With the coming of June we see a transition of sorts in the summer movies.
In May you typically see your superhero and blockbuster sequel movies that are designed to capture the kids just getting out for the summer break. This month the movies go two directions at once; they either trot out the rare original or they push out something that we’ve all see before: a remake of a TV series.
Which brings us to The A-Team.
I was a teenager of the 1980s so the antics of Hannibal, Face, B.A. and Murdock are not unknown to me. After all, if it weren’t for this classic TV show, the catchphrase "I PITY DA FOOL!", coined by Mr. T would not be in the pop cultural vernacular. It’s been nearly 25 years since the show went off the NBC airwaves, but the legacy of the show lives on in my generation, which is in firm control of Hollywood at the moment. Luckily the obligatory tweaking for the 2010 action movie audience has not lost the spirit of original.
Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith is played by Liam Neeson, and though he does NOT play the character in the cavalier style of George Peppard, the late actor who originated the role he does capture the essence of Peppard’s Hannibal where it counts. He sports the graying hair, the cigar and all the leadership and organizational qualities of the original character. Bradley Cooper plays Lieutenant Templeton "Face" Peck, who was originally played by Dirk Benedict on the TV show and who plays a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo in the movie.
Cooper plays the playboy Face much like Benedict did, playing the slick ladies man/con artist to the hilt. It is suggested that Face had a romance with a pursuing hot female Army investigator (played by Jessica Biel), and when we are introduced to the character Face is about to be executed by a Mexican mafia don after a soiree with his wife. We are introduced to Sergeant Bosco A. "B.A." Barracas at the same time, who enters the film rescuing the iconic black A-Team van from a chop shop in Mexico.
UFC Fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was tabbed to portray the role that Mr. T made into a TV legend, and he pulls it off with surprising hum or and with enough homage to Mr. T’s TV version to identify B.A., but not dominate the movie. Finally, the insane role of Captain H.M. Murdock is played by the delightfully goofy Sharlito Copely, who plays Murdock almost dead-ringer nuts as Dwight Shultz original character, with enough intelligence to indicate that Murdock is barely in control.
The main story after the obligatory vignette at the beginning that introduces the team is set in the end days of the Iraq War. While the regular soldiers are packing up the gear and preparing to ship out, Hannibal and his team are recruited to steal engraving plates used in the minting of American money back from the Iraqi Army insurgents, who stole them from the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. A CIA Agent (played by Patrick Wilson) passes up a private security force headed by a man named Pike (Brian Bloom)in order for the A-Team to do the job with the blessing of General Morrison (Gerald McRaney), the Army’s man in charge
Hannibal expertly plans the covert operation, painstakingly going over every detail. Just as they are to deliver the goods to the General a double-cross takes place, the General dies in a violent humvee explosion, and the A-Team gets the blame. Fans of the TV show know that the team is convicted of the crime, promptly escape from prison, and set about the task of clearing their names.
The movie is a rollicking good time but while it does the TV Show proud this will not be a nominee for an Oscar. Thankfully, the characters or not the plastic action figures from the 1980s TV show, and the violence is actually believable. You will not see a ton of ordinance exchanged between the A-Team and the bad guys without anyone being hit. There are plenty of car chases and crashes, but one thing absent from the movie is the climactic car or van vaulting in a barrel roll over a pit of flames, landing on it’s roof and the occupants emerging from the vehicle with their hands up.
On the one hand, it makes the A-Team seem more legitimate but on the other it points out that audiences are desensitized to violence so much that they forget the simple charm of the original TV show. That’s the only drawback, and you really don’t think about it while your watching the movie.
All-in-all, it’s a great popcorn bucket movie. Perfect early summer fare. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and I think you will be too.
In the end, I love it when a plan comes together with a movie like the A-Team.