The Losers

Director    Sylvain White
Starring    Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris elba, Jason Patric
Release    23 APR (US) 28 MAY (UK)    Certificate 12A
3 stars


27th May 2010

The promotional material for The A-Team claims that "There is no Plan B", and yet the release of both The Losers and The Expendables this summer proves that there's no shortage of other crack commando units surviving as soldiers of fortune. And with The Losers beating the others to the punch with a film that delivers enough ridiculous action to compete with Hannibal and co's Tank vs. Plane trailer moment, you have to pity the fools that now have to follow it.

Because, in terms of the usual tropes you might expect from a brainless action blockbuster, The Losers has it all - absurd set-pieces, ropey dialogue, pointless explosions, nonsensical plot - and not much else. In fact, this film is so watered down with the kind of predictable cliché that is now usually only reserved for parody that, in many ways, it is the ultimate action movie - a broad representation of the genre as a whole. And yet, like hearing an old joke told well, it still manages to be really enjoyable.

Each member of this Special Forces black ops team comes with his own unique skill set in a way that hasn't been seen since GI Joe...the cartoon series. Collect them all and you have yourselves a flippant-yet-somehow-highly-proficient group dynamic full of banter and camaraderie, as evidenced by the initial macho repartee at the start of the film, which gets interrupted when their search-and-destroy mission in the Bolivian jungle goes wrong and shit gets real.

Now believed dead and in hiding, the smiles are wiped from their faces - that is until 5 minutes later when they decide to go after the sonofabitch who framed them with steely determination and a cheeky glint in their eyes. Joined by the untrustworthy-but-sexy Aisha (Saldana), who has her own mysterious reasons for helping them, the group attempt to track down the powerful culprit: egomaniac Max (Patric), a pantomime supervillain trying to use high-tech gadgetry to start a global war.

[gallery]Of course, the plot shouldn't be followed too closely because emphasis is instead placed on the underlying theme of the film: fun, sexy guns. In exploring this highly-evolved issue, Jeffrey Dean Morgan finds himself at the front of the slow-motion group walk as Clay, a flawed closed-off alpha male providing grizzled leadership without any grating pomposity or self-righteousness, who appears to have met his match in the thinly-veiled love interest Aisha. Idris Elba is the hard bastard second-in-command Roque who has frequent my-dick-is-bigger-than-yours clashes with Clay. The less-important group slots go to transportation expert Pooch (Columbus Short) and Cougar (Óscar Jaenada), a taciturn super-sniper.

Standout individuals, however, go to Chris Evans as Jensen, the quick-witted geeky tech whiz, who actually comes up trumps in the kind of formulaic role that could so easily be irritating, and baddie Max, (complete with a Bond-type withered hand), played by Jason Patric with the right amount of silly exaggeration to make him likeable despite his monstrously cavalier attitude to dishing out pain and death.

Max, in particular, keeps the film firmly in the comic-book world from which it is adapted with moments of pure madness, including one scene where he casually shoots his lady assistant in the face for not providing him with adequate umbrella shade. There is, however, a remarkable inconsistency with this jovial ultraviolent tone, as it jars unnaturally with more dramatic moments, such as the opening tragedy - a helicopter full of kids getting shot out of the sky with a missile intended for our heroes.

At the same time, there is the usual predictable complaint: a concentration on style over substance makes for some utterly pointless set-pieces. For instance, the first meeting between Clay and Aisha quickly descends into an erotically-charged fight with lots of breathless wrestling and bodies pinned against walls, utterly destroying a hotel room in the process, before they decide to just simply work together. Huh? Now with a shot of the hotel burning down in the background as Clay and Aisha walk away, our champions just seem, well, irresponsible.

And yet, as far as hokum action films go, The Losers has enough charisma to see it through the rough patches. In a perfect example of this, the film's most memorable scene starts with Chris Evans infiltrating a secured building while singing Journey's Don't Stop Believin' in a high-pitched wail. As the original inane, inspirational song takes over the soundtrack to the film, it's groan-inducing, eye-rolling stuff. But there is something in the execution of the subsequent action scenes that marry it perfectly to the over-the-top refrains of this cheesy rock song.

And thus, there is The Losers in a clinch: we've seen and heard it countless times before, but there is so much charm and swagger on show that soon enough you find yourself tapping along to its beat anyway, and probably with a big stupid grin on your face.

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