Monday, June 14, 2010

These Aren't The Losers; They're THE A-TEAM

Joe Carnahan’s big screen A-Team isn’t as tough and gritty as his Narc (2002) or as much of a cesspool of zesty gore as his loopy Smokin’ Aces (2007). It’s big, broad, and goofy. It’s short on character and long on energetic cacophony, but boy did I enjoy that big, goofy cacophony. It’s satisfying on a pulpy genre level where good guys slam into bad guys with guts and gusto. The movie’s a whiz-bang, red-blooded adventure with over-the-top moments following one after the other. I could not, for even one second, believe it on any emotional or character level, but I believed it on a pulpy movie level, the kind of sheer dumb enjoyment that made me chuckle and grin all the way through.

Taking its cues from the 80’s television show, the movie follows a team of daring-doers who pull off convoluted and nearly impossible plans on their way to get the bad guys. Liam Neeson is a delight here, building off his new action movie credibility bought with his intimidating turn as the vengeful father in Taken, becoming the leader of this A-Team. As the men under his command, Bradley Cooper smirks while Sharlto Copley is enjoyably loony and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson pities fools.

They strike poses capably and look good walking in slow motion or delivering kicks and punches that land with loud smacks and thumps on the soundtrack. This is not the kind of movie that inspires great acting – though it is a film that knows how to find the perfect pro-war Gandhi quote – but the team works well together and they are more than up to the task of shouting brisk exposition over roaring engines and fiery explosions. They’re accused of a crime they didn’t commit, you see, and are consequently on the run from both the military (led by the gorgeous and tough Jessica Biel) and the CIA (led by the ably slimy Patrick Wilson). This calls for all kinds of narrow escapes and close calls on the way to shoot up and blow up a whole bunch of stuff.

It hangs together less as a narrative and more as a series of extended action beats. Carnahan cuts the action a little too fast, diluting clarity, but he still manages to pull off really sensational moments of inspired ridiculousness. So enjoyably cracked are these moments that they blew past any quibbles I have with the film and carried me on a wave of entertainment. This is the kind of movie that finds its heroes sitting around eating red meat, chomping cigars, laughing, smiling, high-fiving, and generally being pretty pleased with how cool their stunts are. I was right there with them, succumbing to my basest instincts and enjoying every Smash! Bash! Crash! and Kablooey! that was sent my way.

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