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Movie Review: The Losers (PG-13)

Losers for the Win!

By Roxana Hadadi

Dismissing “The Losers” as just another wham-bam action flick based off a comic book series would be an easy option. But it’s the nature of the whamming and bamming – and the silly, snarky script that goes along with it – that makes “The Losers” a delightfully guilty pleasure.

Based off a Vertigo Comics series that ran from 2003 to 2006, which was in turn was based on another series on DC Comics published from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s that focused on a group of World War II soldiers, the film version of “The Losers” is liberally sprinkled with thrilling explosions, nefarious plots and hand-to-hand combat, and though it’s mainly outlandish, that’s kind of the point. Basically a revenge story, “The Losers” does what any good vengeance flick does: Encourages you to root for the guys who have been wronged, regardless of how far they have to go to get even. And despite sparse character development, “The Losers” still succeeds – really, it’s just cool.

The film starts off by introducing us to a Special Forces team employed by the CIA, including Lt. Col. Franklin Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), his second-in-command, Roque (Idris Elba), the tech guy, Jake Jensen (Chris Evans), the sniper, Cougar (Óscar Jaenada) and the pilot, Pooch (Columbus Short). Together, the team has served years together, and though some of them have families back home – Jake has a niece on a youth soccer team, the Petunias, while Pooch is married with a child on the way – they’ve learned to trust one another in the field.

That is, until on their latest mission, when they are sent to Bolivia to assassinate a drug dealer named Fadhil (Peter Francis James) and the team learns there are children at Fadhil’s enclave, which the CIA is about to bomb. Though a man named Max (Jason Patric) interferes on their communications system and tells them to go ahead and kill Fadhil anyway, Clay refuses and orders the men to go in and save the children. Nevertheless, their heroism is all for naught when they load the children onto a helicopter meant for them – and the helicopter is attacked by the same rockets that blew up Fadhil’s compound, killing everyone aboard.

So with the knowledge that Max had ordered their murder and the government putting out a story that the men were traitors and died in Bolivia, the Losers are left with few options: Though they swear to get revenge, without funding and without resources, they’re pretty much stuck there. So they spend their days working in doll factories, betting on cockfights and growing to resent each other (as Roque tells Clay, “You’re not a soldier anymore. He won, we lost. Just get us home”) until Clay is hit on and then later attacked by a woman introducing herself as Aisha (Zoe Saldana). After a “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”-esque fight involving thrown liquor bottles, television sets and a burned-down hotel, Aisha tells the men she knows of their vendetta against Max and will support them in their quest to kill him.

But while she is at first coy about her motives behind wanting Max dead, she later tells the crew about his nefarious plan to spark a world war: His goal is to activate a number of snooks, or sonic dematerializers, which create “pure destruction, no pollution”: they basically cause any structure, including land masses, to reduce nothingness in a matter of seconds. By creating such a global conflict, Max’s goal is to restore the order of international politics – and he doesn’t care how many uncooperative architects he has to throw off 57-level buildings in Dubai, or assistants he has to shoot because they can’t hold his umbrella steady on a windy day, to get what he wants.

And throughout the course of the film, the Losers and Max face off as the group’s reasons for wanting to kill him become more heroic – what’s wrong with making the world a better place, right? Except for where trouble constantly plagues them: Though Aisha tells them Max will be in an armored car that they then steal with a huge magnet and a helicopter, he’s not there; they learn Aisha isn’t really who she seems, causing them to reconsider their whole mission; and the team threatens to break apart when one of their own leads them into a devastating trap. Constantly on the verge of failure, the Losers have to ferociously attack Max and everyone associated with him to get their lives back – and to save everyone else’s, too.

Part of the fun of “The Losers” is that it’s impressively violent, without … actually being violent. Though the scene with the murdered children in the helicopter is certainly an upsetting way to start a film, the rest of the movie is never that emotionally jarring; instead, it stays outlandish in the best of ways. From the fight between Aisha and Clay, which is soaked in sexual tension but never actually gets graphic, to the numerous shootouts between the Losers and Max’s men, there’s no gushing blood, gory entrails or anything totally nasty. The film is slickly aware of itself, and from the use of slow-motion during a scene where a motorcycle flies into an airplane’s engine to the making out between Aisha and Clay (which suggests nudity but doesn’t show any), nearly every image pops with the same kind of bright color used in the best comic books.

And though there isn’t much character development – why is Max so evil, and what kind of experiences caused this unbreakable bond between Clay and his men? – “The Losers” doesn’t really need it. It’s an enjoyable 98 minutes because it’s so totally absurd (and because it uses Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” in a few hilarious scenes) and its PG-13 rating is certainly fair – and shouldn’t bother too many parents, either.


Roxana Hadadi last reviewed “Kick-Ass.”


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