- Rated R
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All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s only been ten years since Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” helped convince movie studios that adapting comic books for the big screen was a lucrative enterprise, but you’d think more time had passed for how tight of a grip the subgenre has on the film industry today. Arriving right on the heels of “Kick-Ass,” Sylvain White’s “The Losers” is the second comic book movie to be released in as many weeks. Based on the DC/Vertigo series of the same name, the comic played like a fun throwback to classic shows like "Mission: Impossible" and "The A-Team." Something must have been lost in translation along the way, because the movie adaptation is an incoherent mess that fails to capitalize on its promising premise, resulting in a film that isn’t exactly terrible, but almost entirely forgettable.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as Clay, the leader of a black ops unit that appropriately earns its nickname of The Losers when they’re double-crossed by a CIA spook named Max (Jason Patric) during a routine mission in Bolivia. Presumed dead by their government, Clay rallies his team – comprised of second-in-command Roque (Idris Elba), tech expert Jensen (Chris Evans), transport and heavy weapons specialist Pooch (Columbus Short), and precision sniper Cougar (Óscar Jaenada) – to expose Max’s secret plan to start a global war and earn back their freedom. Helping them on their mission is Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a mysterious ally who wants Max dead for reasons of her own and could prove more trouble than she’s worth.
For a movie that relies so heavily on the camaraderie of its Losers, the cast doesn’t click nearly as well as you might expect. Some of that can be attributed to the lack of character development in Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt's script, but the actors don’t exactly radiate the wit and charm that made Andy Diggle’s comic a good read, either. Morgan sleepwalks through his role as the team leader, Elba and Short both suffer from neutered characters that were far more complex in Diggle’s story, and Jaenada does the best he can with what is essentially a non-speaking part. Only Chris Evans truly rises to the occasion as the tech-savvy motormouth, but that’s not surprising considering he gets all the best lines. Jason Patric, meanwhile, takes what was already a pretty lame villain in the comic and turns him into a campy, James Bond-like baddie.
He seems to be stuck in an entirely different movie than his co-stars, delivering a performance that’s so over the top that it has to have been done on purpose. It’s as if the film is suffering from some kind of identity crisis. White can’t decide whether “The Losers” should be a straight-up action movie, a comedic homage, or something in between. The end result is a wildly uneven hodgepodge of the comic book’s brightest moments, only without any of the excitement. The dialogue is snappy at times, but generally clichéd, while the action sequences are completely lifeless. The potential for a good action movie was certainly there, but just when it seems like “The Losers” is going to break out of its shell and surprise you, it reverts right back to its bad habits.
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Compared to some of the studio’s more recent Blu-rays, Warner Brother’s two-disc release of “The Losers” is a bit of a disappointment. While there are a few extras to choose from – including a three-part making-of featurette and a short profile on Zoe Saldana – the best of the bunch is a 10-minute conversation between creators Andy Diggle and Jock about the origins of the comic book and how it compares to the film adaptation. Rounding out the set is an alternate ending and a digital copy of the film.