Who’s In It: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Brian Bloom, Gerald McRaney
The Basics: Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson) is the cigar-chomping leader of a band of wrongly imprisoned soldiers trying to clear their name. He loves it when a plan comes together, which he exclaims every ten minutes. Lt. Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper) is his pretty boy second-in-command, who conveniently used to sleep with the hot Department of Defense officer (Jessica Biel) hell bent on taking the squad back in. Capt. H. M. “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley, doing a strange British-South African-Texan accent) is the maybe-clinically insane pilot they pick up at a mental hospital. And finally, Sgt. B. A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) is the sturdy fella trying his hardest to be as cool as Mr. T, even though nobody is as cool as Mr. T. Together they are the A-Team, whether you like it or not.
What’s The Deal: Joe Carnahan, the guy who made the insanely entertaining assassin shoot-out Smokin’ Aces, takes the basics of the beefy post-Vietnam action series’ premise and characters and dumps them into an explosion-y adventure made up of silly set pieces, a superficially complex plot, and plenty of clever one-liners – a combination that’ll do the job if you’re looking for the kind of mindless summer popcorn flick in which guys surf down skyscrapers and try to fly a tank. This is a movie where Bradley Cooper’s uber-sexy shirtlessness tries to distract us from the fact that his character has about two degrees of complexity, and in that it succeeds smashingly. You won’t remember the silly plot details, but Cooper’s tan abs and flirty smiles will linger.
Mindlessness Over Matter: Don't let the film's Iraq war setting fool you; Carnahan may have some subtextural statement to make on Middle Eastern politics and soldiers suffering for the greed and corruption of government figures, but he's slightly more concerned about delivering enough bombastic set pieces to carry his maniacal adventure through to the end. The only reason it opens during the American withdrawal from Iraq is to set up a scenario in which the guys get framed and have to go after a briefcase of stolen treasury printing plates. And really, the only reason they're after the briefcase full of printing plates is so that Hannibal can rappel along the windows of a 30-story building while getting shot at by a dozen bad guys whose bullets all magically fail to kill him. Incidentally, the window pane and machine gun budgets on this $110 million movie must have been huge.
Least Convincing Example Of CGI: Carnahan's slick action scenes are done practically at first, but as the film goes on things get increasingly and distractingly pixel heavy. That trend culminates in the big finale, in which Quinton "Rampage" Jackson dances around in front of a green screen while a cargo ship's load of computerized holding cars falls like building blocks around him. Only slightly less annoying is the other CG-heavy scene, in which Bradley Cooper sticks his head out of the top of a parachuting tank to gleefully machine-gun a pair of Predator drones.
Most Unexpected/Inappropriate Use Of Philosophical Teachings To Get Someone In A Killing Mood: When Hannibal shakes B.A. out of his recent conversion to non-violence by quoting a passage from Gandhi. A pro-violence quote from Gandhi. Before too long, B.A.'s mohawk and mojo return and he's back to cracking spines -- you know, just like Gandhi used to do.