The A-Team Movie Is Actually Kind Of Good

We take a look back at Joe Carnahan’s underrated big-screen version of The A-Team.

Last Updated on July 11, 2024

I love The A-Team (which we also covered on an episode of Gone But Not Forgotten).  I grew up watching the series and had the toys, the Mr. T Cereal, the whole bit.  I wasn’t unlike many of my Gen X brothers and sisters in that regard. It was fun, insane, action-packed, and Murdock was my guy.  

Over the last few decades, we’ve seen many of these 70s and 80s TV series be redone as feature films or new series for television.  The Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, and the list goes on and on.  Typically these films are done as just pure comedy.  There are the two I just mentioned plus Land of the Lost…and in the case of these three they didn’t stick the landing.  

But sometimes, you get a filmmaker and a group who know the assignment and decide to try and capture what made the original so great.  That’s the case with The A-Team, which hit theaters in 2010.  An A+ cast (no pun intended) and a director who knows how to do action.  The A-Team movie nailed it but sadly didn’t find an audience when it was released.  What should have been a franchise (and could have been a great one) only got a one-and-done, and we, the audience, got robbed.

The A-Team film had been an idea bouncing around Hollywood for nearly 20 years before it finally would see a movie theater.  Numerous directors had been attached, including the late John Singleton, who had wanted to include Ice Cube as BA.  

It was in the 2000s, though, that the film would finally come together with Stephen J. Cannell and the Scott brothers, Tony and Ridley, producing.  For a director and co-writer, the film would bring on Joe Carnahan.  Carnahan’s sense of style was fantastic and perfect for the film, which would be a frenetic and action-packed flick with great and memorable characters and set pieces.  Carnahan had already turned heads with Smokin’ Aces and the noir crime thriller Narc.  

Carnahan would co-write The A-Team alongside Skip Woods and Brian Bloom.  Bloom would actually star as one of the main villains in the film, Brock Pike (an awesome name for which I’m sure he’s responsible).

the a-team movie

Again, I loved the original A-Team, and I would be hard-pressed to say anyone could replace the original crew.  But The A-Team movie was obviously made by fans of the original show, and as such, they cast it perfectly.  Liam Neeson as Hannibal Smith was great.  He had the swagger, the cigars, and that glint in his eye that could mean he was amused or about to punch you.  Quinton Rampage Jackson brought a lovable nature, and the glare needed to be BA.  He was pitch-perfect.  Bradley Cooper had the charm and looks to be the perfect Faceman.  That 100-watt grin, baby.  And then who I consider the star of the show, Sharlto Copley, as Murdock.  Murdock was my guy from the original show. Most kids loved him, or you were a Mr. T fan. For me, though, the crazy pilot was the one all the way. 

Copley campaigned for the part.  He grew up in South Africa and was a massive fan of the show, to the point that his parents, during apartheid, mind you, got him a Mr. T Birthday cake.  While doing press rounds for District 9, he filmed himself in his hotel room as Murdock, improvising scenarios, being the character, and sending it to the filmmakers.  It worked.  He got the part.  

Rounding out the cast, as said Brian Bloom played the villainous Pike.  Simon and Simon vet Gerald McRaney played the team’s boss, General Morrison.  Patrick Wilson played the mysterious and dangerous Lynch (the man who chased the team throughout the TV series was named Lynch), and Jessica Biel was Charissa Sosa, the military investigator assigned to find the team and ex-girlfriend of Face.  This story didn’t have an Amy, so Sosa was the female lead.

The plot of the film is straightforward, and we actually get to see how the Team first comes together. Hannibal goes to Mexico to rescue Templeton Peck, AKA Face, from a psychotic general. He manages to rescue him, and by chance, they run into BA in the classic van. BA is also a Ranger, and due to this bond, he helps get the men to a pilot named HM Howling Mad Murdock, who is at a VA mental hospital….much to the chagrin of Face and BA.

As Hannibal’s plan comes together, Murdock and the boys take flight in a glorious helicopter chase, the birthplace of BA’s legendary fear of flying…and you can’t blame him.  On top of that, Murdock manages to destroy THE VAN, which,…yeah, no wonder BA wants to kill him.

bradley cooper the a team

The team escape, and boy, does the General NOT (unlike the TV series, this version has people die pretty often.)  We flash forward eight years, and the team has had 80 successful missions and is nearing the end of the line in Iraq.  It’s there where Lynch gets them to agree to an off-the-books operation, which leads to the team’s downfall as they are made the scapegoats for the mission going wrong…as well as being pegged for trying to steal US Treasury Plates.  This doesn’t just ruin their careers but gets Sosa demoted as well, as she was in charge of the security of the plates.  There’s no one left to clear the team, and they are separated and put in jail…except Murdock, who gets placed in another hospital.

Lynch returns to Hannibal half a year later. He wants the plates, and he’s willing to help Hannibal and the team get cleared records if they help him out. Hannibal gets free, finds Face living the life in his prison, discovers BA has become a peaceful type, and, in a glorious wall-busting rescue, gets Murdock.

What follows is the team being the team and breaking all the laws of physics, as in many episodes of the original show.  I love flying a tank sequence with my soul as Sosa’s crew chases the team.  The crew discover what happened to cause them to be arrested, finds the plates, and saves the day with the help of Sosa.  They even get Lynch caught…until another Lynch shows up.  There’s always another Lynch.  The film ends with the team clearing their names but still being fugitives from the law since they did break out of jail.  But it’s evident from the classic VoiceOver that we were supposed to get a sequel.  And sadly…that did not happen.

So what happened here? How did a movie with this much oomph and awesomeness not make it? Well…timing is key, and so is marketing. Here’s where I give you my theories and explain why this was such a tragedy for a franchise that could have ruled.

The A-Team had a toy line tied to it, which was pretty great.  There was even a giant-sized talking Liam Neeson.  Sadly, these toys would wind up on the clearance shelf only a few months after being released.  I remember going to Toys R Us (they were still around then) and seeing a vast swath of Patrick Wilson Lynch figures for 1.99.  Now, funnily enough, these babies are going for serious bank on eBay.  An unopened set of the team is going for 249.99 right now. 

jessica biel the a-team

The marketing campaign would include appearances on wrestling’s WWE.  The crossover appeal is there, and Rampage Jackson is an MMA fighter.  The cast also did press, including a great appearance on The George Lopez talk show.  

So again, what happened?  Well, the marketing missed the point.  The A-Team is a classic 80s action series.  And while doing crossovers with WWE might hit the mark a bit, making an iPhone game isn’t garnering who you aim for in the demographic.  The toys were a great idea, but I didn’t even know about them until I saw them one day skulking around Toys R Us.  It wasn’t catering to the kids my age who grew up with the show/ I think they just missed the mark on who the demo was. 

But what hurt the film was the timing of the release.  2010 was a rough year for a movie like to hit in the summer.  One thing that may have caused some damage was only a few months prior when The Losers had just come out and bombed (also due to a lack of proper marketing).  The film was about an elite special forces unit who is betrayed and made the scapegoat for a crime they didn’t commit.  They have to go on the run and take jobs where they can to survive.  That doesn’t sound familiar at all, right? (Note sarcasm). Actually, this is from a DC comic book series, believe it or not, and starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, and Chris Evans.  This was a year before he would suit up as Cap.   

These two movies helped cancel each other out quite a bit, which is a shame because they are both great fun and have awesome casts.

But again, timing.  The summer of 2010 would see Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2, Inception, Despicable Me, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the 3rd entry in the Twilight films.  As you can see…that’s a hard group to fight for eyes from.  Toy Story 3 would be released the following week after The A-Team.  The movie got buried under the avalanche.  It’s obvious a sequel was planned, but after the film only made a box office of 177 million from the 110 budget that was scrapped.

I loved the A-Team.  One good thing to come from home video and cable is that the film eventually found an audience and the fans it deserved.  I love that fans made this, and it comes through in many ways.  It’s clear the cast loved working on this and had a blast.  Like I said, Sharlto Copley fought to be Murdock.  Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz came back for some great cameos (which can be seen in full with the extended cut that’s on the Blu-ray).   

There are little moments, like when the movie is playing, when the team sends Murdock for the breakout, and when the original series theme music is playing. The cast card says Reginald Barclay…this is Dwight Schultz’s character from Star Trek: The Next Generation—nicely done, fellas.  It’s as subtle as Bradley Cooper sneaking in the movie poster for Midnight Meat Train as he runs past a theatre in Silver Linings Playbook.  

liam neeson the a-team

Things like this probably weren’t going to be noticed by the casual filmgoer, though…or like the two probably 20-year-olds who were sitting in front of me, who I mentioned as they stood to leave (as this was my 2nd viewing), “Hey, the original show cast are going to be showing up here in a second.”  They blinked at me and asked, “What do you mean original show?”  And I realized…oh, you’re here for Bradley Cooper.   But hey, I appreciated it.  

The A-Team was everything I could have asked for in a redo of one of my favorite series growing up. It took the material seriously but kept the fun. It focused on the team’s camaraderie and had a group of actors who obviously meshed well and needed to for it to work. It was neat to watch, had a great cast (Jon Hamm shows up as Lynch 2.0, even), and deserved more of a chance than it got.

And I want to thank the gang who made it all happen. So thanks to Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom (whom I ran into at SDCC a few years ago and told thank you in person), Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Rampage Jackson, and Sharlto Copley. You guys delivered me back to my childhood on a platter, and I couldn’t have asked for more. You truly are an A-team.

About the Author

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Jessica was raised on a diet of Dark Shadows, Doctor Who, and a lot of things she saw way too young. She’s been writing for nearly a quarter of a century about the world of entertainment and her own fiction (and that sound you heard was her bones turning to dust.) Jessica loves being a JoBro as well as creating content for her site/channel/Podcast Fangirl Magazine/Fangirl Radio. Her favorite things are writing, movies/tv, video games, reading, and trying to summon the ghost of Vincent Price.