Thursday, July 22, 2010

In short: The Losers (2010)

Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short), Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) and Jensen (Chris Evans) are an effective little black ops unit for the US military, yet they also have some of those hearts of gold prostitutes in Westerns are so often outfitted with. So when doing as they are told by their CIA contact Max (Jason Patric) on a mission in Bolivia would lead to the death of a group of children, they decide to save the babies and risk their on lives instead.

They needn't have bothered, because Max betrays them for their efforts and blows an extraction helicopter the team should have been on sky high. The team didn't enter the helicopter, though, leaving to make space for the children, who are now what children in Hollywood films usually aren't - dead. Max doesn't know about the group's survival (and couldn't care less about the children, obviously), but that leaves the soldiers still stranded without papers in Bolivia.

Thoughts of revenge aren't far, yet there just doesn't seem to be a way to get back into the US, even less one to get back at the evil traitorous CIA guy. Until the mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana) makes contact with our heroes and offers to smuggle them back into the country, if they are willing to help her kill Max.

It will probably be better if they do, too, because Max is using his copious spare time to buy insane weapons of mass destruction with which to incite a war or two to keep himself in business.

The comic book series by Andy Diggle and Jock The Losers is based on is known to be a Big Dumb Action series made by and for people who aren't as dumb as one would expect them to be, and the film keeps itself - surprisingly enough - very much in the comic's spirit.

The Losers seems to thrive on its own self-consciousness, an only slightly detached knowledge of, and, more importantly, love for classic action movie clichés that allows it to take each and every silly idea it thinks it might just get away with (and some it shouldn't expect to) and run with it, without having to care too much about deep characterisation or too sensible a plot. Often, movies this self-conscious tend to be rather dreary affairs, seeming more interested in congratulating themselves for their own cleverness than in actually being clever or fun. Director Sylvain White manages to avoid this problem nearly completely and makes his movie only ever exactly as self-conscious and clever as needed to provide that mythical feeling of being fun most US action movies of the last few years have tried to avoid like a venereal disease. And how's that from the director of I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer?

Although there are a lot of people dying here, White imbues his film with a lightness of touch that fits its silly set-up and not exactly deep characters perfectly. Somehow, action hero poses and action movie structures make sense again when presented in this way.

Besides White's light touch, The Loser works as well as it does thanks to some very enthusiastic acting by just about everyone on screen (although Jason Patric's bad guy might be too comically broad for some). The actors seem to be at once in on the joke and serious enough to throw themselves into the moment, no matter if it is a shoot-out or a silly comedy bit.

In fact being at once in on the joke and serious about it seems to me what makes The Losers work.



Scare Sarah said...

Sounds good. Thanks for the heads up as always.

houseinrlyeh said...

You're welcome!