Another Comic Book-based movie, and it's not even summer yet? No wonder ComicCon each year is packed from wall to wall. The Losers, based on a DC Comics series, is an old-school action-adventure, buddy film that is straightforward and fun.
Colonel Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the leader of an elite US Special Forces unit on a mission in the Bolivian jungle. His team includes Jensen (Chris Evans), Rogue (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short), and Cougar (Oscar Jaenada). However, they are double-crossed by someone from the inside named Max -- the trouble is, nobody ever saw or knew who Max was.
Presumed dead, the team, who now calls themselves the Losers, becomes fugitives in South America, not able to return to the US because Max also framed them for the botched operation. They want to take back their lives and seek revenge. Then a secret operative, Aisha (Zoe Saldana), promises them what they want in exchange of Max's death…if they ever find Max and get through his high security.
Meanwhile, Max (Jason Patric) is making deals with foreign sources to make deadly weapons of mass destruction, so he could mastermind a terrorist conflict that would wage a global war and allow him to profit from it. After knowing his plans, The Losers have even more reasons to stop Max. But how do they get to the heavily-guarded and elusive Max without being killed?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), often considered a Javier Bardem lookalike, is getting his own shows. He's dashing, sexy, brawny, and charming as the leader of The Losers, who has a weakness for beautiful women. Morgan is perfect for the role -- I can't think of anyone else playing it except maybe George Clooney or, well, Javier Bardem. Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), as the lone female cast member, holds her own very well against the testosterone set. She's brassy, sharp, agile, tough, yet also feminine, gorgeous and super hot.
As the happy-go-lucky Jensen, Chris Evans (The Fantastic 4) plays the same goofy jock he did in his other films. He adds comic relief to the story and generally are very likable. Idris Elba (RocknRolla) is Rogue, a tough, mean, ruthless military man on a mission. Columbus Short (Quarantine) plays off the other guys as the good-natured family man who also knows how to use a bazooka. Oscar Jaenada (Circuit) is super cool as the quiet sharpshooter, Cougar. He doesn't have many lines, but he's a scene stealer nonetheless.
The bad guys are led by Jason Patric (In the Valley of Elah) as the super-bad baddie, Max. In fact, Max is so bad that there's absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever in the guy. He will eat his own young. And Patric unleashes his inner douchebag to play the role well. Holt McCallany (Vantage Point) is the go-to guy to play bad dudes. Playing Max's top henchman Wade is right up McCallany's alley.
Written by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), the screenplay (based on the DC series) is back-to-back action and comedy with sex appeal to spare. Also, they've given us strong characters and heart. Everything should be cheesy, from the ridiculous names such as Max and Wade and Pooch to the over-the-top action, and it is. But the cheese is what makes the movie tick. We're not here for warm and fuzzy or logic. If you must, you can find holes in the plot as big as Bolivia, but we won't care. So much of the story is just an excuse to get our heroes to places and set them up in situations so we can see some kick-ass action. And they don't disappoint.
The dialogue is very genre-specific and it works. There's also enough bickering, chest-pounding, and camaraderie to make grown men giggle. This film is obviously made for teenage boys and men who are teenage boys. The characters are black and white, and the villain is super villainy (there's no ambiguity about that). Cool toys, fast cars, big guns, great action, nice buddies, and a bunch of hot chicks -- you've got yourself a mix of the right ingredients.
What director Sylvian White (Stomp the Yard) does for the script is mix all the ingredients well and give us a top-notch production. He doesn't disappoint. We've got everything from guns to cars to high-tech gadgets to bickering man-boys. What he's avoided to do is fall into the Michael Bay's Transformers trap. He doesn't just go for the loud and obnoxious and convoluted special effects (don't get me wrong, the movie is rather loud and obnoxious), but he focuses on the relationships between these guys, and that's awesome. These guys are strong characters, but they also feel real, despite the comic book look and feel. They're the kind of guys you really don't mind to hang out with. They're that cool. Even though the plot is rather outrageous and silly, it's the relationships and heart that hold the film together.
The only downside is the PG-13 rating: that limits the amount of violence, blood, language, and naughty stuff they can put in the film. Granted, they don't need all that, but when you consider how violent the whole concept is but you don't see any blood at all, it just seems weird. This is, of course, a movie for young boys, age 10-45 (and girls, too, if they'd drop their Barbies and go for a bunch of hairy, studly guys), so that's quite understandable. Still, I think it would be so seriously, totally awesome if it went the Kick-Ass route.
That said, I think The Losers is a fun, exciting, cool, and sexy, and it is exactly what the genre calls for. Don't expect the subtlety or the multi-layered characterization of Oscar-nominated dramas, but as a comic-book movie, it's close to what we'd expect from the likes of Iron-Man. It's definitely a winner, not a loser.
Stars: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elha, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patric, Holt McCallany
Director: Sylvain White
Writers: Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt (based on Andy Diggle's graphic novels)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, sensuality, and language
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 7.9 out of 10