Liam Neeson stars in 1980s revamp of 'The A-Team.' (Too bad there's not a plot).

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Liam Neeson and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson star in the ‘The A-Team’

Doug Curran/20th Century Fox/AP
Clockwise from left, Liam Neeson, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Sharlto Copley and Bradley Cooper are shown in a scene from, 'The A-Team.'

It probably won’t matter to its core audience that “The A-Team” doesn’t make a lick of sense.

As I recall, the 1980s TV show it’s based on didn’t make a lot of sense either. It may not even matter that it’s not very good.

What matters in the end, what always matters in these Type A flicks, is how many explosions there are, and how loud.

By this reckoning, and only this, “The A-Team” rates an A. In every other respect it’s yet another steroid-pumped thrill ride targeting young males who want something else from life besides steel-cage mixed-martial arts matches on cable.

Funny thing, a mixed martial arts champ, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, shows up in Mr. T’s “B.A.” Baracus role. Alas, his acting skills, or, to be more exact, his enunciation skills, make Mr. T sound like John Gielgud. [Editor's note: The original version identified Jackson simply as a martial artist.]

For a while I thought something was wrong with the theater’s sound system – I couldn’t make out a word he was saying. But I had no trouble hearing the other actors, though their dialogue was equally disposable. My guess is that the co-writer/director Joe Carnahan was afraid that if he criticized Jackson he’d get hit real hard upside the head.

On second thought, “Rampage” Jackson gives one of the finest debut performances in Hollywood history.

The original A-Team members were Vietnam vets; now they’re veterans of the Iraq war. “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson) is the swaggering honcho; Bradley Cooper is “Face” Peck, a master con artist and, it follows as surely as night follows day, irresistible to women; Sharlto Copley, the memorable maniac from “District 9,” is the goony bird “Howling Mad” Murdock. And Jackson, as I said, is the team’s elocution instructor. (On third thought, I choose to live dangerously.)

The “plot” has something to do with how the A-Team goes in for some heavy-duty payback after being double-crossed, stripped of their ranks, and locked in the hoosegow. Their chief adversary is an ice-cold CIA creep played by Patrick Wilson.

For some reason – maybe it’s the smart tailoring and the lethal purr of his intonations – he reminded me of a Wall Street bad guy. Too bad he wasn’t. The movie business needs a new species of villain, and the CIA is very old news. Memo to Hollywood: Wall Street, not K Street.

Jessica Biel, who might as well have “Movie’s Sex Appeal” tattooed on her forehead, or somewhere, shows up as a military investigator. She doesn’t once crack a smile, which gives you an idea of just how serious this actress is. She looks very good in sunglasses, though.

My favorite moment of deep think comes when Baracus, who has temporarily forsworn violence – well, not violence exactly, just killing and squashing – receives a minitutorial from his team leader in the error of his ways. Contrary to popular belief, Baracus’s newfound hero, Gandhi, justified the use of violence. It’s true. “Hannibal” says so. You can look it up.

Let’s just be thankful that Carnahan, instead of redoing “The A-Team,” didn’t remake “Gandhi.” The Ganges would have run red. Pacifism is for wussies. Grade: C- (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language, and smoking.)


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