Saturday, May 8, 2010

"The Losers"

I don’t mean to shock anybody with my following statement, but I must confess I am a nerd. In fact, I am such a nerd that there are different levels to my nerdiness. I am a Sports Nerd, a Movie and TV Nerd, a Super Hero Nerd, at times a Book Nerd, and a Joke Nerd (Conan voice: I love science). Perhaps the only kind of nerd I am not (not counting creepy nerds like the dudes on that toy trains show) is Comic Book Nerd. I never got into the comic book thing. Even as a kid I was far too busy collecting Star Wars figures, organizing basketball cards, and reading “The Hobbit” over and over again to concern myself with comics. So basically, anything that could be done to prevent girls from liking me EXCEPT reading comics. (I was this close to a perfect game, darnit.) This new wave of comic, the graphic novel, has always intrigued me but not quite enough to actually invest in the Time + Money = Knowledge equation. Now that so many of these books are being turned into movies, I’m pretty sure that it’s better for me just to see the movies to save myself from the inevitable, “that’s not faithful to the booooook!!!” comments that seem to be required from these situations. And yet, movies like “The Losers” often leave me wanting to catch up on all the great graphic novels I’m missing out on.

“The Losers” are your typical mercenaries with a conscience lead by Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) based on characters from the graphic novel of the same name by Andy Diggle. They might be out on a CIA endorsed mission of death but they’re sure not going to accept collateral damage. When one of these missions turns south, their handler, Max (Jason Patric), leaves them stranded in Bolivia. Considered dead and unable to return to their lives for the sake of their families, the Losers are left only to ponder their growing desire for revenge. When Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a mysterious woman of questionable integrity but unquestionable sex appeal, shows up with a plan of getting their lives back, the Losers jump on board and bring the war on Max to the U.S.

Each member brings their own skill set to the team. Roque (Idris Elba) is the muscle, Pooch (Columbus Short) is the munitions expert and driver, Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) is the sniper, Jensen (Chris Evans) is the computer geek, and of course Clay is the suave-but-rugged leader of the pack. This crew is the type that enjoys a good shoot out, especially when the odds are stacked against them. From office building invasions to full on fire fights in the streets of Miami (complete with a 50 millimeter cannon), the Losers provide an action junkie’s dream. These guys are ticked and the only time they take a break from stealing helicopters, blowing up Hummers, and taking down airplanes is when the occasion calls for witty banter and slightly camptastic one-liners.

“The Losers” is, quite simply, a fun piece of action throwback goodness. The writing is adequate enough to keep the audience from groaning or becoming disinterested. Sometimes the pacing is too fast and leaves you feeling like you’re jumping from frame to frame. But if you’re making an action movie, you can live with too fast over too slow. The acting, for the most part, is solid. Evans, who was recently cast as Captain America in a new franchise of films, is particularly and shockingly good. Best known for playing the Human Torch in the atrocious “Fantastic Four” movies, I’ve always thought Evans was a terrible actor. Here he is funny enough as to make me wonder if perhaps he brought somebody else’s A game instead of his own. Morgan is an underrated lead and he does a good job of bridging the gap between James Bond and Rambo. Elba, Short, and Jaenada all provide good support as well. The story is good enough, if underdeveloped, and did I mention a 50 millimeter machine gun? Hence, the action sequences are undeniably awesome.

Still, this is far from a perfect comic book hero action flick. Saldana’s character is unnecessary, similar to the female roles in many an action movie. She is underdeveloped and, judging by her work in “Star Trek” and “Avatar,” underutilized. Jason Patric, meanwhile, is terribly miscast. I have no problem with Patric and consider him to be a solid actor. But his Max is just not convincing. This script puts a lot of pressure on the villain to carry a heavy load and Patric just comes across as flat and uninspired. The biggest issue, however, is the film’s overall lack of emotion. Perhaps that’s just not the director’s intention, which I can understand, but I personally found it a bit lacking. The Losers don’t display any heart, even when they’re saving Bolivian orphans from a fast-approaching missile and that lends itself to a certain disconnect with the audience.

“The Losers” is pure entertainment that revels in its comic book nerdery and doesn’t trouble itself with such trivial concerns as reality. Though, I must say, reality is a relative term when it comes to the world of film. There’s much more authenticity here than, say, 2009’s “Taken,” a film I absolutely loved in spite of its complete detachment from reality. I wouldn’t call this any sort of crowing achievement in the comic book movie genre. Rather, it’s quite predictable, full of clichés, and displays a litany of holes. Still, I consider “The Losers” to be an all around good time that reaches out to the potential Comic Book Nerd inside and only strengthens its demands to be heard through all the other levels of nerdiness.

Grade: B-

Spell check tells me I invented three words in this review,

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