What would you do to get your life back? Would you steal it? The Losers would.
For the special operations team codenamed “the Losers,” it was an average mission — survey an arms dealer’s Bolivian compound for an air strike and come back home. When its CIA handler Max (Jason Patric) betrays it, though, the team is left for dead.
On the CIA’s death list, without any prospects but with revenge on their minds, the Losers wait for a plan. Enter Aisha (Zoë Saldana), a rogue CIA operative with the funds and resources to track down Max and get the team off the death list.
Based on a Vertigo comic series written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by Jock, director Silvain White’s The Losers is a fast-paced, kinetic action film with an intelligent script not usually found in Hollywood blockbusters. Unlike a lot of other films from the same genre, The Losers isn’t about big explosions or clichéd plots that are only meant to set up fight scenes. Instead, it is a strong character piece with a great revenge plot that just happens to feature some remarkably well-done fight scenes.
This is the kind of movie where big-time heists and spy conspiracies come together through a filter of fights, chases and style. Imagine a cross between Ocean’s Eleven and Ronin.
While it takes a few liberties with the source material, the film adaptation of The Losers is remarkably close to the original graphic novels. Scenes are lifted straight from the pages of the comic, right down to dialogue and framing. Jock’s art comes to life on the big screen, literally — he provides some framing artwork for the credits. The comic was a storyboard for the big budget action film and proves to be a natural translation into celluloid.
And as for resemblence to the comic, these actors are the Losers. At first it would seem like the characters are clichés: There’s the pilot, Pooch (Columbus Short), the talkative hacker Jensen (Chris Evans), the silent sniper, Cougar (Óscar Jaenada) and the no-nonsense second-in-command, Rogue (Idris Elba). Each character is thoroughly fleshed out, however, and their interactions are filled with subtle hints of friendship and familiarity.
Each character also gets a moment to shine. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the team’s leader, Clay, with a wonderful mix of a commanding presence and laid-back, casual gruffness. Although he only has a few lines, Jaenada’s physical language is deeply nuanced, and his casualness in every situation is endearing and cool.
Another great character is Pooch, a family man torn from his wife because of Max’s manipulations. It’s a tough role to play, but Short nails it.
The standout character, however, has to be Jensen, with his nonstop jokes, garishly funny shirts and penchant for bemoaning the team’s bad luck.
As Aisha, Saldana does a phenomenal job of balancing danger and sexiness. Her violent side is a bit toned down, but she is no shrew in the film’s many action scenes. Her romantic subplot feels forced, but to her credit, Saldana pulls it off very well.
One aspect of the film that falters is the editing during the action scenes. Although White stages the fight scenes well, his occasional dips into Zack Snyder-style slow motion are distracting and detract from otherwise well-done set pieces.
White sticks with a rock-heavy soundtrack for the film, and it usually works. Some moments, such as a chase scene that uses Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” fall a bit flat, but don’t spoil the mood. At times, the music is a little too heavy in the sound mix, but luckily, it is not during scenes with much dialogue.
The film’s main problem is its villain. The comic’s Max is an enigmatic, never-seen figure with very political goals. Here, the politics are toned down and Max becomes a visible, talkative bad guy. Patric is wonderfully affable, but compared to the menacing villain of the graphic novel, the film version of Max falls short. Since he’s been depoliticized, the main scheme is altered and, ultimately, is a bit too sci-fi and out-there for the movie.
Despite these problems, The Losers is still one of the most entertaining films of the year thus far. With its smart script, respect for the source material and brilliant cast, the film comes together perfectly.
In a year where a lot of elite special forces movies are coming out, The Losers proves unique, and most of all, fun.