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If you like stuff blowing up real good and often, then you’ll love “The Losers”. If you demand more out of your movie – say, believable situations, logic, etc – then you’ve picked the wrong group of boys to spend 90 minutes with. Fortunately for me, I had seen the trailers, saw the promo images, and knew exactly what I was getting into, and because of those lowered expectations (or, to be fairer to the film, honest expectations), I didn’t find too much about Sylvain White’s blow’em up action movie to be disappointed by.
Essentially a more comic book-y version of Joe Carnahan’s upcoming “The A-Team” (which is odd to say, since “The A-Team” looks pretty comic book-y itself), “The Losers” is 90 or so minutes of ridiculous action sequences, bro bonding, and more than a generous dash of female eye candy courtesy of a very game Zoe Saldana (last seen looking much bluer in James Cameron’s “Avatar”). The film revolves around a small unit of CIA Special Forces operators who are in Bolivia to take out a drug kingpin. The mission goes awry when the unit’s leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) calls off an impending air strike at the last minute when children are seen at the drug kingpin’s compound. Unfortunately for Clay and the boys, the mysterious Max (Jason Patric) really, really wants that kingpin dead, and he doesn’t appreciate Clay bucking his orders. Before the day is done, Clay’s unit is betrayed and left for dead in Bolivia, thus finding themselves branded … The Losers.
The mysterious Aisha (Saldana) eventually locates the boys while they’re hiding out in Bolivia, and after some violent foreplay – er, I mean, trying to kill each other in Clay’s hotel room, she recruits them to go after Max. It seems Aisha has a personal vendetta against Max, and she’s got the cash to sneak them back into the States and fund their payback operation. Everything goes according to plan at first, Clay and Aisha start playing sexy house, but Max didn’t get to be where he is by being a dummy. Soon, our heroes are back on the defensive, even as Max continues his evil scheme to, well, do something with a bomb or some such.
Played by Jason Patric as a suit-wearing, megalomaniacal version of Jack Sparrow, Max is one of those very complicated fellas who always seem to have two or three contingency plans in case something goes wrong. He’s got this Bond-like idea to start a war using some newfangled weapon, and only the Losers can stop him. Max says he’s an American patriot, and there’s always an American flag pin on his lapel (how subtle), but honestly, if you can decipher who Max is and why he’s doing everything he’s doing, you are a smarter man than I. And, I suspect, a smarter man than writers Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, because it sure feels like the film can’t figure out Max, and so just settled for chuckling along with his Bond villain escapades.
Fortunately, being able to understand Max’s goals is not necessary to enjoy “The Losers”. Director Sylvain White (“Stomp the Yard”), in his first really big Hollywood action movie, does a fine job of keeping things moving, ensuring that the film is never dull. As soon as the gang extricates themselves from one gunfight, there’s another one waiting in the wings. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of substance to be found anywhere, not that you’ll notice as the bullets, bro comedy, and Zoe Saldana’s very fine looking person flies by the screen in a blur of lead and explosions. As befitting a film about a bunch of badass soldiers, the comedy for “The Losers” come from the interplay between the characters: Clay, his knife-wielding right-hand man Rogue (Idris Elba), girl-obsessed but luckless techie Jensen (Chris Evans), transport expert aka “Blagyver” Pooch (Columbus Short), and the quiet but very deadly sniper Cougar (Oscar Jaenada). All the boys get a personality trait or two, and some even come equipped with families to pine for, but forget about writing books about them.
But again, it’s Jason Patric who easily steals the show with his oddball performance. I can’t tell you if Patric ad-libbed any of his lines, but there must be one or two that he tossed in there in the heat of the moment. (Was Max’s insulting of a short associate really written as is? Look for it, and you’ll probably end up laughing your ass off like I did.) Holt McCallany plays Wade, Max’s right-hand henchman, who gets in a couple of laughs himself by being, well, the thick-headed henchman that he is. I was never really that big a fan of Jason Patric, but I have to admit, the guy seems to know that he’s in a cartoony action movie about an evil guy doing something evil (though what isn’t entirely clear to anyone, much less the audience), and is determined to go with the flow. As the film progresses, you’ll find yourself suddenly perking up everytime Max is onscreen. He’s that entertaining.
“The Losers” is a winner if you don’t demand too much from it other than explosions, some amusing male bonding, a breezy good time, and Jason Patric delivering a killer villain. And yes, I do mean killer in the sense that he kills lots of people, but he also makes the movie. I do think the film made a bit of a mistake by leaving the room so wide open for a sequel. This results in a lack of a satisfying conclusion to all the efforts the Losers have put forth onscreen. The film’s climactic final act is also not nearly as “epic” as it could have been, and there is a last-minute betrayal that seems entirely unnecessary. But hey, why get mired in all that negativity when the film is so entertaining? If you have 90 minutes, give “The Losers” and Max a spin.
Sylvain White (director) / Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt (screenplay), Andy Diggle (characters)
CAST: Jeffrey Dean Morgan … Clay
Zoe Saldana … Aisha
Chris Evans … Jensen
Idris Elba … Roque
Columbus Short … Pooch
Óscar Jaenada … Cougar
Jason Patric … Max
Holt McCallany … Wade