The Losers -- Film Review

"The Losers"


"The Losers" is a cartoonish nonstop action movie in which characters zip around the world, breaking, entering and blowing things up without any pretense to logic. It's a world devoid of any geopolitics, connective tissue, human backgrounds or ideals other than greed and self-preservation.

It is, of course, a Warner Bros. actioner adapted from a comic book series. Characters are two-dimensional, but the actors all play them with vigor, each focusing on a single outstanding feature of his character, so their interplay within the bullet-splattering sequences has resonance.

"Losers" should serve as a moderately successful seat-warmer for Warners before the onslaught of summer. The film never is boring, but it's never engaging, either, because its heroes hit every target in sight, while the villains, despite holstering much greater weaponry, never hit anybody. So forget about suspense.

Working from a blueprint -- screenplay would be the wrong word -- by Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, based on comic books written by Andy Diggle, illustrated by Jock and published by DC Comics/Vertigo, France-born director Sylvain White ("Stomp the Yard") keeps things moving at video-game speed.

Indeed, the film seems to start in the middle of a scene, with five Special Forces ops horsing around in the jungle before a mission. The film freeze-frames each guy, giving us his nickname and specialty. Do you like your heroes to have such names as Clay, Jensen, Roque, Pooch and Cougar? Of course you do.

Their mission seems strange: They have to move close to a jungle hacienda of a Bolivian bad guy, then call in a military airstrike to blow it sky high. The complex seems pretty wide open to the casual observer, but one guesses the CIA likes to have its people nearby during all illegal covert operations.

It turns out the whole thing is a double cross with a rogue American agent targeting them as well. Believed dead -- apparently the CIA doesn't believe in looking for body parts -- the five "losers" are desperate to reclaim their old identities and get revenge on a guy named Max (Jason Patric).

Enter Zoe Saldana's sultry Aisha. She introduces herself to team leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) by engaging him in hand-to-hand combat and burning down his hotel. Naturally, they fall for each other. With a never-explained source of limitless resources and cash, she smuggles Clay and his buddies back to the States to target Max. Only explosives expert Roque (Idris Elba) is wary of her.

With Jensen's (Chris Evans) expertise in high tech, Pooch's (Columbus Short) skills with transport and heavy weapons and Cougar's (Oscar Jaenada) sharp-shooting, the superbaddie doesn't stand a chance. Max is a villain in the James Bond mode, only much sillier. To his credit, Patric plays him for laughs. His henchman, Wade (Holt McCallany), is lethal but rather dopey.

The movie moves on to Dubai, Mumbai, Miami, New Mexico and Los Angeles without ever actually leaving Puerto Rico. Scott Kevan's cameras are in constant motion, and editor David Checel cuts fast and often. For all the film's speed, though, it never seems to get anywhere.

By the way, the producers have left the door open for a sequel.

Opens: Friday, April 23 (Warner Bros.)
Production: Warner Bros. in association with Dark Castle Entertainment presents a Weed Road Pictures production
Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patric, Holt McCallany
Director: Sylvain White
Screenwriters: Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt
Based on the comic book series by: Andy Diggle, Jock
Producers: Joel Silver, Akiva Goldsman, Kerry Foster
Executive producers: Andrew Rona, Steve Richards, Sarah Aubrey, Stuart Besser
Director of photography: Scott Kevan
Production designer: Aaron Osborne
Music: John Ottman
Costume designer: Magali Guidasci
Editor: David Checel
Rated PG-13, 98 minutes