THE LOSERS, based on the DC Vertigo Comic, is not great cinema, it is merely a great time at the movies, and there is no shame in that. Granted, its working with a run-of-the-mill plot involving a group of idealistic but profane misfits out to save the world from a an evil genius with no credit limit and even fewer scruples. Fortunately, it redeems itself with irresistible characters, kick-ass pacing, and a cast that knows how to keep a straight face as it takes the stock characters speaking seemly stock dialogue into the rarified, amped up atmosphere of a slick and deliberately self-conscious parody of the action genre.
The misfits are the eponymous Losers, a special black-ops sort of super secret elite military squad that takes on the most impossible assignments and squawks when things seem too easy. Seem is the operative word when they are sent to take out a drug lord in Bolivia only to discover that he’s using a passel of big-eyed waifs as human shields. Disobeying orders, of course, the team’s leader, Clay (Jeffery Dean Morgan), opts for an approach with less of an underage body count and immediately runs afoul of Max (Jason Patric), the mysterious voice on the phone who gives the orders. The operation goes south, but it does give Clay the opportunity to dispose of the drug lord, and for him and his fellow Losers to fake their own deaths in preparation for taking revenge on Max. First, though, they have to find him without knowing what he looks like, put together enough money to finance the plan, and, well, come up with a plan. One that lets everyone shine, Jensen (Chris Evans), the cute tech geek, Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), the crack and virtually non-verbal sniper, Pooch (Columbus Short) the gadgets guy who preaches duct tape as the cure for most of the world’s ills, and Roque (Idris Elba), Clay’s trusted second-in-command who never met a weapon for which he didnt get the warm fuzzies.
Such a film would not be complete without the femme fatale, in this case Aisha (Zoe Saldana), who can handle a bazooka, pound a small army into submission using only her cat-like reflexes, and wither the advances of the team’s tech geek with a well-aimed series of barbed ripostes. She approaches Clay while he is mulling his future in a seedy party of Boliva, uses a robust bout of martial arts one-upsmanship in lieu of a more traditional seduction, and convinces him that she is his only hope of getting even with Max for his teams professional disgrace and those big-eyed waifs.
Never mind what happens next. There is a specific timetable in flicks such as these and THE LOSERS dutifully tags each one with only the lightest hint of wryness. The whole is not greater than the sum of its parts, but those parts are small gems, mainly due to the abundant charisma of Morgan and Patric. The former bear-like rather than buff, but all the more a force to be reckoned with because of it, the voice a seductive growl that carries as much world-weary irony as menace, and a demeanor that is unruffled by the volatile women in his past and present, the odds stacked so very greatly against him, or a flaming plane barreling down a runway at him. It’s not that he’s unafraid, it’s that Morgan imbues him with such a perfect sense of having seen it all before, that dash of ennui the perfect counterpoint to the essential Boy Scout nature that never comes off as precious. As for Max, Patric has a field day as the acerbic sociopath with an unnerving joie-de-vivre and intolerance of imperfection. Patric flirts dangerously with camp before kissing it off the same impersonal, barely perceptible smirk in play for the character as a whole.
THE LOSERS doesn’t trouble too much with internal logic, this is an action flick true to the code of such, with a robust body count and fiery explosions that never put the characters second, or take over the story as a whole. Why is there a motorcycle delivered with the WMD, the ones that are lethal, but environmentally sensitive? Who cares. It allows for a nicely twisted denouement that hits the final requisite tag in the flick, in which the good guys get their own, the bad guys get comeuppance, and the door is open for a sequel.