Who Dares Wins
The Losers disappointed me by not being worse than it is. With so much talent involved, you expect to walk away from the flick in either ecstasy or lividity. But all I can summon up for The Losers is apathy, having paid for a ticket, seen some flashy images, and left no worse for the wear. There's some legitimate fun here, a couple of occasions when the film comes dangerously close to having a blast. True awfulness eludes The Losers by several country miles, but mediocrity proves quite the nosy neighbor.
Though based on a comic series, The Losers also takes a few cues from decades of "men on a mission" action flicks. Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), Jensen (Chris Evans), Roque (Idris Elba), and Pooch (Columbus Short) are the solders of fortune who, as the story begins, earn their eponymous designation. Hung out to dry in Bolivia by the mysterious Max (Jason Patric), the men are left thirsty for revenge but with no way to seek it. Enter Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a slinky seductress who agrees to help the guys return to the States in exchange for bringing down Max for good. While Aisha's own agenda is a tad shady, the Losers nevertheless seize the opportunity to load up on heavy artillery and lay a vengeful smackdown on the latest sleazebag to cross their path.
Originality and The Losers go together like peanut butter and OxiClean. When I described the premise to a friend, they even mistook it for The A-Team and The Expendables, two similar action bonanzas set for release this summer. But the film is well aware of this similarity and compensates by placing more emphasis on its colorful characters. Less The Dirty Dozen and more Ocean's Eleven, The Losers features a laid-back approach to its slam-bang theatrics. Most of the cast members simply riff on the stoic badass role, but they do bring a real sense of community to their parts. You get the idea these guys have seen and done enough to be able to laugh in the face of danger and crack wise with airstrikes on their posteriors. Even Patric's Max comes across as a curiously loose villain, rattling off bizarre bons mots that'll either delight or displease the audience.
But free-spirited as director Sylvain White's style may be, The Losers can only stave off boredom for so long. Its early action sequences are its best, including a memorable hotel brawl and a daring heist in downtown Miami. But the good times hit empty much sooner than you'd expect, leaving the finale awash in a torrent of crummy editing and even worse effects work. The usual treachery and back-stabbing takes place, which might've come as a shock if we hadn't seen it all coming from the first trailer. Also, while the beginning and ending credits indicate a more edgy and brutal shindig, what we get is relatively tame by today's popcorn standards. The actors try to make things fun while they last, although the greatest impression is left by Evans, whose charm and chiseled looks will serve him well when he picks up Captain America's mighty shield in 2011.
I call The Losers an "in and out" movie: when the credits roll, you're not certain you really saw anything, but you know two hours of your time has suddenly vanished. Its mood is light, the music catchy, and Zoe Saldana looks smashing with or without a rocket launcher by her side. The film's impact on action cinema may be short-lived, but I can think of a lot more painful ways than The Losers to bid adieu to your brain cells.
MY RATING: ** 1/2 (out of ****)
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated "PG-13" for sequences of action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language.)