Those of you fortunate enough to have been born and raised in the 80’s will remember the enduring pleasure of Saturday TV. Back when there were only four channels, no remotes and channel hopping was merely a twinkle in Rupert Murdoch’s eye it was completely conceivable that a prepubescent boy could spend almost one hundred percent of his day basking in the comforting glow of a cathode ray.
The afternoon, pre Noel’s House Party slot was arguably the most lucrative slot of all, often filled by such transatlantic delights as Air Wolf, Knight Rider and Bay Watch. Whilst all the aforementioned shows have a certain kitsch, retro cool about them it is another show which has managed to ingratiate itself into the collective memory of an entire generation. Perhaps this is why it is The A-team who has made the tricky transition to the big screen ahead of its Saturday afternoon contemporaries.
Whilst the re-casting of Hannibal, Face, Murdoch and B.A. has proved popular small talk in bars and pubs both sides of the Atlantic the job of officially filling the roles eventually fell in the lap of Joe Carnahan. Carnahan started making waves with 2002 sleeper hit Narc. He went on to cement his reputation as an action impresario with Smokin’ Aces (2006). The A-team marks his first return to the director’s chair since 2006 and that maybe testament to just how long it has taken to get this project of the ground.
The writing team attached is less than stellar with Carnahan’s self penned screenplay being tweeked and tinkered by actor Brian Bloom (?) and scribe Skip Woods who is responsible for the underperforming actioners Swordfish, Hitman and X-men Origins: Wolverine. Usually I try to stear clear of pictures so blatantly cobbled together by a makeshift band of underachievers but in this case I’m willing to make an exception. After all, the genius of the TV show was never in the writing… fool!
The project really began to gather pace once the principal cast had been confirmed. Whilst the rumour mill had been in overdrive since Carnahan had begun preproduction it was some time before the four soldiers of fortune were unveiled.
One of the first to sign on the dotted line was Liam Neeson. Stepping into George Peppard’s shoes it’s fitting that Neeson, who is by far the most established and experienced actor will be taking on the mantle of John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, leader of The A-team. Neeson’s casting was hotly followed up with the news that Bradley Cooper, fresh off of the back of The Hangover would be turning in a performance as the Lamborghini driving, ladies man Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck. Although The A-team is Cooper’s first dalliance into the realm of action cinema readers with longer memories will remember his stint on hit TV show Alias, in particular, an episode where Cooper’s investigative journalist Will Tippin is forced to join his friendly neighbourhood super spy Sydney Bristow on a particularly dangerous mission.
It was shortly after the casting of Neeson and Cooper that possibley the most crucial bit of casting was confirmed. Not many people would have the stones to replace Mr T in one of television’s most enduring characters but the dubious honour of bringing B.A. Baracus eventually fell to UFC champion, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Whilst Jackson’s back catalogue may lack quality there is no doubting he has a physicality to at least match Mr T, and it’s possible that his affiliation with Bradley Cooper from 2008 gore fest Midnight Meat Train may have also played some part in him landing the role.
The final piece of the puzzle was probably also the most left field. Jim Carrey’s name had been bouncing around the interweb for a number of years but the general consensus was that he was too famous and generally too much to be part of such an ensemble. Luckily for Carnahan the answer to who had the subtle comedy madness to replicate the insatiable Dwight Schultz came at the final hour in 2009’s District 9. Although it was a slight leap from Sharlto Copley’s put upon South African desk Jockey Wikus over to all American, unstable war pilot ‘Howling Mad’ Murdoch the seeds were sown in Copley’s feature film debut. Very soon after that he signed on as the final member of The A-team and if the trailer is anything to go by Copley has nailed the accent and the role.
The staple roles of nemesis and love interest have been filled by the capable pairing of Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel respectively but let’s face it; no one really cares about that. Cameos by original cast members Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz have been confirmed whilst the team behind the movie remain suspiciously cagey about whether or not Mr T may show up.
It’s not often you’ll catch me saying this but on this occasion script and plot are fairly irrelevant. As long as Carnahan delivers some red blooded, mindless destruction coupled with some daringly unlikely plan making he can’t go far wrong. If anything the success of the movie rests almost entirely on the shoulders of the four ‘team members’ who have been tasked with bringing the icons to life once more. With characters this renowned modernising them could be seen as almost sacrilegious however the past incarnations of Hannibal, B.A., Face and Murdoch are so quintessentially eighties that to leave them there would be just as nonsensical. It’s a fine line but as a stalwart fan of the original series, I’m quietly confident that the assembled cast has the balance needed to walk it. So remember; If you have no problems, and no one to hang out with, and if you can find them at your local multiplex, maybe you can go watch… The A-Team.
Watch the trailer now fool!