Through the 1980’s and 1990’s TV mogul Stephen J. Cannell was at the top of his creative game. He wore many hats as a series creator, writer, and producer, and actor – his latest gig is a recurring role as himself on the ABC series Castle starring Nathan Fillion. As a creator and producer Cannell rode herd over such TV series as Baa Baa Black Sheep, Greatest American Hero, The Rockford Files, HardCastle and McCormick, and The A-Team.
With the recent explosion in Hollywood of remakes it is no surprise that many of Cannell’s shows are prime candidates for such treatment, if not already done so, either in TV or movie form. One of the most popular series that hit the airwaves was The A-Team starring a cigar, and scenery, chomping George Peppard, Dwight Schultz, Dirk Benedict and the iconic Mohawk trimmed, gold blinged Mr. T. The show was short on story logic, long on action sequences, and fueled by the star power and chemistry of the cast. The 2010 movie version is surprisingly faithful to the TV series and carries on with the very same attendant strengths and weaknesses.
In the theatrical version Liam Neeson continues to build up his acting resume by being cast in the dependable mentor role taking over George Peppard’s Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith as the man that always has a plan. Neeson does solid work here but for my money Peppard brought a warmth and winking nod of humour to the role that eludes Neeson.
Taking over as the team conman and lothario from Dirk Benedict is Bradley Cooper as Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck. Cooper first made waves in the TV series Alias and really struck it big with the 2009 comedy hit – The Hangover. Looking very trim and cut, the movie gives him ample opportunities to appear shirtless. Cooper is engaging as the new ‘Face’ and I liked his portrayal better than Dirk Benedict’s.
The real surprise of the new version of the original characters comes from Sharlto Copley of SF film District 9 fame as the team chopper pilot – ‘Howling MadDog’ Murdock. This role as the lunatic chopper pilot is a far cry from the flawed everyman he played in District 9. These two roles show a great dynamic range for the actor and should open many acting doors for him. For my money MadDog was the best character of the series given one never knew what to expect from him. Despite Copley’s stellar work here it is a toss up as to whom I prefer in the role as Dwight Schultz did an equally fantastic job.
The same can be said for the two actors that have played Bosco ‘B.A.’ Baraccus. The original actor Mr T. became a household name because of the character’s physical attributes. Newcomer Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson brings a gold deprived and more toned down version of the character while allowing the Mohawk haircut to survive. Baraccus as the team driver and muscle is a limited character in both incarnations. The running joke of the team tough man being deathly afraid of flying is kept intact with the movie showing exactly how and why this phobia came into being. Note for the purists – the iconic A-Team black and red pin-striped van does make a brief appearance in the film.
The movie version provides a much bigger canvas for all the action set pieces to take place against. Highlights include a chopper/chopper aerial sequence, a downtown highrise heist, an air transport/parachuting tank sequence that defies description and logic, and a pyrotechnic shell game with tanker railroad storage cars. They are done well for the most part though the sound mix was such at times that dialogue was indecipherable during some of the louder action sequences.
This is not a movie one sees for complex or realistic plotting but involves the A-Team being falsely accused and imprisoned of stealing US money plates. They break out to prove their innocence and while they are successful in that respect the team is saddled with followup charges. The end of the movie sets up the A-Team as off the grid band of renegades available for the right fee to solve those peskily difficult to eradicate ‘unsolvable’ problems.
It is amazing how well the movie captures the spirit and fun of the TV series and action junkies questing for an entertaining flick will find The A-Team fits that bill quite adroitly. Loud, noisy, and constantly kinetic; The A-Team is a movie where the plan definitely comes together.
Psst! Stick around for a short call back to the original series after the credits finish rolling.