The Losers, 2010.
Directed by Sylvain White.
Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Óscar Jaenada and Jason Patric.
In the Bolivian jungle, a group of Special Ops soldiers plan an air strike on a village targeted by the US military. Finding a large amount of children in the village they save them, only for the helicopter carrying the children to be destroyed by a secretive villain known as Max. Presumed dead in the crash, the soldiers, now just ordinary ‘losers’, plan their revenge and their path back into the USA.
Going into The Losers I wasn’t expecting much – it has received pretty mediocre reviews and has lacked publicity upon its UK release, suggesting a lack of faith from its distributor Warner Bros. If Warner had got behind it though, they could have had a hit on their hands because The Losers is a genuinely entertaining piece of pulp filmmaking.
Based on a comic book that ran from 2003-2006, its story concerns a Special Forces team that are presumed dead after their helicopter was destroyed during a mission in Bolivia. They survived however, and plan to take out the man who wanted them dead, a Black Ops official with a side interest in trading arms, known only as Max.
The Losers plays out like a western along the lines of The Wild Bunch or The Magnificent Seven. The team members are somewhat caricatures, defined by their roles within the team and broad personalities. They are individually introduced by comic book style freeze frames showing their name and specialist military skill, before we quickly come to see them as the leader, the rogue, the nerdy hacker, the ice-cool sniper and the family-man pilot. Each man’s skill is essential to the team, and they operate, like in the classic westerns, as a rebel group, outside of the law but on the side of good.
The Losers brings this classic group dynamic into the 21st century however, and aims it squarely at the nerdy young male, with the snappy banter and squad based military format recalling the experience of playing online videogames. The Losers aims for this market aesthetically too, with plenty of camera trickery and clever editing that keeps it fast-paced and exciting without veering into the territory of feeling vacuous. The film draws on its comic book source for visual cues, but also on videogames, Hong Kong action movies, and MTV music videos – flashing up comic book style frames, projecting location names onto establishing shots, flirting between slow and fast motion, and cutting in time to the beat of the constantly murmuring score.
These visual flourishes, along with enthusiastic performances by all involved and a brisk running time of only 97 minutes make the film a satisfying indulgence. It may not be Citizen Kane but it doesn’t have the pretence to think it is – director Sylvain White, who hasn’t helmed much else of note, directs with an unashamed joy-de-vivre. The Losers knows its target audience and it understands the failings of bloated big-budget comic book adaptations, such as the Spiderman sequels. Opting for a focused and fun romp, The Losers delivers where it should and is enjoyable to watch.
Following the success of Kick Ass, it’s a shame that The Losers hasn’t performed better at the box office. While it isn’t quite up to the heights of that film – which so successfully melded a contemporary teenage comedy with a solid superhero film – it is perhaps a sign that the big film studios should be starting to look towards more recent comic books for their inspiration rather than the tired X-Men and Iron Man types that were created in the 1960s. Indeed, with the promising looking Scott Pilgrim vs. The World also coming soon, this movement could already be underway.
Movie Review Archive