Andy Bockelman: ‘A-Team’ is A-OK action flick

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“The A-Team”

3 out of 4 stars

117 minutes

Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

Now playing at West Theatre.

Just when you thought the 1980s were long gone, remnants of the decade make a return: an endless supply of stogies, the Mohawk, the black GMC van with the red stripe.

Ladies and gentlemen, “The A-Team.”

Never before has the world seen a military unit like the one led by Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson). Under the brilliant tactician’s command is a crack squad of men: womanizing confidence man Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper); master mechanic and all-around muscle Sgt. Bosco “Bad Attitude” Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson); and Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley), an inimitable pilot with a few screws loose.

Together, they comprise one of the most skilled teams the U.S. Army has to offer with a long list of successful missions to prove it. But before they can add another tally to their win column while in Iraq, the group is double-crossed by the leader (Brian Bloom) of an American private security firm.

With their commanding officer (Gerald McRaney) dead as a result, the A-Team’s latest covert activities have the appearance of treason, leading to their dishonorable discharges and imprisonment.

But, being behind bars isn’t about to halt the little cogs ticking away inside Hannibal’s noggin, and with the help of a CIA agent (Patrick Wilson), he’s got a plan for his men to escape and set things right.

He may not be the man of a thousand faces that George Peppard was in his portrayal of Hannibal Smith, but Neeson is no less riveting as the gray-haired, cigar-chomping leader nicknamed after the intrepid Carthaginian general.

Cooper shines as his protégé, a wiz at forgeries and procuring sundries of all kinds. Though, if the name Face is any indication, it’s his luck with the fairer sex that’s his real specialty. It certainly comes in handy that the officer (Jessica Biel) chasing after them upon their prison breaks is his former flame.

Likewise, Copley leaps into his role with the reckless abandon, perfectly befitting that of part-time mental hospital resident Murdock, who never truly seems insane but definitely isn’t all there.

After all, you have to be at least a little crazy to attempt to fly a free-falling tank, and that goes for all these misfits.

As for the final member of the dauntless quartet, Ultimate Fighting Championship contender Jackson may not have the yards and yards worth of gold adorning his neck, wrists and fingers like his role’s original actor, but he gives B.A. a pensive, conflicted quality that really works.

Still, nobody denounces foo’s like Mr. T, and fans of Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo’s creation aren’t about to forget their favorite star.

The prevailing sentiment of updating the bullet-riddled 1980s TV darling is in preserving the best elements of the show while still adding something new to it. Besides creating a new back story for how the team comes together, the makers predictably ramp up the violence and the graphic nature thereof, and it actually succeeds on the big screen.

While the original show may have been notorious for constant gun fire with almost no injuries of good guys or bad guys — as well as the guarantee of at least one car spiraling through the air per episode or your money back — the rounds of ammunition find their target more often here, and the realism makes a considerable difference.

Nonetheless, director/co-writer Joe Carnahan keeps things fresh and fun amid the heavy fire, and although the energy starts to drain in the final moments, this actioner works from beginning to end.

What makes “The A-Team” really boom is that there are equal levels of believability and escapism. Factor in a bit of nostalgia — just check out the pair of cameos they’ve got waiting after the credits — and you’ve got one great popcorn movie.

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Now playing at West Theatre.

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