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By Malice Intended for Planet Ill
Franklin Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), William Roque (Idris Elba), Jake Jensen (Chris Evans), Linwood “Pooch” Porteous (Columbus Short), and Carlos “Cougar” Alvarez (Óscar Jaenada) are members of an elite special forces team who are betrayed after refusing to follow through on a mission in South America. Presumed dead, they live in relative exile in South America when the beautiful but deadly operative Aisha (Zoë Saldana) offers them a chance at revenge against the mysterious Max (Jason Patric).
The Losers is based on the DC/Vertigo comic by writer Andy Diggle (who also contributed to the screenplay) and artist Jock (whose work is featured prominently throughout the film). The origin of the source material is of little consequence as The Losers could just as easily been based on an original screenplay. Its basis in comics does little to distinguish it from any number of similarly-themed contemporary action films.
Modern action filmmaking is all about style and The Losers is no exception. Fight scenes and shootouts alternate between slow motion and regular speed, often within the same take. Lighting effects and filters are used to give everything an amber haze. The Losers wears it’s superficiality as a badge of honor, and the visual palette accentuates this. The Losers has no pretense towards reality of any sort.
The film contains various forms of violence but relatively little bloodletting. Characters are shot, slashed and punched with reckless abandon. We never see the results, but we hear them thanks to the thuds and cracks on the soundtrack. No doubt this was done to keep The Losers comfortably within the confines of a PG-13 rating. While that might make it more marketable, it also robs the action of any sense of reality or consequence.
The cast is obviously having a ball, and to an extent their enthusiasm is infectious. They clearly aren’t taking any of this seriously and neither are we. While their chemistry never quite gels to perfection a la the Oceans 11 franchise, it is serviceable enough to keep us engaged. Zoë Saldana is a formidable Femme Fatale. Jeffrey Dean Morgan often comes off as a poor mans George Clooney, but one suspects that is exactly what the character is meant to be.
Jason Patric plays Max like a parody of a James Bond villain. More obnoxious than menacing, the character is only entertaining in small portions and becomes tiresome as the film wears on. Patric should have been encouraged to rein it in a bit, but the makers probably figured that his scenery chewing would be in keeping with the spirit of the film. While not wholly out of place, the character should have been toned down.
The Losers’ light heartedness is both its greatest strength and its Achilles heel. The screenplay is the main culprit here. The gravity of the situation seems to completely elude the characters. The dialogue is awash in self-aware snark and one-liners, to the point where the characters always seem to be playing to the audience on the other side of the fourth wall. They are in on the joke, and this causes us to divest from the film.
The Losers does its job too well. Ultimately its smug self-assuredness undermines its effectiveness. It’s light weight to the point of total insubstantiality. It cares not about distinguishing itself, or making a lasting impression of any sort with its target audience. One would think that something so highly stylized and shrewdly calculated who have more to offer than being merely passable entertainment. 2.5 out of 5
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