Monday, April 26, 2010
TEFB REVIEW: THE LOSERS
Directed by Sylvain White
Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba
The Losers is a movie that should be easy to like. During many moments, in fact, the film is easily like-able. Almost effortlessly so. These moments are few and far between, however, and The Losers - in between those greatly spaced out moments of breezy fun - is a poorly plotted, clumsily directed mess of a film. Which is disappointing, because it's clear that most of the individuals involved - from writers Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, to the stellar cast - tried really hard to make The Losers a special film. Too bad director Sylvain White, while completely serviceable as an action director, can't keep the narrative interesting or even make certain plot points make sense.
The film begins in Bolivia where five men, all members of a US Special Forces team, prepare a bombing raid. The raid goes SNAFU when the men are betrayed by a CIA insider named Max (Jason Patric) who sets the group up to be assassinated, but ends up killing 25 children instead. Believed to be dead, the men bide their time in Bolivia, trying to figure out how to make their way back to the states with no money and no connections. Enter Aisha (Zoe Saldana), an agent who offers to help get them back into the U.S. and find Max (who also has plans to purchase weapons of mass destruction and initiate global warfare), but only if they kill him.
The Losers isn't even fifteen minutes into it's run time before it stops making any lick of sense. There's no explanation as to why the team essentially fakes their own deaths and don't just re-enter the U.S., advising their superiors of Max's interference with the bombing raid. Throughout the film, Max conducts business out in the open and unafraid to let everyone in on who he really is. Even when a film is big, loud, and dumb and called The Losers, significant plot-points need to be clear and concise. The losers dips its plot in a muddy swamp.
The rest of the film doesn't fare much better in the narrative department. The Losers bounce from exotic location to exotic location (seriously, this film covers more tropical paradises than a USA Up All Night marathon) to do the following: cause traffic jams to gather intel, disguise themselves James O'Keefe style to get into buildings to gather intel, and sleep with Zoe Saldana to gather intel. With every minute that passes the plot becomes more and more ridiculous and convoluted. Last minute twists are introduced, character identities change, and intimate betrayals are introduced. But it all passes over without the least bit of tension or drama. Instead, White is only concerned with launching the next action sequence.
The action in The Losers is completely serviceable and, at times, even spectacularly awesome. White directs the gun play and explosion orgies with over-the-top glee. The Losers is the type of film where a plane can be destroyed by a motorcycle as easily as it can a nuclear bomb. There's no respect for physics or realism. It's the type of action film that can be glorious fun when it pushes the envelope. I just don't think White pushes it far enough. Since White completely dismisses story, character, and narrative, the action needed to be so ludicrous that I just didn't care. It was fairly dumb. But not brain-damagingly dumb.
I mentioned before that The Losers is fun, in parts. It is, and it's mostly due to the cast. The Losers is made up of Jeffrey Dean Morgan (a solid actor who, between this film's disastrous box office take and Watchmen's under performance really can't catch a break with the movie going public), Idris Elba (always indispensable - please check him out in Stringer Bell in The Wire), Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, and Chris Evans. As skimpy as the screenplay is on the history these men share (and as much as White brushes that aside), the actors convince that this is a group that has a camaraderie that dates to well before the events of the film begin. Chris Evans in particular is practically worth the price of admission. Endowed with the film's funniest lines and moments, Evans impresses with his performance and, between Scott Pilgrim vs. the World coming out mid summer and landing the Captain America gig, he should become a household name within the next year or two.
While the heroes work well together onscreen, the villain does not. Jason Patric is a decent actor and a mostly underutilized one, but he is not a funny one. Max is meant to be a sadistic yet witty and comedic bad-guy, but Patric's performance is stilted and awkward. Most of his lines thudded on the theater floor, and sometimes even reached the point of embarrassment. It's really the only casting misstep in the film, but unfortunately it's a huge one.
I wish that I could recommend The Losers. I walked out of the theater trying to think of ways I could become an apologist of the film. It's not a terrible film and, six months from now when it's available in a local Red Box or to stream instantly on Netflix, it's worth a rainy afternoon viewing. But don't spend your hard earned ten dollars on it. You'll feel like a loser.