Originally Posted July 23rd, 2010
In 2010, a crack commando unit was accused of a crime they didn’t commit. Hunted by law enforcement, they promptly escaped to the underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The Losers!
Wait, that’s not right. That’s the set-up for the new A-Team movie. Stupid mistake. The A-Team was about an Army Ranger unit that was framed for a crime they didn't commit and had to seek out justice as fugitives from the law.The Losers is about a CIA Special Forces unit that gets framed for a crime they didn’t commit and has to get revenge while fugitives from the… huh. Well what about a van, do The Losers ever drive around in a van? …They do…Well what about an ending gun fight in a downtown harbour, I bet The Losers doesn’t have that! They do?…okay, now this is just spooky.
With The A-Team getting released barely two months after The Losers, comparisons of a Deep Impact-Armageddon variety seemed inevitable. Despite more than fifteen years separating each's source material, the set-up for both films is more or less identical, just with one elite army agency swapped out for another. Both films are sold as being flashy, brainless action romps with quasi-militaristic overtones. They both also feature cartoonishly evil bad guys, and a single female character whose sole job is to provide sexual tension. All these similarities are plenty evident, yet little mention was given when The A-Team rolled into town. That’s probably because The Losers, based on the Vertigo comic series of the same name, isn’t a particularly memorable film; it combines mediocre thrills with a mercifully short running time into a movie you’ll likely forget existed at all, let alone as a piece of parallel programming.
Starting out in the Bolivian jungle, The Losers wastes no time in acquainting you with the titular group of rough-and-tumbles. There’s the leader Clay, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (whose charisma is mostly owed to his tailor), the grizzled weapons man Roque, played with unflinching seriousness by an utterly wasted Idris Elba, and a surprisingly enjoyable Chris Evans, who gets plenty goofy as the techie Jensen. There’s also sniper/cowboy hat aficionado Cougar (Óscar Jaenada) and wheel man Pooch (Columbus Short). From the opening poker-game played with weapons instead of chips, it’s clear that no one could decide which character would get the title of “The Badass,” so they went ahead and gave it to everyone. After a bombing run on a drug lord is thrown off by the presence of a literal busload of children, the team, in gallant disregard for orders, intervenes, and winds up getting themselves framed by a mysterious villain known as Max. Just a tip for future reference: if mention is ever given of a change as to who’s going on the last helicopter out of dodge, get as far away from that chopper as is humanly possible. It’s not long before the gang is given means to exact their revenge thanks to the alluring Aisha (Zoe Saldana), who, despite having less meat on her than a starved gazelle, can break bones and chairs with the best of them.
That’s about all the set-up you’re going to get because once The Losers leaves the driveway, it doesn’t stop for anything. What follows is your typical checklist of action movie set pieces across some of the brightest, sweatiest places this side of the Atlantic. The amount of lens flare in some scenes made me feel physically tanner. There are flashes of excitement in most of the action sequences, but they're nothing wholly original. The meet/beat-cute between Clay and Aisha is pretty much right out of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and is mostly enjoyable because of Zoe Saldana’s complete disregard for the safety and well-being of all pieces of furniture within her five foot radius. And for as built-up as some of the action sequences get, you’re usually just left wondering, "is that it"? If a movie's main selling point is leaving physics and rationality at the door, you need full-blown commitment to lunacy, and The Losers just feels like a series of half-measures. It’s unfortunate, but airlifting an armoured car with a magnet attached to a helicopter just isn't enough these days. Here all you get are a couple of pretty good explosions sandwiched between timid gun fights and some really unconvincing CG effects.
Then again, what aspects do go for broke still find a way to make The Losers a sub-optimal viewing experience. Breaking up the shootier bits are interludes where we check in on our villain, who seems incapable of elaborating on the next phase of his diabolical plan until he’s in a new time zone. This is where any energy that gets generated by the aforementioned shooting runs into the brick wall that is Jason Patric’s performance as Max. Now, The Losers is by no means a serious film, and everybody is clearly having fun with their parts, but Jason Patric wants you to know that he is having more fun than anyone, ever, ever. With a level of restraint that makes Jack Nicholson’s Joker look docile, Patric goes out of his way in every scene to try and be menacing, but it almost always comes off as buffoonish or just plain ridiculous. After reminding his head goon how badly he needs eighteen gunmen in twelve hours, you think that there’s no possible reason that he’d repeat himself it a third time; and then he does. And then in the next scene, he orders those gunmen to be killed. Why? Because he’s evil, that’s why! At one point he responds to a bullet in his shoulder not with, you know, signs of pain, but with a level of mild annoyance reserved for when someone hits you with a rubber band. Oh, and then he sticks his finger in the wound and has a taste of his own blood, which, I imagine tastes pretty good thanks to the Cost-co sized cans of energy drinks he must have been downing between scenes.
As certifiably insane as Patric is, he’s about the only thing that’s aggressively bad about The Losers. Sure there are a myriad of gapping plot holes and unexplained motivations but this is a movie about characters and action, not story. To their credit, everyone else in the cast is competent enough and it can be occasionally fun to revel in their brainless exploits. Chris Evans is the real standout, as he manages to make the most out of every scene thanks to a mix of crass humour and brazen self-awareness. His natural response to the absurdity of bringing a crossbow to a gunfight is simply to declare “that’s right bitches, I’ve got a crossbow.”
The screenplay, written by Zodiac scribe James Vanderbilt, is drenched in these sorts of immature one-liners and really the only word I can think of to properly describe The Losers is juvenile. Every yo momma and dick joke seems perfect for the PG-13 audience the film no doubt hoped would flood cinemas but didn’t. I mean for god sakes, the bad guy’s weapon of choice is called a SNUKE. Even the film’s romantic subplot, which consists of Zoe Saldana showing up with a bottle of tequila followed by immediate boning, is designed to target barely pubescent thirteen year-olds. Which pretty much sums up The Losers; it’s all action, no foreplay and completely forgettable.
2 out of 5
Directed by Sylvain White