Review in a Hurry: Pretty much everything you could have hoped for in an A-Team movie, this big-screen update of the '80s TV show hits all its marks. True-to-character performances, wacky welded-together gadgets, campy comedy, goofy disguises, and solid action sequences abound...all that's missing is Mr. T.
The Bigger Picture: "Overkill is underrated, my friend." Thus speaks John "Hannibal" Smith (Liam Neeson), at a critical juncture in The A-Team, and we have to ask: underrated where? The original series ran for five seasons, and starred a guy with huge gold chains and a Mohawk; special guest appearances were made by the likes of Hulk Hogan, Pat Sajak, Rick James and Boy George.
If you thought the casting of Neeson presupposed a more serious team, think again: Whether parachuting a tank from a plane, or playing three-card monte using a trio of metal cargo containers and a crane, this team not only gets an A for action, but for absurdity as well. Director Joe Carnahan, who failed to hit the right balance between taut action and goofy camp in Smokin' Aces, has nailed it this time around.
Cigar-smokin' ace Hannibal first encounters berserk driver Bosco "Bad Attitude" Baracus (UFC star Quinton "Rampage" Jackson) and his familiar black van down in Mexico, where the former is teamed with perennial ladies' man Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper) in a bid to bring down a Mexican druglord. Completing the quartet is insane pilot "Howling Mad" Murdock (District 9's Sharlto Copley), who provides them the first of many ludicrous getaways, as well as scaring Baracus away from ever wanting to board an aircraft again.
Eight years into an unspecified future, during whatever year it is that American troops are going to fully withdraw from Iraq, the four have distinguished themselves as a team, and take it upon themselves to run a covert mission to steal back some stolen U.S. treasury plates from the hands of Saddam loyalists. In their time-honored tradition of cobbling together unusual accessories from bits of stolen junk, the team succeeds...only to be framed when things go wrong in the aftermath.
Naturally, they escape from captivity, where they must find the real culprit, all while being tailed by an ex of Peck's (Jessica Biel), a scuzzy military contractor (Brian Bloom) from "Black Forest" (worst fake movie name for Blackwater EVER!), and a mysterious CIA man who goes by the pseudonym "Lynch" (Patrick Wilson).
Cooper is closest to the original mark as the charming scoundrel Face, while the South African Copley adopts a Texas twang as the crazy Murdock. Neeson is just being Neeson, but then again George Peppard wasn't exactly stretching in the role either. The biggest question mark has always been Jackson, who delivers the best athlete-to-actor transition since Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Incorporating a few of Mr. T's trademark exclamations into a more thoughtful performance than one might expect, he turns out to be a better choice than Ice Cube likely would have been.
Not that this is Shakespeare or anything...it's the freakin' A-Team. And for the most part, it's the one you remember (be sure to sit through the end credits for an extra-geeky bonus).
The 180—a Second Opinion: If you get hung up on slightly cartoonish CGI, or editing that's at times less coherent than it ought to be, this may not be the movie for you.
PHOTOS: Totally New Releases!