Review: "The Losers."

The Losers giddily embraces its ordinary plot, using it as a springboard for cartoonish over-the-top violence. Working from Vertigo’s comic book series, it wastes little time on exposition or character development. It is a movie without pretension, one that simply knows what it wants to accomplish, and succeeds in spades. Because it’s professionally directed and features winking performances, The Losers will please genre fans that require a diversion until they can line up for Iron Man 2.

The titular losers are a team of five highly trained badass soldiers. Leading them is Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who has a penchant for black suits, scotch, and automatic weapons (who doesn’t?). His boss is Max (Jason Patric), an evil CIA operative. While on mission in Bolivia, Max betrays the Losers by blowing up their helicopter. They helplessly watch it explode, for there was no room aboard except for innocent Bolivian children. Later, with the help of the mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana), Clay and his team embark on a suicide mission: enter the United States, kill Max, and restore their dignity. Fellow team member Roque (Idris Elba) is skeptical of the plan, whereas the loony Jensen (Chris Evans) will do anything as long it doesn’t interfere with his niece’s soccer team. But little do they know Max is funding research for an environmentally safe Weapon of Mass Destruction, which he hopes will jumpstart yet another War on Terror ™.

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Comic book adaptations like The Dark Knight take a serious approach, earnestly probing what might drive men into bizarre, extraordinary situations. The Losers, on the other hand, takes the complete opposite approach – whereas murky motivations dominate Nolan’s dialogue, screenwriters Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt are content with comic book clichés. The story and situations never pretend to be anything more than cartoonish, so the cast and direction are free to have fun with they’re given. Of the actors, Chris Evans is most the comic and engaging to watch*. One sequence in particular, in which Jensen penetrates a high-security office, finds fresh use for a song I always think I’m tired of. As Clay, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s convincing tough-guyisms again leave me wondering why he isn’t a bigger star. Not surprisingly, Jason Patric is superb as the wicked villain, and who manages to find humor even as Max joylessly murders innocent bystanders.

In a movie like this, acting is always secondary to action, and in this regard director Sylvain White proves he’s a competent professional. The climax sets up unlikely vehicles in an absurd situation, and it’s a testament to White’s craft that he’s able to establish its absurdity without frustrating the audience. Other scenes, particularly as the Losers steal an armored car with a helicopter, are equally well-mounted and executed. This is a pleasant surprise from a director whose previous work is Stomp the Yard. And if action substitutes for plot cogency, it follows one-liners and pop-culture references substitute for character nuance. Like you, White knows The Losers is completely ludicrious. He jettisons any semblance of realism and focuses on explosive violence at its most cathartic.  The result is breezy and exciting, even if it won’t leave a lasting impression.

* Unless, of course, you bought your ticket just so you could see Zoe Saldana handle a bazooka, which is understandable.