The A-Team (2010)

Posted: September 14, 2014 in Movie Review
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The A-Team (2010)

Director: Joe Carnahan

Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Sharito Copley, Patrick Wilson

In 1982, a quaintly silly television program began what would be a five-year run on NBC. This action-comedy, starring George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz and Mr. T promptly became one of the most popular shows of the 1980’s. Today, still enjoyed by the public, it survives in reruns, on DVD and through Netflix streaming. If you have a problem, if no currently airing TV shows are worth watching, and if you can find it, maybe you can watch “The A-Team.”

Failing that, you have this modern cinematic update, bearing only the most superficial of resemblances to the original, to fall back on. As we are now in the 2010’s, our heroes needed a military history in Iraq, not Vietnam. The movie chooses not to begin, as the show did, with the foursome answering the call of anyone who needs aid while members of the U.S. Military who intend to return the A-Team to the stockade from which the fugitives escaped. In fact, that part of their journey has been left for a sequel that may never happen. Instead, we begin with how they all first came together, eight years ago. Part of this introduction involves the same kind of joke that almost made it into the final cut of 2009’s “Star Trek,” with the vehicle known from the TV series to be the one in which our heroes conduct their errands of mercy (a black van with red stripes) being unceremoniously destroyed. We also discover just why it is that B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) is so afraid of getting on a plane.

The plot involves U.S. treasury plates that have somehow found their way into Iraqi hands, and a CIA agent who identifies himself only as Lynch (Patrick Wilson) coming to Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson) and his team with a black ops mission to retrieve them. DCIS Captain Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel), a former lover of Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper), warns Hannibal against taking the mission, and she’s there to arrest them when it goes south. They’re innocent; it was their superior officer who disobeyed a direct order from Sosa and allowed the mission to proceed. Now it appears he has been killed, Sosa is demoted to lieutenant, and the A-Team is sent to prison. Naturally, what follows will be the A-Team’s escape from prison, with questionable aid from Lynch. The rest of the movie plays like a sillier version of “The Fugitive” with the A-Team in the Harrison Ford role, and Sosa taking Tommy Lee Jones’s position as the “I will not rest until…” manhunt leader obsessed with tracking them down.

It’s to the movie’s credit that it tries to go its own way while maintaining a certain familiarity for fans of the series. Any comparison between the two casts likewise should be based only on the quality of the actors’ individual performances and not on  whether they were an accurate representation of their TV counterparts. Bradley Cooper, as Face, could stand to be a touch more narcissistic, but he does okay. His Face is reckless and arrogant but also proves that he has a good mind for strategy. Probably comes from hanging around Hannibal Smith. In the years since “Taken,” Liam Neeson has been enjoying a great second career as an action star. Nope, “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” didn’t count. He’s much better now that he’s not blithering on about midichlorians and other Jedi nonsense. The problem with his performance in “The A-Team” is that you never once forget that you’re watching Liam Neeson. George Peppard was and always will be the one, true John “Hannibal” Smith. Likewise, it’s ridiculous to even compare “Rampage” Jackson to Mr. T. Do that, and the only conclusion you can come to is that NO ONE can be B.A. except Mr. T.

Although Mr. T was undoubtedly the breakout star of the original show, my reason for watching was always Dwight Schultz as “Howling Mad” Murdock. Some of the show’s best comedic bits were his. In the 2010 movie, my primary reason for watching is Bradley Cooper (… and Jessica Biel, I’m not going to lie),  however Sharito Copley probably has the best role of any of them. He gets to play a guy who seems to be a few cards short of a full deck (and is in fact committed to a mental hospital while the others are in prison), and yet displays such unique brilliance in his skills as a helicopter pilot and his knowledge of multiple languages. Copley’s no replacement for Schultz, but he may still be the best thing about this version of “The A-Team.”

It’s always a curiosity to see what, if any involvement there will be in a remake from the cast of the original production. To my surprise and delight, two of the three surviving cast members (RIP George Peppard) have brief cameos. Visiting the tanning bed in the military prison where he is serving his time, Face looks to a fellow inmate for a tip regarding facial protection. That man is, of course, Dirk Benedict. During a shock therapy session to which Murdock has submitted, his observing neurologist is Dwight Schultz. Additionally, the opening credits of a movie that plays in the mental hospital include the names of G.F. Starbuck (in reference to Dirk Benedict’s character from the late 1970’s “Battlestar Galactica” series) and Reginald Barclay (a character made famous by Dwight Schultz in multiple guest appearances on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”).

Ultimately, it is the very name of “The A-Team” that is this movie’s biggest enemy. As the trend of remaking everything grows increasingly annoying, I have to admit that even I originally gave this one a pass simply because it was called “The A-Team.” The same movie, by any other name, would still be an enjoyable, somewhat forgettable action flick. Having said that, consider the source material. Both film and TV show are products of their time. 2010’s “The A-Team” is more or less a taste of what the 1980’s TV show might have been had it been created three decades later.


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