“THE A-TEAM” DELIVERS ACTION

Although I was never a huge fan of “The A-Team” when it was a popular NBC television series from January 1983 to December of 1986, I did watch enough episodes here and there to get the gist of the show. But some people I know lived and died each week with Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard), Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Dirk Benedict), Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz), and Sgt. First Class Bosco Albert “Bad Attitude” Baracus (Mr. T). The cast is pictured below.

For the uninitiated, these four guys were members of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam who became mercenaries and constantly pushed the envelope as they fought to assist various oppressed people. And of course it is only a matter of time until Hollywood gets hold of a successful TV series and adapts it to the big screen. Those who enjoyed the original episodes and who like lots of action should find plenty to like in the modern version because it is fast-paced, offers a nice blend of action and humor, and boasts some excellent performances by its four main stars.

The film begins with an extended opening credits sequence in which we meet the main characters. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) is faced with the task of escaping from some nasty Mexicans who set two attack dogs loose on him. Naturally he makes a successful exit from the bad guys and their nasty curs and sets out to help his buddy “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper) get away from some guys who want to set him afire for sleeping with their leader’s wife. To accomplish this, Smith is aided by fellow ranger B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson). These opening scenes set the tone for the effective combination of comedy and drama that runs throughout the film.

Smith, Peck, and Baracus, along with “Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley), a semi-maniac with uncanny skills as a pilot, were members of a superb fighting unit in Iraq, but they definitely have their enemies who frame them for stealing something that is incredibly valuable to a number of people. The four of them are apprehended and sent to prison, but they manage to escape with the help of a CIA operative (Patrick Wilson), and they promptly set out to prove their innocence and identify those who are truly responsible for the theft.

“The A-Team” certainly isn’t the greatest action film ever made, but it satisfactorily entertaining and a lot of fun to watch because of the great chemistry among its four stars. Neeson is absolutely superb as the fearless leader who is the happiest when one of his many plans succeeds. At one point in the film, he encounters some members of another unit, and their leader pushes Smith’s buttons to trigger the following exchange.

Smith: “Look at you clowns. You’re not soldiers. You’re assassins in polo shirts.”

Unite Leader: “We’ll make in a week what you guys make in a year.”

Smith: “Cash don’t by guts, kid. Or brains. And you’re short on both.”

Neeson is a gifted actor with a great range, and in the film’s production notes, he explained why he was drawn to the film.

“I was really taken with the relationship between the four guys that [co-screenwriters] Joe [Carnahan] and Brian [Bloom] managed to keep at the heart of the script. Clearly a lot of thought had gone into the story and characters, and the script had a wonderful camaraderie between the guys. Hannibal is a believable hero. He’s moral, has a strong sense of ethics and loves his country and his men.”

Matching Neeson’s fine performance are Cooper as the smooth-talking Peck, who has absolutely no respect for the sanctity of marriage, Copley as Murdock, who despite being slightly deranged, can make a helicopter do impossible things, and Jackson as Baracus, who has the capability to break men in half with his bare hands but who is strangely reluctant to do so. When you watch this film, it is obvious that all four of the stars really had fun playing their respective parts.

Another star that enjoyed making the film was Jessica Biel, who plays Lt. Charisa Sosa, an agent of Defense Department who has a history with Face and who leads strong opposition against the A-Team. In the production notes, Biel explained what she liked so much about her character.

“Joe (screen writer Carnahan) was emphatic that Sosa wasn’t going to be the testosterone-laden female element of the story, and she isn’t. It’s sometimes hard to get the right balance of femininity and strength in a role like this, but she’s cool and savvy and so skilled that she could probably be a member of the A-Team, but she’s also extremely comfortable with who she is and as such, is not afraid to show her feminine side.”

In addition the nice performances in it, “The A-Team” (Let’s give it a 7.) offers practically nonstop action, some terrific stunt work, and outstanding pyrotechnics. One of the best scenes in the film is an absolutely riveting helicopter chase that should have you on the edge of your seat. As you may or may not know, the A-Team is the nickname for Operational Detachments Alpha, but in addition to Alpha, that A might just as well stand for “ACTION” and plenty of it!

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