Monday, June 14, 2010

Big laughs, big explosions in 'The A Team'

“The A Team”

Two and 1/2 stars

By Thomas Tracy

We love it when a plan comes together — especially when the mission is to update a laughable B-rated TV action drama from the 1980s, blow it up on the big screen and have it appeal to a whole new generation.

By some miracle, that’s exactly what happens with “The A Team,” the latest bit of 1980s nostalgia to get a modern-day makeover, but one of the few that’s actually, well, good. (After all, does anyone remember “The Dukes of Hazzard”?)

Co-written and directed by Joe Carnahan (“Smokin’ Aces”), “The A Team” is a modern, slam-bang prequel that shows just how these four outrageous characters met and became the legendary soldiers of fortune hiding somewhere in Los Angeles willing to take on a good cause.

In this incarnation, Hannibal (Liam Neeson, “Clash of the Titans”), Face (Bradley Cooper, pictured, “The Hangover”), B.A. Baracus (UFC star Quentin “Rampage” Jackson) and Howling Mad Murdock (a very funny Sharlto Copley, “District 9”) are the elite crew of Army Rangers framed for swiping a set of U.S. printing plates from Iraqi insurgents (it’s never explained why these insurgents have the plates, but no one really cares after the first few explosions).

Despite being sent to different prisons (and one mental hospital), the quartet defies all odds — and logic — and escapes. They reunite to set upon one mad scheme after another in order to clear their good names.

Each plan is more crazed than the other, thanks to a healthy stunt and special-effects budget that could have easily funded all five seasons of the original series.

While the stunts and action sequences are fun, what’s truly appealing about “The A Team” is that these guys seem to have a blast performing each one.

The usually dour B.A. excluded, this crew looks genuinely jazzed over each lunatic move, especially the ones that defy the laws of physics (of which there are many).

The actors also have excellent chemistry, making it easy to believe that this quartet has actually been in the trenches together, even as Carnahan dedicates a good portion of the film to new, buff A-lister Cooper in varying forms of undress.

“The A Team.” Starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper. Directed by Joe Carnahan. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking.

Playing in Brooklyn at Access Digital Theatres - Pavilion Cinema and the Bay Ridge Alpine Cinemas.


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