Apr 22 2010

The Losers

Due to an early screening of The Losers, LS2FG writers James Goux and B.S. Hadland have brought back the Film Duel to share both of their opinions on the film. You’ll find James’ review below Benn’s.  More after the jump.

Benn says:

With graphic novel and comic book adapted films at their peak, The Losers looks to be amongst the more two dimensional of the bunch.

The Losers follows a team of soldiers who are betrayed and left for dead by the mysterious Max (Jason Patric), an apparently omnipotent entrepreneur who has his finger in every political pie the world has to offer. Soon, the team, led by Col. Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), is given the means to exact revenge and clear their names (of being dead, I suppose) by a mysterious woman (Zoe Saldana).

The film is pretty simple: gun-totting, grizzly heroes conduct a series of missions to get a slick bad guy.  With such a straightforward story, one would think that the filmmakers could fill in all that space with something, anything.  Alas, that’s not how The Losers roll.  It has a number of missions, one-note characters, and little else in its 100 minutes of time to kill.

With a film like this, one only requires gunfights, some snappy one-liners, boundless machismo and a sex scene or two; nothing particularly complex.  Oddly enough, the film never really rises to the occasion.  The gunfights are pretty standard, and when the characters aren’t going through the motions of an ambush, they’re usually walking in slow motion to a power chord dominated score.  And the sex scene?  Its brevity aside, you would be surprised at how flaccid it turns out to be.

Although flat characters are to be expected in a film like this, most of the characters are barely that.  Despite his husky voice and broad shoulders, Morgan lumbers about more than exude anything particularly commanding.  Saldena seems to be more of a dues ex machina than anything else; she gets them back into the U.S. with money and guns, and… that’s about it.  Armed with infinite resources and powerful connections, Saldena’s ornamental sphinx has no real mystery, and her secrets are pretty weak.  She looks good in booty shorts though, so make of that what you will.

The humor comes from other team members Pooch (Columbus Short), Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) and Jenson (Chris Evans).  Evans is no stranger to the class clown action hero role, as his character speaks entirely in quips.  The jokes wear thin every now and then, but Evans numbskull repartee between Short and Jaunada is the only thing keeping the audience awake.

Jason Patric makes a return from the ether of Eighties fame as Max, and seems to be enjoying himself as a smarmy jerk of a villain.  Clad in cream-colored suits, Patric plays the role like a second rate Bond villain with a touch of irony.  Unfortunately, there is very little for Patric to work with, as he’s surrounded by your garden variety of meathead thugs and clueless employers.  It’s not a breakout role in the least, but Patric does the best at rising above plain, mediocre archetypes.

The Losers tends to play out more like a video game with its clear-cut objectives, programmed dialogue (variations of “I can’t let you go alone” make up 70 percent of the dialogue), and its vague, but infinitely powerful bad guys.  Yet even by video game standards the film misses the mark.  There is a scene in which the gang commandeers a police-escorted hummer by ambushing everything in sight in broad daylight.  I’ve seen 13-year-olds, armed only with game controllers, execute similar instances with far more exhilarating results.

The Losers is all about style, and little else.  Sure, slow motion and fast edit cuts make everything look really cool, but no one wants to watch a slick movie trailer than lasts nearly two hours in place of a real film.  As far as action flicks made from testosterone, lead and dumb fun go, I’ll put my money on The Expendables.


James says:

Sometimes it’s easier to enjoy a movie if you judge it by what the film itself is attempting to accomplish.  The Losers, the new film based on Andy Diggle and Jock’s comic series, is not trying to become a new classic.  Its sights are set a little lower, a lot lower in fact.  But I do think it achieves what it’s trying to do, which is call back to the classic action films and shows of the past: the ones with a little less grit and realism, and a lot more fun.  It’s true, there were a lot of scenes and lines of dialogue that feel a little wonky, and if you’re not along for the ride you’re going to find plenty to nitpick.  But perhaps it was the fact that I didn’t have to pay for my ticket in, but I just sat back and enjoyed what the film had to offer.

The plot here is pretty simple, The Losers themselves are an A-Team like group of soldiers who get fucked over by someone who they know only by the name Max.  As a result, they’re on a quest to restore their names and their former lives, and figure out their place in the world.  Even that seems to over-dramatacize things because, basically, this is a revenge flick.  The movie essentially serves to do two things, showcase a whacky cast of characters and move them from action set-piece to action set-piece.  As such, the film relies entirely on the success of those two previously mentioned aspects, its characters and action.  But really doesn’t every action film?

So do they work?  For the most part, they do.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan is great as the stern and cool Clay.  I think he anchors the film well, and brings an innate sort of likability that makes the character work even if he doesn’t do that much other than lead and grumble about revenge.  Zoe Saldana also excels, turning a relatively bland and unbelievable character into something watchable and somewhat organic.  But the man who really makes the movie work for me, is Chris Evans as Jensen.  I mean, the guy’s got all the good lines.  His comedic quips come almost like clockwork, and to my mind, they almost all work.  Even his “action” scene showcase was one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  Yes, he’s the nerdy computer guy of the bunch, but he’s also the most enjoyable.  Perhaps that’s because in a film that doesn’t take itself seriously, he’s the only character that’s truly playing along with that tone.  On the other hand, the integral character of Roque just did not work for my any way it was sliced.  I didn’t like his acting, and there was some seriously flawed character logic as well.  The other two members of the team had too little to do for me to really comment, but I can say the sniper managed to look cool, but even his sparse lines managed to ring emotionally false for me.  The villain, Max, also fell just short of hitting that perfect amiable villain I love.  While he got the amiable right, their attempts to show his darker side didn’t work for me, and he never felt truly threatening.

Still, I don’t think all of these things have to work perfectly to enjoy the movie.  There’s a lot of camp here, and I think it’s present intentionally.  The action scenes are over the top, and so is the melodrama.  If you came to watch bazooka rockets fly and vehicles explode, you will get what you want, and you’ll get it in uncharacteristically colorful fashion.  The romantic beats play out exactly the way you expect, almost like an old Bond film.  In fact, there were multiple times when I got a Bond vibe, particularly from the character Clay.  It seems he’s positioned as an American Bond, working in an ensemble, and the music queues they use during his action sequences say that the filmmakers agree.

I’m not sure this film wraps up in a way that’s quite satisfying for me.  The climax could’ve been bigger, and its attempts at setting up a sequel seemed unnecessary.  And as I look over what I’ve written, it does feel like there’s more criticisms than compliments.  This is not a film to analyze, it’s a film to grab some beers and cheer at with your friends.  If you can’t revel a little in a little sexual tension between the two leads, or light up at a nice motorcycle stunt, I’m not sure if this will have anything to give you.  But I do know that I saw it, and I had fun.


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