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The A-Team

In the final days of the Iraq War, members of an elite commando unit were sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from four maximum security prisons to take revenge on the man who framed them. If you are having a boring summer at the movies, if Sex and the City 2 left a bad taste in your mouth, and if you can find a theater playing it, you need to see The A-Team.

It's no overstatement to declare that The A-Team is the first great action film of the summer. Say what you will about Iron Man 2, but the degree and multitude of insane sequences in The A-Team trump the more narcissistic Marvel sequel -- at least in that particular category. It is no innovation that a summer blockbuster would employ action as its primary tool for separating you from your cash, but The A-Team does so with an entirely different mindset than most brain-dead popcorn fare.

Instead of assaulting us with nonstop action and then having the audacity to mask itself as being high art, The A-Team embraces just how ludicrous the action sequences are and makes absolutely no apologies for it. That's not to say, though, the movie has nothing to offer beyond the explosions and midair collisions. In fact, what makes The A-Team such a damn good film is the clever underscore that complements every moment of mesmerizing destruction. Joe Carnahan, along with the other writers, gives us moments that subtly poke fun at the outlandishness of what we're seeing that not only makes the absurd action forgivable but immediately elevates the material above the typical summer fodder.

Carnahan recognized that, given the tone of both the series and his last film (Smokin' Aces), the action scenes needed to flow uninterrupted, and here it's very streamlined, only pausing briefly to give us hilarious interactions between the larger-than-life characters before diving head-first back into the explosive fray. Until the very end of the film, each plan is carried out before our eyes as it is being hashed out to neutralize any lacking in the pace. It would be easy to then accuse The A-Team of being front-loaded, given the slow build to the final sequence, but I would argue that is merely a nod to the evolution of Face's character as a leader and that it never really loses steam.

What really sells this film, however, is its cast. Like the original quartet of chaos, each actor brings something fantastic to the table. Bradley Cooper, as Face, has that inescapably charming swagger and confidence we've come to expect from him; Liam Neeson, unsurprisingly, is the perfect blend of in-the-trenches badass and cool-as-ice leader. Even Rampage Jackson, in the role made famous by a guy donning the entire payload of Ft. Knox around his neck (that'd be Mr. T), turns in a respectably tough performance with a few moments of decent hubris. But it's Sharlto Copley who really steals the show as Howlin' Mad Murdock. True to his character's moniker, Copley cranks up the lunacy and plays Murdock with a hilariously reckless abandon that mirrors the tone of the entire film.

Though not without fault (the less-than-thrilling CG near the end of the film is amateurish at best and many will find the over-the-top action too silly to appreciate), all in all this movie rocks hard. The interplay between our heroes is at the heart of the film's entertainment value and is what you will probably like the most about it. Personally, I can't remember the last time I had this much fun at the movies. The A-Team is far better than it has any right to be, mainly because it is as much a four-sided character piece as it is a balls-out actioner. rated this film 3 stars.