4/23/10

Review: The Losers (2010)


Sylvain White's The Losers, based on the comic books by Andy Diggle (which I have not read), is a wisecracking, rip-roaring action film with a tight-as-a-drum plot, fun acting and character development which elevate some stereotypical tropes, and sharp dialogue and editing. It's fun, fast, exciting, surprising, and could be the best A-Team movie of the year.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, still an emerging movie star, but definitely a movie star, sort of reprises his role as The Comedian from last year's Watchmen as Clay, the leader of a military squad which may nor may not get its orders from the CIA, but which takes its role displaying American might quite seriously, and definitely more seriously than its invisible handlers. Morgan, who also shot to fame on a t.v. hospital show, dresses like George Clooney and reminds the audience of him in other ways here, but seems to have an extra action gravitas.

My viewing of The Losers was definitely informed by some of my recent movie-watching and reading, including Watchmen, The Hurt Locker, and also the books and movies of The Men Who Stare at Goats and Green Zone (partly based upon Rajiv Chandrasekaran's stunning non-fiction Imperial Life in the Emerald City), and I would certainly recommend them to anyone. The recent actions of our own government make this film's comic-book plot seem almost tame rather than cartoonish or far-fetched.

Clay and his men are on a fairly routine mission in Bolivia, tasked with placing an electronic beacon at the villa of a top drug dealer, Fadhil (Peter Francis James), for a bombing run, when they notice things starting to go wrong. For one thing, there are children in the villa. For another, nobody up the chain of command seems to care about this information. With time short, Clay decides to alter their mission. This earns them the enmity of Max (Jason Patric, awesome), the shadowy CIA figure running their operation. In fact, they all end up dead (no spoilers).

The rest of Clay's squad is made up of Idris Elba as Roque, who likes knives, Chris Evans as Jensen, a computer expert, Columbus Short (Death at a Funeral) as Pooch, in charge of transportation, and Oscar Jaenada as Cougar, the team's sniper. All the acting is excellent; the actors work seamlessly together and are credible as well as entertaining in their roles.

Back to our dead men in progress, following that unfortunate event, the Losers quickly realize they need to drop off the face of the earth and try hard to figure out a way to make it home. Some revenge on Max couldn't hurt either, though there is some disagreement about this at times, until a mysterious woman, Aisha (Zoe Saldana, the excellent Uhura of Star Trek, Neytiri of Avatar and Elaine from Death at a Funeral) offers them exactly that chance, along with funding and other assistance for such an operation. Saldana and more Saldana please.

Of course, everything is not as it seems, and the twists, when they come, are genuinely surprising and played well. The dialogue, by screenwriters Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, is about as good as it gets. The rhythm and pace of the story are just right.

A special note about Jason Patric--yes! As absurd and silly as Max as Val Kilmer looks to be as Dieter in the upcoming MacGruber, he does play his part for plenty of laughs, but still has a convincing arrogance and chilly demeanor which help him manage to be a serious villain. If nothing else in The Losers had worked, his part as played might not have worked either, but as the film is firing on all cylinders, it does work, and even elevates the intelligence and irony levels of the film. The last we see of Max reminded me of the opening of Andy Kaufman's My Breakfast with Blassie, when he says, "It's sort of like the way people make fun of the transportation system in Los Angeles. Go ahead and laugh all you want, but I can still take a bus to anywhere in the city for just fifty cents." Pooch echoes another famous Kaufman punchline almost immediately afterwards: "Traffic."

I wholeheartedly recommend The Losers to anyone who likes action movies, comedies, fun and self-aware performances by great actors, surprising dialogue and plot twists, or just good times at the movies. It's got it all. It's set up for multiple possible sequels, they could even borrow a page from the upcoming Marvel Avengers series and plop the Losers right into the next Batman movie (if Evans has time between playing Captain America, or unless they reboot and need Morgan to play Batman or Saldana for anything).

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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