Monday, April 26, 2010

The Losers

"I can't get no... sat-is-fac-tion."

A Black Bag operations team, betrayed by their C.I.A. handler, takes on a mission from a mysterious young woman in hopes of reaping revenge and clearing their names.

When I first heard that there was a planned movie adaptation of The Losers I found myself a little confused, and very interested. My (then) knowledge of the title was as a comic set in World War II. Come to find that there was a much more recent (2003) revamp of the series set in (then) present day and upon reading the first volume I found myself, again, very interested. Upon seeing the film however, I found that a great deal was different (surprise, surprise). Characters and events were of course re-arranged and/or deleted entirely, to the point where comparing it seems like kind of a waste. I will say, however, that Director Sylvain White has managed to capture a lot of the essence of the series, a feat worth mentioning as it so rarely occurs.

The Losers strengths are few but well developed. The first being it's aesthetic. With the production design (or maybe "arrangement" would be a better word) and color scheme of the film, White has built something that evokes a comic book feel over all- without going frame by frame and shooting each image- the set pieces do much to reinforce this. Writers Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt help this "graphic novel" feel by entertaining some of the small asides that tend to make or break such a format while being trimmed, cut, or down right demolished when print turns to reel. These little side stories (thin as they may be) help to connect you to the rest of the story- such as it is. I don't fault The Losers for being a bit predictable. The truth of these commando/buddy cop sorts of movies (The Dirty Dozen, Mission Impossible, Navy Seals, Magnificent Seven etc.) is that they're all a bit formulaic and that's ok. It's ok because with these sorts of stories the joy is in the journey, not the where's and why's. Well, the journey and the strength of the characters taking you on it.

This is where The Losers shines, and inevitably fails. The characters are strong (even if chopped down to bite-size pieces), the laughs are fairly potent, and the cast shows up to try and make it work. In terms of comedy, none more than Chris Evans and Colombus Short, who are paired together to deliver some of the films best lines. The two riff off one another in a way that makes the simpler part of me wish they would do a straight "buddy cop" movie together, while the more complicated part of me chastises it and explains why that movie would most likely be horrible. On the other side of the spectrum we have Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Idris Elba. The good news is, these two are paired together to play a sort of odd couple and it works for the most part. The bad news is we've pretty much seen all of their big hits in the trailer. With the rest of the leads paired off, the other two characters are left free to be stoic or, in Zoe Saldana's case, to deliver plenty of Lady-Kick-Ass schtick.

Ahh, but I said fails too, didn't I? This part is a little hard for me to say- quite frankly because I never thought I would have to say it- but for all the back-story and endless comedy sent our way, there is a severe lack of actual action. I know, I know, the exact opposite of my usual complaint, but walking away from The Losers I found myself wondering at what point comedy kills action. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of shooting and explosions to be had, but I feel as though White has fallen into the Micheal Bay trap of shoving so much comedic relief into his movie that the action (what little there is in this case) loses credibility. What would all the "Quarter-back is toast's" of Die Hard be with McClane chain lynching Nordic dudes to balance them out? You cry, you laugh, you punch the bad guy in the face- that's why all the movies/shows mentioned above worked. They had it all.

The Losers biggest mistake is that it is too front loaded with comedy to leave room for anything else. The action sequences are to short to be sweet- instead feeling a bit under developed. While it brings us a great bad guy moments in the form of Jason Patric, when our heroes finally catch up to him in the big climax, we find it's really more of a medium to small climax. I'm not a fidgety man-child who gets bored if there hasn't been an explosion in the last few minutes but, when the story requires it, I expect a decent throw down- and I never really got one. The Losers is very entertaining, but in the end unsatisfying, even as the confection I expected it to be. Call me picky, but I don't buy a black-ops strike team that shoots everyone with tranquilizer darts- and I don't think you will either.

Reel Deal Recommends:
Stomp The Yard: Directed by Sylvain, Starring Short, it's good- for a dance movie.
Push: Evans in a spectacular movie nobody saw.
Watchmen: Morgan stars, if you've read the book then you'll either love it or hate it.
RocknRolla: Elba in another Guy Ritchie insta-classic.
Star Trek: How could I say any other title for Saldana?
Narc: A gritty cop drama with Jason Patric.

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