After more than 20 years off screen, The A-Team shoots, blasts and bombs its way back into pop culture today in theaters everywhere. Originally a TV action vehicle that made Mr. T a household name in the early 1980s — with possibly the best theme song ever — The A-Team again has a bunch of soldiers framed for a crime they didn’t commit, this time in the forms of Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. It’s one of two old-school properties debuting today — I won’t mention the other one, as it won’t have a scene as good as this — so read below for what this child of the ‘80s thought about the new A-Team.
Photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
Story time: 27 years ago, after 7-year-old me had just received 30 nasty pricks in my arm because of an allergy test, my parents took me to the toy store and I picked out a Mr. T A-Team action figure. He was my favorite guy on my favorite TV show, the only one I actually put down my toys to watch for 60 minutes, and I carried that little guy around for months. So being a fan from back in the day, I gotta say I was intrigued, somewhat concerned but altogether excited about the new A-Team movie.
Sure, it was awesome and so far the best summer movie of 2010, but not because of all the great lines (which are many, most stated by Patrick Wilson’s antagonistic CIA agent) or over-the-top explosive set pieces (see you later, Port of Los Angeles!) or those old nods to the original show (GMC vans, trademark Mohawks and plans coming together, oh my!). It’s because the movie has successfully grown up along with its core audience: big kids like myself.
Go watch the old show now. It’s as campy as ever, and tends to be a lot cheesier than you might recall. (Remember that time Boy George showed up? I know you do.) This new A-Team movie, though, has some gravitas to it. Our four heroic Army Rangers are the scapegoats in a conspiracy to steal a bunch of United States treasury plates in post-Saddam Iraq. They’re sent to various military prisons, naturally bust out in style, and race to stop the bad guys and clear their names. It all feels a little more perilous than it did 27 years ago, when by the end of the hour you knew the foursome would always save the day.
And credit director Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, Narc) for not being lazy and simply pandering to those who would automatically show up to an A-Team movie no matter how good or bad. He appeals to old fans and people who make fun of those people because they’re so “old.” A highly effective opening sequence brilliantly introduces all four characters — Neeson’s Hannibal, Cooper’s Face, Copley’s “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock and Jackson’s B.A. — and he gives them all reason to want to stick together and go on the craziest missions ever. Sure, you’re going to have to suspend pretty much every bit of disbelief in your entire body, but Carnahan keeps it as authentic as one can. When Jessica Biel’s character, an old flame of Face’s, says, “They specialize in the ridiculous,” there’s no real reason to disagree with her.
Also fun to see: Each actor mixing a bit of the old and the new with their characters. Neeson chomps cigars with gusto. Copley is fittingly insane as Murdock. Jackson, who’s a pretty good actor for being a mixed martial artist, crosses that Mr. T bravado with an inner struggle you never saw in the original. And while shooting down airborne drones in a parachuting tank and flirting with Biel in the desert, Cooper looks like he’s having the most fun of anybody. Well, at least that makes two of us.