THE A-TEAM — ★★★ — Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, slurs, brief gore, brief drugs, torture, vulgarity); in general release
"The A-Team" is, in essence, a B-movie.
Oh, it may have a cast of well-known actors, some of whom might be considered A-list celebrities (Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper, most notably). And it did have a considerably larger production budget — which was reportedly in excess of $100 million — than most B-movies have.
But this action/revenge-thriller is still a B-movie. It is, after all, a movie based on a television series (from the mid-'80s) whose most notable qualities were dubious at best.
However, that said, it is a fun B-movie. It features more in the way of "big dumb action" than nearly anything else that's currently in theaters.
It's sort of refreshing to see something this summer that doesn't take itself too seriously. Even if it is a big-screen adaptation of the small-screen concept.
In co-screenwriter/director Joe Carnahan's version, the title characters are four members of a so-called "Alpha Team," made up of covert but effective U.S. Army Rangers.
They're led by Hannibal (Neeson), who provides the brains. The brawn is "B.A." Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson), the second-in-command is the charismatic "Faceman" (Cooper) and the wild card/chauffeur is Murdock (Sharlto Copley).
Unfortunately, they've been falsely accused of stealing U.S. Treasury plates, and, after a quick court-martial, are convicted and imprisoned. As expected, the four break out of their respective prisons, and all are determined to bring the real culprits to justice.
All the while they're being followed by Face's ex, Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel), a U.S. Department of Defense investigator, as well as a shady CIA man known simply as Lynch (Patrick Wilson).
Things get pretty silly in the final 20 or so minutes. And the romance subplot between Cooper and a bland Biel is a slight misstep.
Yet there's a lot of fun action. A sequence in which Face shoots down drone planes — while he's inside a plummeting tank — is probably the best of the bunch.
The cast is clearly having a good time with this material. That's not only true of Neeson but also of mixed martial arts fighter Jackson and South African actor Copley ("District 9").
"The A-Team" is rated PG-13 and features strong violent content and imagery (fisticuffs and brawling, gunplay and shootings, fiery and explosive mayhem, vehicular mayhem, and violence against women), occasional strong profanity, derogatory language and slurs (some based on nationality and country of origin, others based on supposed mental instabilities, others sexist in nature), some bloody imagery, brief drug content (injections and use of sedatives), a pair of scenes depicting violent interrogation, and some suggestive language and off-color references (including vulgar slang). Running time: 117 minutes.