The Losers

By Adam Lippe

There aren’t a lot of actors that I bring negative baggage to when I see them on the screen. My job is to be as objective as I can, within my own subjectivity. In general, I would try to avoid films where these actors have lead roles, it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. And early on in his career Chris Evans was not a distraction for me. I thought he was perfectly adequate in the underrated parody Not Another Teen Movie, ignorable in Cellular, and no worse than anyone else in the cheap looking, but surprisingly expensive The Fantastic Four.  He really began to grate on my nerves first in London, Sunshine, and especially Street Kings, where I described his scenes where he joins up with fellow blank slate Keanu Reeves as a team that “ought to win some sort of MTV Movie award for least convincing duo.”

Then what does it say about Sylvain White’s The Losers that Evans, who has a supporting role, has the only good scene in the film? And is it a good omen that the scene is little more than a clever series of references to another Joel Silver production, The Matrix, where Evans (apparently interchangeable with Keanu, as evidenced by the mock drawing from this site, and my further interpretation next to it) has to sneak into an office building, and when he gets into a jam, asks his “boss”, via earpiece, to “find me an exit.”

That energetic and ridiculous and sequence where Evans threatens security by pointing his fingers at them like a gun and warning them that he has special powers so his hands are lethal weapons, also has a reference to Wanted, which, like The Losers is based on a graphic novel. However, Wanted was willing to go all the way in its adaptation and really push the levels of violence and absurdity, while The Losers hides behind the more marketable and wimpy PG-13 rating.

Now there have long been complaints about films with R rated content trying to squeeze into a PG-13 film (The Lovely Bones is a rather egregious recent example), and the awkwardness that occurs as a result, and The Losers is no different. The MPAA has nebulous rules about “intensity,” as if a movie should be penalized for being effective. As a result, The Losers plays like a grungy, sweaty action movie with all the energy sucked out of it. If while you’re sitting in the theater watching The Losers, you suspect that someone might have pumped Valium into the air conditioning vents, you’re not alone.

It isn’t just that The Losers has a second-rate version of The A-Team feel, with a motley crew of tough guys with their various specialties in weaponry and wisecracks, it also smells like, with its rather scenic looking jungle footage, it was shot on the Warner backlot. The fact that the movie was actually shot in Puerto Rico, says either that Puerto Rico looks like a studio set, or White and Silver should have found a more remote area that didn’t have narratively convenient clearings ready for helicopter shoot-outs. The bad omen is that the jungle material is the inciting incident, as the soon-to-be-disgraced military team tries, at the last moment, to save children being used as drug mules from the impending missile attack on a compound full of brown people with accents. When their honorable decision gets the children killed anyway (though, their drug-filled insides would likely have exploded due the constant running and stress caused by the situation), the shock of the situation is undermined by the jokey tone of the film.

It would be nice to say that the revenge plot that follows, where the perfectly racially mixed team goes after “Max” (played by Jason Patric under an unfortunately obvious hair weave) is parody*. We get the lame dialogue (“he wants the girl amscray”), the incoherent McGuffin (which is some sort of way to physically store and move money in a hard drive), the constantly changing allegiances that are random at best, the extraneous sequence of cockfighting, the generic looking cast that kind of look like other B-level actors but aren’t (Is that Michael Pare? Nope. Is that Donald Faison? Nope. Is that Javier Bardem? Nope.) the rapey, beat-me-til-I-like-it feel of the sex scene, and the weird production mistakes (a whiskey bottle explodes before it hits the wall). But it isn’t parody, it’s just a half-baked quickie trying to beat The A-Team movie to the punch, before the inevitable unrated DVD version with several  more minutes of violence and nudity. Wouldn’t it have simply made more sense to dump The Losers onto DVD, like one of those quickies from The Asylum (Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train, I Am Omega) that come out a week or two before major blockbusters?

* Overheard at the screening, but expressed as a compliment, “That was like an episode of Leverage.”

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Roadracers

By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]


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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.