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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Losers (review)

A Soupçon of Snark

You’re not too long into this wickedly wonderful little smashup of fluff — maybe 20 minutes or so — before you think, “Wait: Did this open with a ‘previously on The Losers’ segue?” It didn’t, you realize, but surely it will end with coming attractions for next week’s episode, right? Because this is like some lost 80s action comedy TV series fallen through a wormhole, which I mean in the best possible way. As pure-action-comedies-with-a-soupçon-of-snark go, this is a dilly. If nothing else, it’s the perfect warmup for next month’s A-Team movie.

Look: The Losers name-checks MacGyver, and in a way that is both totally appropriate and postmodernally self-referential. If that’s your cup of action-comedy tea, have at it.
It’s my cup of duct-taped tea — yes, MacGyver’s favorite tool, duct tape, makes an appearance, too — and it’s far more to my liking that Kick-Ass, which pretends to brains and deepness and geek philosophy but instantly dispenses with any such notions. The Losers starts off with no pretensions and ends with even fewer: it cares only to toss around some cool gadgets, some wicked guns, and a few blowed-up-real-good explosions. The Losers has the balls to be dumb but not stupid, where Kick-Ass thought it was brainy but ends up empty in spite of itself.

It all sounds very A-Team, too: A covert military team of jacks of all badass trade — weapons, computers, strategy, death-dealing — who work, perhaps, for the CIA is left for dead after an op that goes down bad in Bolivia. The guys, led by the starkly fascinating Jeffrey Dean Morgan (he was the grim Comedian of Watchmen), don’t like being asked to kill kids — “cute little buggers,” Dean’s Clay affectionately dubs them — and so their handler, Max, takes action he deems, in his cartoon-psychopath head, appropriate. Now Clay’s guys are on the run, in hiding, and way pissed off.

Enter Zoe Saldana (Death at a Funeral, Avatar), a covert-ops Hit Girl, who tracks down the guys in South America and hires them to take down Max, with whom she has an undisclosed beef, too. She and Clay sexyfight, establishing her badassery, his basic good-guyness — he’ll beat up a girl, but only to the degree that she beats up back — and the shaky basis for their working relationship. Can we trust her? Probably not. Can we trust every member of Clay’s team? Probably not. And the game — their spy game and our guessing game — is afoot.

Based on the Vertigo comic by Andy Diggle [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.], and brought to the screen by screenwriters who are prettty bad ass themselves — Peter Berg wrote the deliciously noxious Very Bad Things; James Vanderbilt wrote the goofy junk of The Rundown — this is nothing more than what it is: featherweight fun, but never such that talks down to its audience. It assumes, in fact, that the viewer doesn’t need technobabble overexplained, that we are capable of catching funny one-liners that slide by without underscoring, and that some jokes don’t even need a punchine… such as why Max (a hilarious Jason Patric: The Alamo) needs to wear one glove to cover up an uncommented-upon injury. The Losers is self-aware enough to have Saldana’s Aisha snigger, “Really?” when introduced to Clay’s ridiculously-monickered team — Roque (Idris Elba: Obsessed, The Unborn), Pooch (Columbus Short: Armored, Whiteout), and Cougar (Oscar Jaenada: Che); there’s also Jensen (Chris Evans: Push, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond) — while itself indulging in only one moment that made me similarly snicker (a slo-mo team walk, which director Sylvain White could have and should have done without). It’s aware enough of how full of geek-knowledge its audience will be to invent a new kind of weapon that is more about nodding to geek expectations as to what comic-book villains would covet than it is about trying to horrify us with newfound potential for destruction.

It’s all preposterous, and magnificently so, in a carefree, tongue-in-cheek way that many movies aspire to and few achieve. It’s so perfect, in fact, that I can’t even be sure if it’s a setup for a sequel or just another joke. I hope not: I’d love to see more.

Watch The Losers online using LOVEFiLM’s streaming service.

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • JoshDM


    Roque. This is The Losers, not X-Men.

  • MaryAnn

    Typo fixed. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • MaSch

    Typo Fairy was nasty in your last paragraph:

    It’s so perfect, in fact, that I can’t even before sure if it’s setup for a sequel is just another joke

    “be” instead of “before”, and “its” instead of the second “it’s”.

    Good review, I don’t think the movie would have appealed to me for its title alone which seems pretty bland to me; what *does* it mean, anyhow?

  • MaryAnn

    Ugh. Thanks. Fixed those, too.

    As for the title: these guys aren’t the heroes, at least not at first — they’ve lost, big time, and are on the down and out.

  • JoshDM

    The Losers is a classic war-time team name dating back to the 1970’s, referring to war-themed comic characters introduced even earlier, banded together from different branches to form a squad; they refer to themselves as “The Losers” because each felt responsible for losing personnel under their individual commands. The milieu of characters and personalities was almost like a miniature version of the 1980’s G.I. Joe in nature.

    The name was re-interpreted in the aughts and modernized to comprise the above team.

  • Just got back from seeing it. Very good movie. Makes me wanna go visit Bolivia.

    I was a bit disappointed in the one ‘twist’ towards the end, hoping it was a part of a more elaborate chess move… ah well we can’t have everything can we.

    Must. Have. Sequel.

  • Drave

    Chris Evans keeps surprising me by turning in performances that are way better than the material requires. I’m still not sure how I feel about him as Captain America, though, especially since he has already played a Marvel superhero, and I would rather maintain the illusion that all these Marvel movies are taking place in the same world. (Even if most of them are terrible!)

  • Could not agree with you more! Thrilled to see more love for The Losers, it deserves it. Fun action film and didn’t downplay to the audience. Plus… they were actually good guys! Awesome.

    The Losers are totally my heroes.

  • Boingo

    Sorry to be the spoilsport in the line up of “thumbs up.” I saw it today,and felt it pretty bland.Clay
    lacked energy,and he had to have the skinniest legs
    in the business (bedroom reclining scene). I did like
    the opening comic panel graphics that visually stated
    outright-“this is comic book world (love it or leave it).” I decided to stay. Good explosions. Good
    tough guy bonding. I loved the lip synch elevator
    scene.Still, if this souped up “A-Team-Type,” re-run was on the Boob-LCD at home, I would have switched channels.

  • josan

    Was a great comic-book movie!

    As for the slo-mo walk sequence…be still my beating heart! Gave me time to sigh over all that beautiful testosterone! :-) (Saldana fit in rather well, at least according to the teenage male who sat near me. He sighed her name — loud enough for me to hear him — at that bit. LOL!)

  • AsimovLives

    It’s not that i don’t like Zoe Saldana, i find her a pretty girl with screen presence, but from the more high-profile movie si have seen her in, she is always playing the same character, both in AVATAR and JJ Abrasm’s STAR TREK. This “da’ hood black princess with an attitute TLC-No-Scrubs-I’m-too-good-for-ya-punk-ass” thing again and again. Two movies in and i’m already getting tired of the stitch. I knw nothing about her career previously to this movies, so i can’t fully judge her range, but right now, she has none, be she a blue painted giant cat or a caricature of a classic TV SF character. She is this close to start to really anoy me, pretty face or not.

  • nnvee

    To AsimovLives:

    The first clue that you are projecting your negativity onto Zoe Saldana: da ‘hood.

    Really! What year is it where you live?
    Accusing her for not having range is so disingenuous.
    The movie industry in it’s entirety does not have range. You missed range by about 40 years.

    Men kill me with wanting chicks to be hot then resenting said hot chicks for being out of their league. Find some balance.

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