'Losers' lost in cliche

Article Published: Apr. 29, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Losers' lost in cliche

Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Columbus Short, Ibris Elba and Oscar Jaenada celebrate another action-movie cliché in 'The Losers.'

The Golden Age of Comic Book Movies is upon us.

Like the Human Torch siphoning gasoline from the Batmobile, titles both popular and obscure have exploded onto the silver screen.

Blockbusters like Spider-Man and Iron Man prove that solid storytelling shines brightly on celluloid, while thoughtful epics like The Dark Knight and Watchmen demonstrate that "mindless" needn't always be associated with "action."

Up until their film adaptations, obscure titles like V for Vendetta and the recent Kick-Ass were some of comic lore's best kept secrets, and their cinematic debuts did not disappoint.

Based on the obscure DC/Vertigo series of the same name, The Losers, like a Bazooka Joe gum wrapper, slips between the seat cushions, out of sight, out of mind and out of gum. There's little to chew on, except maybe some gratuitous eye candy, in what boils down to a mindless series of action-movie cliches.

Painfully polished with a watered-down PG-13 rating, The Losers is too clean for its own good, the kind of movie that could have benefited from an R rating. Consider a PG-13 version of The Running Man, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger's over-the-top brutality and one-liners are neutered for a 3 p.m. screening on TNT. It's evident something's missing.

As far as action movies go, The Losers is violent, so much so that its clean brutality clearly trumps the blood splatters and profanity of its superior predecessors from the '80s and early '90s. The result feels like a half-assed A-Team on Ritalin.

The Losers does not take itself seriously, nor should it. But while its premise seems to promise a return to the matinee action flicks of yesteryear, it fails to deliver any thrills whatsoever, instead recycling scenes and plot devices we've seen in much better movies.

Directed by Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) and shot frenetically in a jerky, shaky, quick-cut manner reminiscent of director Tony Scott's (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3), The Losers is the familiar story of a crack commando unit accused of a crime they didn't commit.

Meet the Losers: There's Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen), the stern leader; Roque (Idris Elba, American Gangster), the brooding demolitions expert; Jensen (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four), the wise-cracking tech expert; Pooch (Columbus Short, Cadillac Records), the amiable driver; and Cougar (Oscar Jaenada, Che: Part Two), the silent sniper.

Thought for dead and stranded in Bolivia after a mission gone horribly awry, the team is nearly resigned to a fate as outcasts, until the enigmatic and equally attractive Aisha (Zoe Saldana, Avatar) enters their lives for better or worse.

Aisha knows how to find Max (Jason Patric, My Sister's Keeper), the high-level and highly psychotic operative who betrayed Clay and company, and offers to help the Losers exact their revenge and gain their (relatively) normal lives back in the process.

But Max has other plans, namely treason, murder and outright destruction, and the Losers must thwart his ill-conceived plot to spark World War III. Action ensues.

To the film's benefit, the Losers themselves have great chemistry. Despite the familiar character archetypes, they're all likable and generally fun to watch, particularly Evans as Jensen, The Losers' answer to The A-Team's Howling Mad Murdock, and Jaenada as Cougar, stoic and silent until a thug threatens to steal his hat.

They're comic book characters, fun and colorful, but after their initial introduction through individual title cards, hand-drawn in the style of the book, White abandons the comic concept until the closing credits, leaving our heroes in a B-movie of big-budget proportions.

Instead, we're left with Max, perhaps the most irritating and poorly written villain in recent history. Patric's dialogue and delivery is nothing short of atrocious, making the already despicable character almost unbearable to watch.

On the other hand, this grating character makes the Losers that much easy to root for, though that irksome PG-13 rating dashes any hopes of actual catharsis. Groaning aloud can only go so far, but the blatant sequel set-up could make you think twice.

The Losers, rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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