Humor salvages a would-be dud
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, April 23, 2010
The first dumb-fun action movie of the summer season has arrived early with "The Losers," a loud, loving homage to guns and testosterone based on a series of comic books about a renegade band of CIA operatives. How dumb is it? You might actually kill a few million brain cells just watching it. Some groups may even want to consider inviting a designated driver to sit in the lobby and eat popcorn till it's over.
What? You were expecting maybe Oscar bait?
Not from a movie with characters named Cougar and Pooch (a man whose military specialty is identified, on screen, as "transpo and special weps"). And not from a movie whose visual style was inspired by a comic-book illustrator who goes by the single name Jock. It's dumb, adrenalized fun, filled with flying knives, broken glass, fireballs, guns and some kind of next-generation bomb called a "sonic dematerializer," also known as a "snuke." In the film's one cheesy special effect, a small island is shown being broken up by sound waves, kind of like a giant kidney stone.
(Come to think of it, the whole cast should get a special Academy Award just for being able to say "snuke" while keeping a straight face.)
The plot centers on a group of commandos led by Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, looking like Robert Downey Jr.'s 1996 mug shot). Known as the Losers, Clay's team consists of his right-hand man Roque (Idris Elba); communications and tech wiz Jensen (Chris Evans); driver Pooch (Columbus Short) and sharpshooter Cougar (Oscar Jaenada). Betrayed and left for dead by their psychotic CIA handler, Max (Jason Patric), they set out to get their revenge before Max can detonate a snuke in Los Angeles as a ploy to justify a U.S. military crackdown on terrorism.
Aiding them in their mission -- or is she? -- is a mysterious femme fatale (Zoe Saldana).
Along the way, expect a couple of easily spotted plot twists, not to mention the Losers' Teflon-like ability to wade into a hailstorm of bullets without body armor and keep on fighting. Truth be told, a couple of them do get shot, but the occasional flesh wound hardly seems to slow them down -- or dampen their wisecracking sense of humor.
That humor, in the end, is what saves "The Losers" from itself. No one -- least of all director Sylvain White, and writers Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, working from comic book creator Andy Diggle's source material -- takes any of this very seriously. From Pooch's automotive mascot, a bobblehead chihuahua named Mojito, to Jensen's rotating wardrobe of silly T-shirts, "The Losers" has a surprisingly light -- and winning -- touch.
Contains bone-crunching violence and explosions, obscenity and sensuality.