The idea of unseemly characters banding together to eliminate a common enemy seems to have been around forever (or at least since Kurosawa's Seven Samurai came out), with the formula being used countless times over in cinema and in print. And with The Losers, you get the formula one more time, but this time based on the 2004 Vertigo comic book series by Andy Diggle and illustrated by "Jock." Inspired from the World War II era DC Comics series of the same name, the redundancies and reinterpretations are abundant everywhere you turn, but are they any decent?
Adapted to screenplay by Peter Berg (The Kingdom) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) directs. The Losers don't actually start out that way; they are five Special Forces troopers with varying talents. Pooch (Columbus Short, Quarantine) is good acquiring transportation, Cougar (Oscar Jaenada, Che) is the team sniper, Jensen (Chris Evans, Sunshine) handles the technology and Roque (Idris Elba, RocknRolla) is the demolitions expert. They are led by Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen). When they change the goals of their mission to save children, this displeases their CIA handler, a man named Max (Jason Patric, My Sister's Keeper). Max kills the children and disavows the team, who has now become hell bent on finding out who this mysterious person is and exacting their revenge.
When the trailers for the film came out, they were full of bouncing, foot-tapping music, explosions and witty dialogue. I'm a sucker for things like that, but you have to either commit to the larger than life craziness of an action sequence fully, either by the cast or its director, or the image the film tries to convey doesn't pull it off and lacks as a result. A couple of decent examples of it working include Shoot 'Em Up and the two Crank films. And while The Losers doe put in a college try, it just doesn't go the full monty of self-parody and the result winds up being muddled.
One big difference between those films and The Losers is that the latter is a PG-13 film. A PG-13 film that, by a rough tally, includes a sex scene (albeit non-nude), two dozen children being blown up in a helicopter and scores of anonymous evil henchmen being shot with magic bullets. Why are the bullets magic? Because the bullets apparently don't leave any blood spray from their victims in this film. Minor quarrels they are, but when you get to the larger story, five words come to mind: "Remo Williams, The Adventure Begins." I understand to serialize and build in the possibility of a sequel in case the film took off. But when the film didn't even make $25 million, the notion of a sequel was far too presumptuous, and a disinterested story didn't help.
That's not to say that the performances themselves are all abysmal; Patric is a decent as a slightly crazy evil genius, and Evans has the most fun with his role among the bunch. The one scene that you'd keep seeing in the press was of him in a shirt and tie, waving his fingers at security guards as if they were guns. Elba plays Morgan's second in command well, to a degree of badass-edness that Elba can do. Morgan even does well, and the chemistry between him and Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) isn't bad.
But The Losers lacks an element of pure entertainment and self-parody that would have made it enjoyable. Instead, it keeps pushing along Max's plan of invention an eco-friendly bioterrorist weapon whose technology seems so convoluted, that trying to explain it would give me a migraine. Explain what goes on in the story is immaterial anyway; what doesn't go on between its characters is the more disappointing aspect of it all.
I did want to like The Losers. Really. As a kid who grew up on a ton of Schwarzenegger films during the '80s, I know the pattern and how things were going to go, and was hoping The Losers would do the same. And there were moments where it flirted with that, but never took its pants off and went to town, so to speak. It's a solid popcorn film that you'll forget about 15 minutes after it's over, that's for sure.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and using the VC-1 codec, The Losers looks accurate and possesses an abundant amount of detail in the background and foreground, with Morgan's facial hair being easily spotted by the viewer. The Puerto Rican jungle sequences at the opening are clear and have a multidimensional feel to them, blacks are solid and present a good contrast within this high definition picture. There's occasional character drawings at the beginning and end of the film to give the impression that tribute is being paid to the comic and those colors are vivid without over saturation. It's fine viewing.
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround track brings the goods, starting from the pre-credit opening action sequence in the Bolivian jungle. Bullets go whizzing past you in all channels, grenades and rocket launchers provide a rumble of low-end explosion that shows you your subwoofer will work for its money, and dialogue sounds well balanced and strong throughout most of the film. At least when it came to knowing where you were really going to enjoy the film, The Losers produces in the sound department.
For some reason I was expecting more extra material than what was here, and what's here is underwhelming. You have a deleted scene (:42) which looks more like an alternate ending than anything else does. "Zoe and The Losers" (5:41) includes Saldana's thoughts on the role and her work for it, while the cast and crew talk about what makes her performance good. "Action Style Storytelling" (10:09) features the artists of the book as they talk about their influences growing up and inspiration for doing the series, along with their thoughts on the film version.
Three behind-the-scenes pieces are next, titled "Band of Buddies: Ops Training." First is "Walk the Ops Walk" (5:41), where both the cast and technical advisors discuss their need for authenticity and the actors talk about the guns and assorted weaponry they play with, while "Transforming Puerto Rico" (5:21) is a look at the production design and transformation of the island into several different locations across the globe. The last one is "Going Deep Into the Action" (5:50), which focuses on the look and style of the film through White's eyes. There's an advanced peak at the animated feature Batman: Under the Red Hood that is as long as any two or three of the segments for the film itself (13:46). Finally, Warner has given The Losers a second disc, where the standard definition and digital copies of the film are included for your dining and dancing pleasure.
The Losers is entertaining to a degree, but compared to similar action films that are light in storytelling, is lacking in intent and execution. While technically it's solid (the lossless track packs quite a wallop), the extras are just as barren and the overall result is one that could have been much better than it was. Worth renting to blow 90 minutes if you have the urge.