely) came to meet, bond and blow things up real good. Though it relies on coincidence and happenstance far too much to be credible, Carnahan creates and maintains a tone of high adventure where handcuffing two dogs to each other may not be probable but sure is fun to watch.

After running covert operations as an alpha unit for the United States for eight years, the team hits a snag when they find themselves double-crossed and accused of stealing a batch of engraving plates in Iraq. Court-martialed and sent to separate prisons, they break out in order to clear their name but they must contend with Agent Sosa (Jessica Biel) who’s hot on their trail as is Lynch (Patrick Wilson), a CIA agent not to be trusted.

While Carnahan and his co-writers put some twists and turns in the plot, they’re not kidding anyone. The film’s purpose is to deliver rousing action set pieces laced with sardonic humor and for the most part they succeed in doing just that. In addition to the opening sequence which features some fun CGI-aided helicopter maneuvers and an urban shootout outside glassed office buildings 20 stories up, the highlight is a scene that finds the team plummeting to the earth in a tank after their flying fortress has been blown to bits. Defying all rules of physics, they manage to “fly” the tank to safety as we smile at how wonderfully ridiculous this moment is.

Ensuring the film’s success is Carnahan’s smart casting. Neeson brings credible brains and brawn to Hannibal; Cooper is wonderfully narcissistic as Face; and Jackson doesn’t embarrass himself as B.A., tapping into the character’s fears as well as rage. If anyone steals the film, it’s Copely (“District 9”). As the unhinged Murdock, the actor has great fun going batty and cracking wise behind the stick of a helicopter as the bullets fly and tension rises. There’s a chemistry between these four that not only makes me forgive the film’s lapses in logic but also has me hoping they’ll create more movie mayhem real soon.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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