42 Screens: The A-Team

If you have a problem, if nobody else can help and if you can find them, then you can hire the A-Team.  These familiar words come from the hit 80’s show The A-Team, a show famous for Mr. T, its jury-rigging montage and of course that easily recognizable van.  The show ran for five years until it came to an end, making a theatrical version all but inevitable.

The new film brings back our favorite characters, Hannibal, Face, Murdock and B.A, in a modern retelling of the team’s origins.  The film begins in Mexico as we see how the famous team came together only to be shot eight years into the future in Iraq at the moment of their fictional U.S military withdraw, yet before they team gets to go home they have one more mission to perform to retrieve the films macguffin, a set of U.S. treasury plates being used to manufacture counterfeit currency, before things go horribly wrong.  The team, now arrested and tried for a crime they did not commit, are each serving time in separate military prisons before their escape.  Now on the run from Jessica Biel and the Unites States Military, the A-Team faces off against Black Forest, A fictionalized version of Blackwater, and their top agent Brock Pike and the enigmatic Agent Lynch and his CIA.

While the action is the forefront of the film, the characterization of the classic characters is expertly illustrated by this star studded cast.  Liam Neeson shows us the heroic patriotism that each American strives for, constantly trying to show the difference between soldiers and mercenaries.  He is the moral compass of the team, believing in meticulous planning and fate, and above else believes strongly in doing what is right above what is easy.  The villainous Brock Pike, played by Brian Bloom, is the dark to Hannibal’s light.  Pike is the person Hannibal could be, the road not taken.

Bradley Cooper picks up the role of Templeton “Faceman” Peck, the charismatic man who talks his way into any situation and get his hands on whatever he needs.  Cooper plays Face as young, restless and acts without thinking.  He has no responsibilities but is deeper then he lets on.

District 9’s Sharlto Copley takes on the role of the bizarre H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock.  The film keep many of classic Murdock’s traits and characteristics intact, including his amazing piloting abilities, fixation on pop culture characters, surprising knowledge of many topics, acting ability and fluency in other languages (in this case, Swahili). Like his TV counterpart, the film Murdock also leaves open the possibility that he’s simply pretending to be insane.  This is a role that could have been lost to overacting or extremes, but Copley keeps it intact, despite repeatedly letting his accent escape, however Murdock will be the one character that will not make a smooth transition from TV character to film franchise.  Murdock’s appeal was the different persona or obsession he took each week, a plot detail that while gimmicky help illustrate his questionable insanity.  This trait will not carry over well to film, if a personality is not enjoyed it vanishes by next week, but a fan will be forced to wait upwards of three years for a new personality.

Yet despite the amazing job of Liam Neeson, Patrick Wilson and Bradley Cooper, my favourite role of the movie was the role Mr. T made famous, B.A. “Bad Attitude” Baracus.  The original show was create for Mr. T with both the show and they character built around his role, so when the search for an actor to fill the famous role began there was a lot of actors who were considered, yet when all thing came to a close former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson was the lucky recipient.  While originally hesitant of the UFC fighter taking on the acting role, I was won over by the excellent job he did.  B.A. questions the actions of his past and the violence in his life.  His role was not a taxing one but the surprising amount of depth makes it a vibrant role that Jackson adequately fills.

The film version, stuck in development hell since the 1990, hit the big screen on June 11 with a bang.  It is an exciting action movie in the spy genre that feels like a combination of Ocean’s Eleven and Mission: Impossible.  Out of all of the modern remakes that have come in the past, Charlie’s Angels, Starskey and Hutch and Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team successfully captures the feel of the show while not being a slave to it.  It is a excellent modern re-telling of a classic show proving that with enough preparation that any plan can come together.

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