Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Losers - 2010

"The Losers" - 2010
Dir. by Sylvain White - 1 hr. 37 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

While I might have questions about why "The Losers" exists in the first place (of all the comic books that DC Comics has created, why make a movie based on this one?), the finished product stands on it's own.  And what is "The Losers?"  A reasonably decent almost low-budget action movie that doesn't seek to re-invent the wheel, but instead tries to pull off standard material with a bit of extra flair and style.

Based on the comic book by Andy Diggle and Jock, the losers in question are a military unit who are under the direction of the C.I.A.  They're lead by Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and include Roque (Idris Elba), driver Pooch (Columbus Short), sniper Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), and Johnny Blaze...  I mean Captain America...  I mean communications expert Jensen (Chris Evans).  One of their missions goes awry, stranding them in Bolivia, cut off from government support.  A woman, Aisha (Zoe Saldana), stalks Clay until offering a way out of their predicament: get back to the U.S. and gain revenge on the man who double-crossed them, Max (Jason Patric).

I don't think that "paint-by-numbers" is the proper way to explain this movie, but a lot of the story is standard-issue.  If you've got a group of quirky soldiers (an easy way to tell them apart) united in a common cause, you know that the villain is going to probably be engaging in some highly profitable, highly duplicitous behavior, and that things are going to blow up.  And, also, that the good guys are probably going to have to face impossible odds, because an easy win is unsatisfying (especially if you're paying to see this story in a theatre).  Also, that the one woman in the story is going to get bedded, with the only real question being how much skin you're going to see ("The Losers" is rated PG-13, so probably not quite as much as you'd like).  These are the foundations that this genre of film is based upon, so unless the film-makers go the script-flipping route, that's what you're going to get.

So then, if a genre exercise hits all the necessary standard plot points, the film will rise or fall based on how these plot points are executed and by the performances of the cast.  Points awarded to the director, Sylvain White, who recognized the quality of the source material, and cribbed from it whenever possible.  There are shots taken directly from the comic books, not to mention incorporating series artist Jock's work into the actual movie.  I'm generally of two minds about this sort of thing - it usually doesn't do a film any favors to continually remind people of the source material, but I felt it was incorporated well here, and added to the general style of the direction.  As far as the crew, the Losers themselves generally did a good job.  I wanted to see them succeed, which is a victory.  Zoe Saldana was good, as well, but being pretty much the only woman in the whole film sets the bar for good acting at a different level than if the cast had been a little more balanced.  However, I didn't care for Jason Patric's Max at all (and not in the way you're not supposed to like a villain, in the way that I think it was generally ineffective), and I think that character not being what it needed to be really hampered the film.  I'm not sure whether to pin that on the script or the actor, but even though the film kept telling me that he was impossible to get hands upon, I never felt that was true.  And if you can't sell the main baddie as a real threat, a lot of the drama of the story falls limp.

So what's left here is a decent film that I enjoyed more than I figured I would have, but it's not essential viewing.  It's a reasonably good film adaptation of a pretty good comic book; it's not like the Fantastic Four films, in that it's not really a blown opportunity at adapting excellent source material, and it's not like "Jonah Hex," in that it's not a complete disaster in every conceivable way.  There's a ceiling for how good a film like "The Losers" can be (barring a genius take on the source material), and it got really close to that ceiling.  If you catch this on TV, you'll probably get through it without much trouble, and probably enjoy a couple of scenes more than you figured you might, but unless you're a huge fan of any of the actors or the comic books, there's no real reason to go out of your way to track this film down.

2.5 / 5 - TV

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