Steve Cannell produced some of the greatest TV shows, including The Rockford Files. I was a fan of all of his shows save one. That one was The A-Team, a show that never captured me. Here is an excerpt from an interview I did with Cannell in 2008:
Cannell: I created The A-Team with Frank Lupo. We put it on NBC and saved the network with it. That was the show that turned the network around and saved Brandon Tartikoff’s job and everybody’s job. When they got that megahit, The A-Team, they had Hill Street Blues on and stuff like that, and Cheers, but they weren’t doing any business. And on comes The A-Team, which was critically reviled by everybody.
TM: But everybody watched it.
SC. But everybody watched it. It was a terribly entertaining show. It literally turned the lights back on at NBC. Brandon in his book, The Last Great Ride, credits the show. Brandon says he called everybody up the night before we aired and said, “Get your resumes ready, guys, because if this thing doesn’t work, we’re out of here.” That’s what he said.
TM: He knew everything was riding on that show?
SC: He knew it was riding on The A-Team, even though the affiliate board hated the show…hated it. And it went on and it was the number one show of the week, blew the lights out. The following week when it went on in its normal time period, it got like a 40 share, unreal.
So now Cannell has made it into a movie starring the inimitable Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, who was largely responsible for the hit The Hangover became last year, and Jessica Biel. This conversion to cinema is shockingly hackneyed for someone of Cannell’s talent. It was written by Joe Carnahan, responsible for such dismal films as Smokin’ Aces (2006) and Narc (2002). Carnahan shows no improvement here.
This is little more than a lot of noise and special effects without the fun that was supposed to accompany the TV show. It uses more bullets per second than any film I’ve seen in a long time and the bullets never seem to hit anything but windows. It’s impossible to think that so many bullets could be fired at human targets close by and never hit anybody!
How interminable is this? It takes an hour to setup. That’s longer than half the movie just to get the theme setup for the A-Team to get double-crossed and get out of jail to try to right a wrong and wreak their revenge. By that time I was doing everything I could just to stay in my seat for the remainder of the film.
Liam Neeson is terribly miscast as George Peppard’s replacement as Hannibal Smith, the leader of the team. Peppard was a cocky, cigar-chomping leader. Neeson is just thoughtful. The most disappointing part of the cast is former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson who takes over Mr. T’s role as the B.A. Baracus, the black muscle of the team. Jackson exhibits none of Mr. T’s charisma.
It’s not all terrible. For one thing, Cannell keeps crude language out of the film. There isn’t one F-bomb. Women might find Bradley Cooper’s constant appearances sans shirt appealing. And Patrick Wilson is a fine bad guy.