Movie News & Reviews

'A-Team' a rush of raw, radical fun

This weekend when I faced the choice between a kid and a kickass van, I went with the van.

So now you know where my loyalties lie, ladies. Sorry to disappoint all you looking to settle down with me. But as much as I love Jackie Chan, I just thought there was more potential in The A-Team than The Karate Kid.

Without having seen The Karate Kid, I can say with complete confidence that, as usual, I was right -- but I had no idea just how right I would be. In fact, I'm in such a good mood right now, I solemnly promise to make no Mr. T-related puns for the duration of this piece.

Liam Neeson and his team of maverick Army Rangers might be the best\ special ops men in the business. When plates for a U.S. mint go missing in Baghdad--a theft that could lead to billions in counterfeit bills--Neeson's A-Team is sent to recover the gear.

They return in triumph, only to be framed for the murder of a general by mercenary Brian Bloom. The A-Team's arrested, jailed. CIA agent Patrick Wilson contacts Neeson to offer a deal: if they'll hunt Bloom down and recover the plates, he'll bust them out of federal prison.

The A-Team is a ridiculous movie. It's so ridiculous it probably still wears parachute pants as it tools around town on a banana-yellow Segway equipped with a horn that plays "La Cucaracha." It doesn't even make a token gesture towards realism. It's a nonstop rush of stalling helicopters, handcuffing dogs, and shooting UAVs with tanks.

In other words, it's a druglike experience of radical mayhem you'll be wholly unable to appreciate if you're an enemy of fun.

It's okay to hate fun. There is something awful about the fact Transformers 8 will make more money in a year than the state of Delaware. We need people to remind us of that, to hop up on the soapbox and shout "You fools! Don't you realize there's more to life than dinosaurs and death rays?!"

I'm just saying if you can't appreciate the raw, awesome glory of crash landing a free-falling tank into an alpine lake, you might be more comfortable rewatching something from your shelf of Iranian cinema instead.

Yet frothing-at-the-mouth action is not the only weapon director/cowriter Joe Carnahan brings to bear. Carnahan's past work has showed a lot of the sleazy, riff-heavy, sub-sub-Tarantinoism that infected a whole generation of directors, but he's wisely expanded his repertoire to include Paul Greengrass' Bourne shakycam, and editing that's a bizarrely effective amalgam of Michael Bay's cuts and the extended montage-feel of The Departed, leaving The A-Team breezy, cocky, and loaded with laughs.

The cast helps on that front. That last part has a lot to do with the cast. Sharlto Copley (the lead from District 9) is a funny, funny man, and Bradley Cooper isn't just the empty face I thought him to be. Wilson's hilarious, too. Carnahan gives their banter an improvisational feel, then rips right along, making you race to catch up with all the jokes happening on the sidelines.

Granted, it's not all fun and games and missile strikes. The third act sags as soon as it turns serious, and it's totally soaked in the flashy gasoline of big Hollywood action movies. But it works, damn it. Way more than it has any right to. The A-Team is how mindless entertainment should look.

Grade: B+