Director Sylvain White's The Losers is a film that lacks any original ideas and could even leave some viewers yearning for other recent action homages, such as The Expendables or The A-Team, disappointing as they were in the first place.
Director: Sylvain White
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Idris Elba, Chris Evans
There's a point in The Losers when the eponymous band of special ops soldiers-turned-mercenary-heroes are staring defeat in the eyes and briefly consider giving up and letting the bad guys win. But when the group's leader declares his intention to keep going and even die if necessary, they vow to stick together and fight for what's right. Nobody quite says "all for one and one for all", but they might as well. It's the kind of clichéd moment one might expect to find in an action movie parody, uploaded on to YouTube by a bunch of sarcastic film students.
But while the characters and dialogue could have been dreamt up in someone's bedroom, the film looks like the slickest of slick Hollywood productions. The director Sylvain White (whose best-known previous endeavour is the straight to DVD horror sequel, I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) throws every trick available straight at the camera. Whether it's the animated title cards that introduce the characters, the use of freeze frame whenever an evil henchman gets shot or the slow motion scenes of The Losers eyeing-up the camera while up-tempo rock music blares, the film feels more like a deodorant advertisement than a piece of cinema.
The plot will sound particularly familiar to anyone who's ever seen The A-Team: a bunch of elite commandos, (who look surprisingly like male models) find themselves working outside of the law after being set up by a shadowy government operative. The configuration of the group also suggests the A-Team might have been an influence. It includes a charismatic, level-headed leader (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a gigantic, irritable black guy (Idris Elba) and a wise-cracking, fidgety tech expert (Chris Evans), among others.
Early on in the movie, (based on the DC Comic's title of the same name) the big-hearted commandoes are forced to watch as a helicopter full of Bolivian school children crashes to the ground and bursts into flames. The Losers then learn that the explosion was meant for them. It's a moment that is supposed to feel heart-wrenching and become the moral justification for the rest of the film, but it falls flat.
After escaping the assassination attempt at the hands of the crooked agent "Max" (Jason Patric), the group meet the seductive Aisha (Zoe Saldana) who tells them of an opportunity to capture him and get their lives back. Meanwhile, Max travels to a series of exotic locations (including Puerto Rico, Dubai and Mumbai) to test a frankly ridiculous new weapon - "the snuke" - capable of vaporising an area the size of a tropical island. But when ensnaring the globetrotting baddie doesn't go their way, The Losers begin acting less like soldiers and more like whining, in-fighting children.
The movie contains not a single original idea. Even one of the locations is conspicuously stolen from GoldenEye, but if you can get past the generic story and showy direction, the film has a handful of entertaining performances. Evans' glasses and goatee-wearing electronics expert gets a few laughs and Morgan is surprisingly charismatic as the team's sharp-suited leader. Also, despite being stylistically hyperactive, it is assembled competently at least and at an economical 96 minutes, it doesn't drag.
One of the things that's most noticeable about the film is the lack of blood or conspicuous death. When the heroes shoot a bad guy, it's either with a tranquilliser dart or into a bullet proof vest, a decision that was almost certainly made to get the PG-13 rating in the US. Unfortunately, the lack of gratuitous violence means the film won't even qualify as a guilty pleasure for action fans. It could even leave some viewers yearning for other recent action homages, such as The Expendables or The A-Team, disappointing as they were in the first place.