Tuesday, 9 June 2009


And I've seen it before. And I'll see it again, blah, blah, blah... So 20th Century Fox is preparing a movie remake of The A-Team (1983-1987), perhaps the most beloved US tv show of the eighties. « The plan is coming together », writes Lee Goldberg (1) - in reference to the catch phrase of the main character. Hope it's not Plan 9, at least...


« In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. » Still wanted by the military, the men operate as private troubleshooters for those in need.

John "Hannibal" Smith is the leader of The A-Team and his resident master of disguises. His day job is extra in monster movies (where he tries to inject a little Stanislavski in his creature roles!) Templeton "Faceman" Peck is a con artist and the fixer of the team. Afro-american strongman B.A. (Bad Attitude) Baracus is the mechanic genius but refuses to get on a plane and has to be drugged to be transported on board! And H.M. (Howling Mad) Murdock can pilot everything provided it flies... but he is a certified lunatic and has to be regularly released of the psychiatric ward of a Veteran hospital thanks to Faceman.

The original series, created by Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo, is the epitome of the light action/adventure shows of the eighties with spectacular cartoonesque explosions and stunt sequences (the trademark of legendary stunt coordinator Craig R. Baxley), THAT music of magical duo Mike Post and Pete Carpenter, and a great cast. George Peppard, who almost missed his rendez-vous with Pop culture History after being replaced by John Forsythe on the pilot of Dynasty (1981), as Hannibal. Dirk Benedict (the original Battlestar Galactica) as Faceman, Dwight Schultz as Murdock and one of the two God figures of this golden era of American television (the other is of course David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff): Mr. T, as Baracus.

And now we learn that Liam Neeson is in talks to play Hannibal in the movie remake (http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118004693.html?categoryid=10&cs=1&nid=2248). No disrespect but, hey, Liam Neeson?! Bruce Willis would be more suitable. Bradley Cooper should play Faceman Peck and they are still searching for a Murdock and a Baracus (tip to the producers for Baracus: Mr. T!) Joe Carnahan (Narc) will direct the film and according to Variety, they have kept the concept « but they've replaced the campy nature of the series with a tone closer to those of "Mission: Impossible" and "Ocean's Eleven" ». Allow me to do my Simon Cowell and buzz here: the "campy nature" was the salt of The A-Team, it was all Looney Tunes or Hanna Barbera with in-the-flesh actors, The Fantastic Four as a typical Universal Television fare of the time. Not Leverage.


Actually the only person who could helm a proper remake/revival of The A-Team (after Mr Stephen J. Cannell himself) is American director, writer and actor Brent Huff. Brent who? BRENT HUFF (http://www.brenthuffdirector.com/). While Hollywoodland is often producing franchises like GMC produced 4X4 there are still Hollywood directors who make movies. Huff is known in some circles for his role in a French movie called Gwendoline (1984) and the man has been classy and kind enough to mention this film in an email to your humble servant, which I appreciated (both the email and the mention). And his second movie as a director, The Bad Pack (1997), is a nice tribute to The A-Team.

Mexican immigrants of a Texas border town are harassed by members of a ruthless local militia group. The Mexicans send two brothers in search of a man named McQue, a former government operative and mercenary turned motorcycle mechanic, for his hired assistance. The brothers and a fast-talking black entrepreneur convince McQue to take the job and the soldier of fortune reunites a team of specialists. The Magnificent Seven, anyone? Keep in mind that the premise from the pilot of The A-Team was pure Magnificent Seven. There's a lunatic character escaping from a mental ward and even a van in one scene, and the cast is a dream for every aficionado of character actors: Robert Davi as McQue, Marshall Teague as the villain, Bert Rosario - a familiar face of US television for more than 30 years (2), Vernon Wells... Add wrestling legends Roddy Piper and Jeep Swenson, plus Ralph Moeller and Sven-Ole Thorsen. Poetry for lovers of good B movies.

Why do we call them "B movies", anyway? Because they have no giant talking robots? Because A-List actors would not play in them? As I wrote last year in a comment on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily I hate the notion of “D-list actors”. Some so-called “D-list actors” are better actors than “A-List” stars (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/d-list-actors-diss-al-franken-for-senate/). The comment was in defence of... Robert Davi. Within the limits of its genre, its category and its budget, The Bad Pack is an entertaining and fun movie. A modern western, an elegant tribute to The A-Team and in some respects a nice trip to Memory Lane with nods to comic books or to the style of US television series of the 1970s or 1980s.

Brent Huff wrote me that one of his recent movies, Cat City, has been sold to a French television channel. Rebecca Pidgeon, Brian Dennehy and Julian Sands star in it and the movie is currently making the festival circuit. I'm looking forward to watch it.

(1) http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2009/06/the-plan-is-coming-together.html
(2) My favourites in his magnificent resume: Sword of Justice (1978-1979) and The 100 Lives of Black Savage (1991) - both fondly remembered in France.

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