The Losers: Overall, A Winning Film

“Just to be clear, you’re talking about waging a war against the Central Intelligence Agency.” “They started it.” If that dialogue gets you excited about the movie, The Losers will deliver plenty of silly action along with some memorable performances and funny one-liners.If that dialogue makes you hesitant about the movie, then odds are this film won’t convert you. As a summer flick, it has everything needed for a good diversion. I wish the leader of the pack had been more charismatic, and I wish they’d made the film more quippy– it’s at its best when it’s funny. Still, director Sylvain White keeps the style kinetic and the proceedings good-natured. It’s what I like to call a Cable Keeper: the kind of movie when in the future you stumble upon it as you’re flipping channels, you end up staying and watching a lot of it. It’s not great… but it’s fun.

The Losers: Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the leader. Roque (Idris Elba), a grumpy #2. Jensen (Chris Evans), the tech expert/jokester. Pooch (Columbus Short), the driver. Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), the mostly silent sniper. They’re on a mission in Bolivia for the CIA when someone named Max (Jason Patric) double-crosses them. They are left without jobs, without a government, without an identity. They try to raise money to return to their lives in America when Clay encounters Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a mysterious, dangerous, and gorgeous woman who says she can get them their lives back if they help her kill Max. “Just to be clear, you’re talking about waging a war against the Central Intelligence Agency.” “They started it.” And The Losers plan on finishing it.

White establishes the tone right away: we are greeted with opening credits that look like comic book panels, so we know exactly what type of film we’re dealing with. Then, we meet the main characters as they wisecrack and show off huge weapons. Immediately after this, they’re racing the clock, attempting to save a room full of children from a heavily-guarded drug cartel mansion with 5 minutes until the whole place explodes. It’s high-octane, without ever taking itself too seriously. It does on occasion borrow a little too heavily from the Tarantino style of stylized shots scored to a hip soundtrack, but the goal of this film isn’t to reinvent the wheel. It’s to tell this A-Teamish story of revenge against the government while keeping an audience excited and laughing– and it succeeds in both goals.

My main gripe comes with Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Clay. He certainly is gruff… he’s a believable ass-kicker who wears his beard stubble well. However, the leader of a team of big personalities should have a certain charm in his gruffness. I kept imagining someone like Clive Owen in this role, someone who will immediately catch my eye even as other actors like Chris Evans and Columbus Short are showcasing their charisma. With every actor dropping wry one-liners, it’s hard to want to watch the gruff loner unless he oozes star power. Morgan, so perfect as the self-loathing jerk in Watchmen, doesn’t command the screen here. Also, as the film progresses, there are too many trademark action movie scenes that we never believe, including four or five of the following scenes: one character wants out, Clay makes a noble speech, and everyone raises their hand saying they’re in, followed by the doubter who can’t possibly leave his friends so committed to the brotherhood. While there’s some joy in how The Losers executes the genre’s conventions, a few too many are piled in.

There’s plenty of fun to be had to justify seeing it in theaters, however. Chris Evans has been on such a roll recently; he’s the go-to smartass in movies nowadays, and his break-in to a building is among the film’s highlights. Columbus Short’s stock continues to rise– his first big lead was Stomp The Yard, also directed by Sylvain White. Most notable, however, is Jason Patric, who is having the time of his life playing the villainous Max. He’s never been more fun to watch on screen than he is here. Max is like a combination of the intelligence/sarcasm of Timothy Olyphant in Live Free or Die Hard combined with the eccentricity/sudden violence of Jack Nicholson in The Departed. At one point, a girl holds an umbrella over his head to keep him in the shade and a sudden gust of wind puts Max in the sunlight for a second or so. He promptly shoots her. Actors like Patric and Evans know that the difference between a good film in this genre and a mediocre one is in the performances. The Losers easily could have been a direct-to-video action flick. Instead, the clever dialogue and charismatic characters help The Losers come out with a decent win.

~ by russellhainline on May 10, 2010.

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