The A-Team, by Albert W. Vogt III

As a child of the 1980s, the television show The A-Team (1983-1987) was a part of the fabric of my existence.  Though he was just one of the characters, B. A. Baracus (Mr. T), the personality that is Mr. T is the figure that most people remember.  This was the case, at least, for a kid like me growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  You know who else is from Chicago?  Lawrence Tureaud, who you know as Mr. T.  Us Chicagoans (people in the suburbs identify with the city because who has ever heard of Carol Stream?) are protective of their own.  There were stories about Mr. T and his own suburban home, including the fact that he did not like trees and thus there were none on his property.  This all made for the show taking on added significance for kids in my area.  It also meant that when the 2010 film of the same title premiered, I was right there in the theaters to see it.  I should have known better.  Some of the stuff in it is just as ridiculous as Mr. T cutting down all the trees in his yard.

The A-Team has one of the longest opening credits sequences I have seen.  It does so in order to set up its four main characters, who happened to all be “somewhere in Mexico,” their words, not mine.  The first you meet is their leader, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson), who is being held captive in a remote warehouse by a rouge Mexican general.  Elsewhere is Bosco “B. A.” Baracus (Quentin “Rampage” Jackson), driving a fancy sports car to exchange for his beloved GMC van, a callback to the show.  He has to crack some skulls to do so, but once he is on his way he encounters the freshly escaped Hannibal.  They then go to rescue the third member of their future team, the debonair Templeton “Face” Peck (Bradley Cooper), who, with Hannibal, had been there on behalf of the United States.  Once their getaway is effected, they end up at a nearby army hospital (still in Mexico) where they encounter H. M. “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharito Copley).  He is masquerading as a doctor trying to sneak out of the hospital, but he is really a pilot.  This comes in handy when Hannibal and company’s pursuers catch up with them, taking a helicopter waiting atop the building.  Conveniently, they are all Army Rangers, and they decide to form the title team.  We then fast forward eight years, and apparently many missions later, and we catch up with them in Iraq performing duties as a so-called “Alpha Team,” hence the title.  Between missions, Hannibal is approached by a member of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson), with information about engraving plates to make United States currency potentially falling into the wrong hands.  At the same time, Department of Defense criminal investigator Captain Chorissa Sosa (Jessica Beal), who once dated Face, finds her old flame to warn his team not to go into Baghdad.  Of course, this is where the plates are located.  After they inevitably recover them, Hannibal and his men are betrayed, seemingly by a group of mercenaries lurking around the base called Black Forest, led by the amoral Brock Pike (Brian Bloom).  In the process, General Russell Morrison (Gerald McRaney), the base commander, is blown up in his truck and Hannibal and his men are blamed for the incident.  This results in each of them being dishonorably discharged, stripped of their rank, and thrown in military prison.  Still desiring to get the plates, Agent Lynch arranges for Hannibal’s team to break out of jail to continue their mission.  In response, the government sends Sosa to bring them back to justice.  For the A-Team, their travels take them to Germany where Pike is attempting to sell the plates to a group of Arabs.  They are able to get their hands on the plates before they are caught by Sosa, taking one of the Arabs hostage in the process.  Pike is captured by Sosa.  Yet, not is all as it seems.  The person Hannibal captures turns out to be a very much alive Morrison, having helped Pike to steal the plates because money.  As for Pike, Agent Lynch intervenes during Sosa’s interrogation and we learn that Pike had double-crossed the CIA also for money.  Once all these revelations are settled,Agent Lynch launches a drone strike to kill Hannibal and Morrison.  Of course, they avoid the detonation and set a trap, with Sosa’s help, for Agent Lynch and Pike at the port of Los Angeles.  Bang-bang, boom-boom, Pike dies, Agent Lynch (real name Vance Buress) is arrested, and everything is back to normal.  Unfortunately, the government is still intent on putting Hannibal’s men back in prison, though Sosa slips Face the tongue, er, I mean a key, and it is made clear that they escape at the end.

The A-Team is big, dumb action film.  To underscore this point, I will simply point to the scene where our intrepid four escape from jail and make off with an army C-130.  On board this plane is an M8 Buford tank.  After the C-130 is destroyed by drones, they climb into the tank and begin floating down on parachutes.  At one point, they are down to one last chute, and they fire the tank’s main gun seemingly at nothing.  Looking at this, Sosa says that they are trying to fly a tank.  Yes, that is a line in the movie.  Otherwise, the only item of interest for this Catholic reviewer is B. A.  Despite having a nickname that is short for “Bad Ass,” once he is put in prison he decides that he can no longer kill anyone.  He is inspired by many spiritual leaders, none of which are Christian, of course, like Gandhi.  To that end, when Hannibal questions B. A. for his newfound pacificism, B. A. quotes the Indian spiritual and political thinker, who said, “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to defeat.”  Hannibal counters with a different quote that says that it is okay to defend yourself physically if the cause is just.  The trick is in discerning the nature of the cause for violence.  The Bible also has seemingly conflicting messages.  While Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, the books of Maccabees (with apologies to my Protestant brethren) contain tales of military campaigns of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers retaking the Holy Land from their Greek overlords.  Personally, I am wary of broad causes, choosing to rely on God on a personal level for when it is right to fight.  That is essentially where B. A. lands by the end of the movie.

There is really no reason to watch The A-Team, and I suppose no reason to write this review.  I watched it last night because I spotted while searching for a film to see to put on The Legionnaire.  When I saw this title, a chuckled a little gleefully, thinking that the old man I live with would find it just as ridiculous.  At any rate, perhaps you will read this review and feel, right, job done, nothing to see here, and move on with your life.


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