Unafraid to embrace the ridiculous
Chris Evans and Ryan Reynolds seem to be trying to corner the market in comic book heroes on the big screen. This summer has both of them aiming for new franchises, with Captain America – The First Avenger and Green Lantern respectively. Here, however, we have Evans in less-than-super mode as Jensen: one fifth of the special ops unit known as The Losers.
Adapted from the DC/Vertigo book of the same name by Andy Diggle and Jock, this is a fun, dumb, Friday-night flick. Unfortunately it was released close to The A Team last summer and may have been hampered by similarities in the basic plot. I really enjoyed The A Team as well, but it was a movie trying to be a comic book; The Losers is more grounded: a comic book becoming a movie.
We begin in Bolivia. The Losers, lead by Col. Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) are on the ground to guide an airstrike on a druglord’s compound in the middle of the jungle. Of course, things go awry and the unit is left disgraced and presumed dead. After a few months working in a doll factory and going to cock fights, Clay is approached by the mysterious Aisha and offered a way back to the US and a chance to take revenge on the man responsible for their “deaths”, known only as Max.
It’s with the character of Max where the movie differs most greatly from the source material. Only seen in shadow and heard mostly on the telephone, Diggle’s original Max was more a phantom than anything else – a puppetmaster. Here Max is a jetsetting, smooth-talking, witty sociopath with a “Bond villain”-esque disfigurement (a withered hand which is seen but never referred to or explained). He’s brought to life by Jason Patric who is clearly having an absolute whale of a time.
There were some reviewers on release who griped that Max was too broad for the tone of the movie. I disagree. Earlier, when I said this flick was grounded, that was only in comparison to the cartoonishness of The A Team. I see The Losers as a successor to Commando and if there is one thing I learned from Mr Schwarzenegger’s Opus it is that your villain has to be glorious.
The cast all seem to get the joke, and nobody feels short-changed in the screentime stakes. Everybody gets their moment, whether it’s Evans trying to rescue “Don’t Stop Believing” from Glee-hell or Idris Elba’s knife-fight at the climax (another Commando echo?)
The Losers won’t change your life. It won’t make you question the nature of existence. It won’t be held up as the Citizen Kane of its decade. What it will do is give you a fun 1 hour and 37 minutes of bad-ass dudes – and Zoe Saldana (just let me wipe up this drool. Okay, I’m back) – pulling bad-ass shit for your enjoyment.
Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.