The eighties are nothing more than memories for most people now, bad memories for some music lovers, but good memories for fans of the simpler days of TV watching. TV in the eighties was innocent escapist fare full of fun and excitement and even thrills and chills without the explicit, gritty realism that passes for entertainment today. One show that was particularly fun to watch was The A-Team; an adventure series featuring a band of former Army rangers who wandered around helping people with problems that the ordinary law enforcement community couldn’t handle. It was not complicated—the plots were simplistic and predictable—nor was it overly violent. There were plenty of car chases, explosions and gun fire but nobody ever died on camera. I cannot even remember if anyone ever even got shot or seriously hurt. That didn’t matter, though, because that was not what drew in viewers. People wanted to see the good guys triumph over evil, even if the bad guy was two dimensional and spouting bad monologues.
Like so many former TV shows, The A-Team has been revived for the big screen. Ordinarily, I would complain about another movie based on an old show as demonstrating the lack of originality of Hollywood, but I can’t really complain about this one. Unlike other shows that flopped as a remake like the Dukes of Hazard and Starsky and Hutch, the A-Team is a roaring success for one simple reason: they kept it true to the original rather than try to make it into a farcical joke of itself.
The A-Team is the story of four soldiers, Colonel John (Hannibal) Smith, Sergeant Boscoe (BA) Baracas, Lieutenant Templeton (Faceman) Peck, and Captain H.M. (Howling Mad) Murdock, who escape prison after being wrongly convicted of a crime and flee to the Los Angeles underground where they exist as soldiers of fortune. The original series had the group as Vietnam vets where the movie bases the timeline as the Iraq war. The group is an elite fighting force with unique skills that enable them to do just about anything they need to and they use these skills to right wrongs.
Liam Neeson plays Hannibal, a part pioneered by the late George Peppard, the cigar chomping, leader of the gang who “loves it when a plan comes together.” Watching Neeson as Hannibal evokes the spirit of Peppard as he plays the character to a T. Bradley Cooper assumes Dirk Benedict’s Faceman just as transparently. He has as much fun being Peck as Benedict did. He also brings a new physicality to the role as he made Peck as much a fighter as a lover. Sharlto Copley is Murdock, the insane pilot of the group. His antics, while not as over the top as the original Dwight Schultz, drive much of the plot. Last but not lease is the character of BA. Originally played by (actually crafted for) Mr. T, UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson brings a bit more depth to the otherwise 2-dimensional strongman of the team. The words “I pity the fool,” are never uttered in the movie, but BA’s dialog is delivered with a greater range of emotion.
The movie is a hoot—great fun to watch. It does stretch the imagination at times with some of the stunts (and that is a real problem in Hollywood) and the rollercoaster action, but it is so much fun to watch that it is easy to suspend disbelief a little more to enjoy the ride. They even play the original Mike Post theme song and the introductory narration from the TV show in the movie. Fans of the original show will love this movie and the younger generation who never knew about it will thoroughly enjoy it as well. It is a film for the whole family.