"Overkill is underrated," says a member of The A-Team, befitting a movie in which an armored tank parachutes through the air, a helicopter flies upside-down and Jessica Biel convincingly portrays a no-nonsense Army investigator. All of these things are, on a theoretical level, possible. But The A-Team sells them with such bombast and flair that you know the filmmakers are in on the joke. This is the movie G.I. Joe should have been.
The genius of a feature film based on the 1980s TV series is that it can't help but exceed expectations, because they're going to be so low to begin with. I never watched the series, and know nothing about it except that it co-starred Mr. T, who sported his iconic mohawk and was the team's toughest member. In the new incarnation, Mr. T's character is played by Quinton "Rampage'' Jackson, a mixed-martial-arts and UFC fighting champion. Jackson also sports a finely groomed mohawk, and, though he never actually says the phrase, he has the words "pity" and "fool" tattooed on his knuckles.
A lot of director Joe Carnahan's humor is of the wink-nudge variety - an elbow to the ribs and then, to prove he's not completely kidding, a spectacular action sequence that must set a new record for onscreen explosions. The rest of the A-Team is comprised of Liam Neeson (loyal, brave leader), Bradley Cooper (irrepressible playboy) and District 9's Sharlto Cooper (a talented pilot and also completely insane). The plot, which involves the heroes' being framed and sent to prison and some stolen counterfeiting money-pressing plates, practically defies conprehension. When one character says "What is happening? What is going on?" you know the filmmakers are having a good-natured laugh at your expense.
The A-Team is a gigantic pile of ear-deafening nonsense, but it is brisk and goofy and well shot by Carnahan (Smokin' Aces) and a lot livelier than Robin Hood or Iron Man 2. Did this mostly forgotten series really deserve to be dusted off and turned into a film franchise? Probably not. But logic and common sense have no business in a movie in which even the characters can't keep track of what's going on.
The A-Team (**1/2 out of ****) opens in South Florida on Friday June 11.