Hollywood revives television's 'A-Team'

An adaptation of popular 1980s action-comedy TV series "The A-Team" takes to the silver screen Friday with a bid to avoid being relegated to B-rated remake status.

The film version has a new twist on the over-the-top series. This time, the story no longer resolves around a team of disgraced Vietnam War veterans turned mercenary bandits but Iraq war covert operatives who seek to clear their names of a crime they never committed.

Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, mixed martial artist Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and "District 9" sensation Sharlto Copley form the latest edition of the "A-Team."

"I was really taken with the relationship between the four guys that (co-screenwriters) Joe (Carnahan) and Brian (Bloom) managed to keep at the heart of the script," Neeson said in describing what drew him to his character, Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith.

"Clearly a lot of thought had gone into the story and characters, and the script had a wonderful camaraderie between the guys. Hannibal is a believable hero. He's moral, has a strong sense of ethics and loves his country and his men."

Neeson, of "Schindler's List" fame, revealed he had difficulty accepting to smoke the cigars that rarely leave Hannibal.

"As an ex-smoker, I felt conflicted about the cigar," he told reporters in Santa Monica, California.

"But I understood why the writers kept the conceit... There's a feeling of oneness with the world when he lights that match that I totally empathize with."

In the film written and directed by Joe Carnahan, Jessica Biel gives the feminine touch in her role as Defense Department agent Carissa Sosa, against a background packed with action and explosions.

Copley, who starred in last year's Oscar-nominated "District 9," said he had idolized the series in his youth in South Africa. His role as Captain H.M. "Howlin' Mad" Murdock is his first venture into Hollywood.

"The A-Team was my favorite show as a kid and Murdock was my favorite character. So to play him was like a dream come true," he said.

"What really excited me was the dangerous element to Murdock's character, the dangerousness combined with the humor. You never really know if he's really crazy of if he's just putting it on."

But Mr. T, the original B.A. Baracus, was not impressed with the new adaptation.

"It was too graphic for me," he told the London-based World Entertainment News Network (WENN).

"People die in the film and there's plenty of sex but when we did it, no one got hurt and it was all played for fun and family entertainment... I've no doubt it will do big business at the box office but it's nothing like the show we turned out every week."

But Carnahan defended his remake, saying the type of gritty action and adventure that propelled the TV series to fame had to be elevated for a contemporary audience.

"People are a lot savvier than they were 25 years ago when the show debuted," he said. "If you tried to put the series out today you wouldn't get away with what they got away with then."

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