Review: The Losers

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“They started it.”

Perhaps the director of Stomp the Yard was the wrong choice for an action effort like The Losers.  Sylvain White doesn’t bring anything to the film, which has a weirdly bland glaze to it, a generic non-style that only livens up when comic book-style titles are shown and clichéd slow-motion photography utilized.  But this shouldn’t stop audiences looking for some quick, almost bloodless fun from seeing the film, as it does have a winning cast and a surprising amount of effective humor that leaves you feeling pretty good about the experience.

Based on limited-run comic series that deals in grim espionage and revenge, The Losers follows a Special Forces team doing black ops work for the CIA, unaware that their orders are coming from a mythic intelligence spook named Max (a maniacal Jason Patric, by turns serene and giddy).  When the team attempts to do what’s morally right in a dicey situation, they are betrayed for their troubles and left for dead.  With the help of mystery woman Aisha (Zoe Saldana) – who has her own beef with Max – they begin a globetrotting journey to clear their names and get some payback.

The team couldn’t be more uniquely mixed and suitably cast.  Clay (Watchmen‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the leader who has a bad history with women (“She put a bomb in your car?”);  Roque (Idris Elba) is skeptical about taking on the entire intelligence industry;  heavy weapons expert Pooch (Columbus Short) is understandably concerned about making it back home before his wife gives birth;  and quiet long-range shooter Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) just wants a new target.  But it’s communications expert and comic relief Jensen (Chris Evans) who walks away with the film in every scene.  A chatty fellow with a large supply of amusing t-shirts, Jensen’s entry into a conglomerate’s high-rise dressed as a delivery man (singing along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”) is the film’s best non-action scene.

The Losers‘ action is fast-paced and fun, though the film has clearly been edited down for a PG-13 by removing most of the accompanying blood.  Yet in doing so, they’ve also whittled away any complexity the story might have had, narrowing the whole affair down to a series of set pieces that seem connected in the most tenuous (read: conveniently timed) ways possible.  But the film’s humor and energy carry you through to the end, which feels like a set up for a franchise that is unlikely to happen: by being so lightweight, it seems doubtful the film will signal the need for a sequel.

But stranger things have happened in Hollywood.  A third Transformers film is on the way, and that series doesn’t have a fraction of the cleverness and fun that The Losers manages in a far less costly, low-tech fashion.  On the other hand, with the similarly themed A-Team film coming in early Summer, The Losers could end up…well, you know what I mean.