There are three things you’ll discover about The Losers almost immediately. First, it’s surprisingly fun, light-hearted, and entertaining. Two, Chris Evans and Jason Patric (yes, Jason Patric) steal the movie from every other actor and action set-piece. And three, it is probably one of the stupidest action movies to reach theater screens since 1989’s Tango & Cash. (And for the record, I’m inexplicably entertained by Tango & Cash.)
An affable black ops squad (Idris Elba, Chris Evans,Oscar Jaenada, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Columbus Short) is in Bolivia on a simple mission for the CIA. They’re there to paint a terrorist’s hideout with a laser so an air-strike can destroy the entire compound. Minutes before the missiles are to hit though the team notices a busload of schoolchildren being unloaded within the target’s walls, and when their attempts to call off the attack are rebuffed they move in to rescue the kiddies. They succeed and send the happy tykes off on a helicopter only to watch in horror as it’s blown out of the sky by a maniacal and power-hungry CIA agent known only as Max (Jason Patric). Disgraced and thought to be dead, the group heads back to the US to clear their names and get revenge. But to do that they’re going to need help so they join forces with the mysterious Agent Aisha (Zoe Saldana, all seventy-five pounds of her) unaware of her own secret agenda…
The Losers is a fun flick. It’s consistently light and breezy even when supposedly important and dramatic events are unfolding. People are dropping dead or being shot every few minutes, but there’s always time for jokes… and that’s okay here because the jokes here are actually funny. The script from Peter Berg (who was originally set to direct) and Jamie Vanderbilt is a loose collection of one-liners, cliches, and set-pieces, and the damn thing works even when it logically shouldn’t. The credit for that goes evenly to the script and to the film’s ensemble of actors who play things straight but casual enough to be in on the joke without seeming jokey. It’s the difference between something like Get Smart or Super Troopers where the action is incidental and in service of the comedy and a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon where the laughs are layered around the drama and action to add depth of character and personality. The Losers falls squarely in the middle of those two extremes.
Particular praise has to go to Evans and Patric. The two of them are responsible for the vast majority of the movie’s laughs and smiles, and Evans in particular could very well have used this movie as his audition reel for the Captain America gig. He’s always been an entertaining enough player, but here he manages to outshine the rest of the team in personality and charisma. He’s just as comfortable running and gunning through the action scenes as he is with the comedic timing. The elevator scene hinted at in the trailers shows him in a tight t-shirt with his hands on his hips, and the pose is Captain America. Even notorious straight man Robert Fure noted on Twitter that “Total no-homo, but Evans in the Under Armor shirt in the elevator convinced me he can play Captain America. Dude was buff.” And Patric? He may not be buff, but the guy is certainly swinging for the fences here in a bid for a career resurgence. Max is a villain with no discernible past or moral code, but Patric imbues him with a wryly sarcastic sense of humor and casual throw away lines that land perfectly. His asides to various henchmen and cohorts are a priceless mix of old-school villainy and anti-social (but hilarious) prick.
But all the fun and charisma in the world can’t mask how unrelentingly ignorant and oblivious to reality The Losers is. And yes I know, it’s an action movie based on a comic book, but the movie has to meet the viewer’s intelligence halfway here right? The leads walk through gunfights unharmed while they shoot from the hip to take down every enemy. The chopper crashes to the ground with seat-belts and teddy bears intact, but the twenty-seven people on-board are nowhere to be seen. (PG-13 strikes again!) Good guys shot in the knees or shoulders walk and run minutes later. The villain’s secret weapon is something that would make even the looniest Bond villain laugh in disbelief. Little Miss Saldana shoots a rocket launcher (from the hip of course) and shows zero kickback or recoil. And where the hell are the police?! The team flies a huge helicopter into downtown Miami for a gunfight and high-profile shenanigans, then fly away with a hefty payload hanging from the chopper… and still no cops show up or try to follow? I could go on, but basically the movie is one preposterous piece of stupidity after another.
There are also some stylistic choices by director Sylvain White that may have you shaking your head in frustration. The opening gunfight includes scatter-shot editing and freeze-frames whenever a bad guy gets killed. It becomes annoying almost immediately and thankfully the technique is never revisited after that opening battle. And I realize Saldana is here solely for her presumed sex appeal, but does the camera really need to enter slo-mo mode whenever her ass enters the frame? It’s a rhetorical question obviously, and the underwear shot in particular is nice, but it really does get a bit silly. Then there’s the issue of special effects. If you insist on featuring a scene where a small plane explodes… please don’t hire your twelve year-old nephew to do the digital effects on his Mac.
And yet with all that it’s still an enjoyable enough romp well worth ninety minutes of your time. Saldana’s flexibility and spitfire attitude will keep the guy’s happy, and Evans’ rippling pecs and smile should satisfy the ladies (and Fure). The action is passable, the laughs are fairly frequent, and you’ll never feel bored or under-stimulated. Of course, you’ll probably forget most of the movie almost immediately afterward, but that’s not such a bad thing is it?
The Upside: Funny, casual, forgettable entertainment; Chris Evans and Jason Patric both give standout performances; fun watching Zoe Saldana’s ass control the camera speed.
The Downside: Brain-numbingly stupid; a few incredibly bad special effects; have I mentioned how unrepentantly dumb this is?; Zoe Saldana needs to eat more; seriously, there is some stupefyingly brain-dead antics here people.
On the Side: The Losers is a completely different movie from The A-Team. And both of those are totally different from The Expendables.