Saturday, May 01, 2010

586 - The Losers review

First, there was “The A-Team,” and then, there was “The A-Team” movie. In-between those is “The Losers,” a men-on-a-mission comic book adaptation about a team of elite military men on the run from the law. Like the A-Team, the Losers put their tremendously expensive skills to use in the fight against evil, simultaneously working to clear their names of wrongdoing. Heroic or no, has there been a film or TV series made in the past 20 years that sees an upside to military service?

Ah, well. “The Losers” is a fun piece of celluloid, a gung-ho comic book adventure saturated in vibrant colors and propelled by impossibly talented heroes who triumph in the face of suicide odds. Looking great for its bargain budget (a reported $25 million), the film succeeds at turning the clock and delivering thrills while doing so, despite a shaky tone and a villain who tends to deprive the screen of oxygen.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as Clay, just Clay as far as I could tell, the titular group’s commander and top badass. His unit includes the short-tempered Roque (Idris Elba), tech geek Jake (Chris Evans), ace sniper Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), and time-consumer Pooch (Columbus Short). After their devious boss Max (Jason Patric) blows up a helicopter full of children and frames them for the dastardly deed, the Losers go underground, waging a hi-tech war of crafty schemes and ultra-violence.

Joining the group is Aisha, a mysterious (is there any other kind of woman in these sort of stories?) operative with her own agenda. Aisha is played by Zoe Saldana, recently elevated by a role in some indie flick called “Avatar” that did quite well in some circles, though here she gets to spend lots of time in her underwear, and most of that time shooting guns and fist fighting men that outweigh her by, oh, 100 lbs or so. I suspect, and this really is just a guess, that many will be more impressed by Saldana’s living, breathing gorgeousness than they were with the 12 foot tall blue Native American she played in the last decade’s biggest blockbuster. There’s something about real flesh that computers can’t match, isn’t there? At least for now.

So what’s the reason behind all this mayhem? Max, the villain, is a CIA guru, or a power-hungry politician, or a spurned Wall Street banker, or something. He appears to want money, even though he’s already filthy rich, and wants to use a sci-fi weapon to start a huge war, though what use the world would be to him when reduced to glass is beyond me. Jason Patric, who has done great work in films like “After Dark, My Sweet,” calibrates his performance to “SNL Parody,” a miscalculation that brings his scenes to a halt.

It’s to the credit of the other cast members that the film doesn’t sink. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who I watched on “Grey’s Anatomy” exactly zero times, makes a convincing tough guy whose concern for others seems organic and unforced. Director Sylvain White handles the action with a respectable efficiency, filming the scenes in a way that’s coherent enough to tell who’s shooting at who. Those used to dozens of cuts and the shaky cam might find themselves amused at an action scene that actually makes some sort of physical sense, even if a bunch of heroes standing in the open probably couldn’t gun down dozens of bad guys without suffering a single wound.

It’s difficult to talk positively or negatively about a film like this without making derisive remarks about the plot. I remember getting comments after my four-star review of “Rambo” largely ridiculed the plot; it didn’t sound like you enjoyed it!, people said. My bad, I suppose; it helps to confront and subsequently embrace the inherent silliness of films like these, with their brick wall heroes, searing muzzle flashes, and triple digit body counts. They might have stupid plots, but if I’m entertained, there’s some smart work going on.

3 out of 5

No comments: