The Losers Lacks Passion and a Point
- Friday, April 23, 2010
DVD Release Date: July 20, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: April 23, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language)
Run Time: 98 min.
Director: Sylvain White
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patric
In the mood to watch a group of men joke, fight and kill some people? You've seen it before, a hundred times. The genre, such as it is, has evolved, but has roots in films like 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon (buddy-cop movies) from the 1980s, Pulp Fiction (throw in crackling dialogue and sympathetic crooks) in the 1990s, and numerous incarnations like Smokin' Aces in the 2000s.
The Losers joins the lower ranks of these entries. Written by Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt and based on a series of comic books, The Losers wants to pay homage to its comic roots but never gives us a reason to care about its characters or to believe this story needed a big-screen adaptation. With dialogue that moves fast but is rarely clever and action that is loud but never more than the sum of its parts, The Losers is middling and mindless. The elements that make a successful brew for this kind of concoction aren't fully present here. Its central romance never sparks much passion, its villain lacks charisma and its attempts to be amusing are only fitfully successful.
In Bolivia, a Special Forces team discovers it's part of a seamy mission that would involve the deaths of more than 20 children. Stricken by conscience, team leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) orchestrates a rescue of the kids and puts them on the team's chopper out of the area, while the team remains behind. Moments later the children perish when the team's contact, Max (Jason Patric), orders the helicopter shot down, believing the team to be on board. (The somewhat similar death of innocents was a controversial plot point in Die Hard 2, released in 1990, in which a villain took down a planeload of passengers, but two decades later it no longer elicits more than momentary moral outrage—just long enough to set the plot in motion.)
Clay and his team decide to track down the man who tried to kill them, using the villain's belief that they're dead to their advantage. They plot to stop Max's diabolical plan to obtain a new form of nuclear weapon, but their main motive in doing so is simple: revenge. Max tried to kill them. Now it's time for a little payback.
The film plays out with several action sequences and vignettes that attempt to shed light on each of the characters, but all of which fail to develop them beyond one dimension. There's Roque (Idris Elba), who serves as Clay's trusted confidante and who likes knives—the larger the better; Pooch (Columbus Short), the team's driver and an expectant father; Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) the marksman; and computer geek/break-in expert Jensen (Chris Evans).
It says something about the movie's weak screen banter that Cougar, who has no dialogue, is the most intriguing character in the movie. But an even larger failure is the story's inability to make engaging the character of Aisha, played by the striking Zoe Saldana, hot off her starring role in Avatar. She helps the team but has her own interests for doing so. Because she's beautiful, she gets to have a love affair with Clay, but their love scenes (not subtle, but not so explicit as to jeopardize the film's PG-13 rating) are passionless—just one more item to be checked off in this formulaic action film.
Patric's Max is the film's strangest creation, and its biggest disappointment. He's a suave killer who can slay 'em with witty one-liners just as soon as shoot them in the head, but Patric never finds the right balance in tone to convince us that Max is both debonair and lethal. He comes off instead as stunted and socially inept. How did this guy end up controlling the fates of so many others?
With characters we don't care about and actors who are unconvincing, maybe it's a blessing that The Losers is also instantly forgettable. Finding a better viewing option shouldn't be difficult.
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