Wednesday 20 February 2013

The Losers

New comic book adaptations come around quicker than Usain Bolt searching for the stadium toilet after a particularly spicy Vindaloo. Following that trend comes The Losers (2010), a tongue-in-cheek actioner from the Vertigo stable, a company who make comics for people old enough to have moved on to real books by now.

The Losers are not a bunch of spandex clad superheroes though, but a crack commando unit declared M.I.A for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly aim to get revenge on their C.I.A superior after returning from Bolivia to the Los Angeles underground. Today still wanted by the Government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem hiring The A-Team on DVD, maybe you can hire, The Losers.

The motley crew consist of rugged platoon leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan looking like Raul Julia’s long-lost son), a no-nonsense black guy (Idris Elba as Roque), a good looking ladies man (Chris Evans as Jensen) and a crazy, wise cracking pilot (Columbus Short as Howling Mad Murdo….sorry…Pooch).

Is this set up ringing any bells for you? It should be, because The Losers is a transparent attempt to cash in on the A-Team template with clearly defined squad members screwed over by the system and aiming to clear their names (albeit with noticeably less panache).

Unfortunately, no amount of flashy direction, courtesy of Sylvain White, or high production values can mask the fact that this is a misfiring, derivative actioner with as much charm as a case of Chlamydia.

If you have a problem hiring The A Team on DVD,
maybe you can hire The Losers
For once though, the chopper explosion isn’t just there as eye candy, but an integral part of the “story”. After a botched attempt to take out a Bolivian drug lord the team inadvertently stumble across a gaggle of child slaves who they decide to rescue from his compound. There isn’t enough room in the evac-chopper for the entire group, so The Losers do the decent thing and let the kids fly off first.

For reasons not clearly explained evil C.I.A honcho Max, then decides to kill off The Losers once the drug lord is dispatched. Thinking they are on board the chopper, he orders it to be shot down. A missile is launched from a passing fighter jet which snakes across the sky and arrows towards the helicopter with only one possible outcome.

Artistic merit

This is a very nicely framed set piece. Shot from the ground, you see the tiny jet in the corner of the screen fire its missile. We follow its trail as it snakes across the sky into the large Chinook on the other side of the screen. The missile thuds into the fuselage and the explosion bursts the chopper apart like a ripe orange, its fiery contents spilling in slow motion to the ground below.

There are some nice shots of The Losers picking through the charred debris and finding a burnt up bunny rabbit belonging to one of the kids, you know, just to ram home the pathos. Overall, it’s first class helicopter explosion.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, or possibly
Raul Julia
Having sat through countless hours of indigestible boloney – including two more hours here - I have come to the conclusion that the quality of a helicopter explosion is inversely proportional to the quality of the film. The boffins at Exploding Helicopter HQ are crunching the numbers as we speak to establish if there are any cold hard facts to back up my hunch. We will keep you posted on the results.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Nothing much really. Whilst it’s very nicely done, it’s a standard missile vs helicopter face off done with CGI (you will do well to see an old school honest to goodness explosion these days such are the quality of computer effects in modern cinema).

Do passengers survive?

All 25 Bolivian refugee children are blown to pieces in an agonising, fiery death. Still, what a pretty way to go eh?


Visually the film is very easy on the eye with a strong colour scheme that emphasises its comic book credentials. The action is well staged and the final showdown is ludicrous but attractively presented in all its CGI finery.


Much of the dialogue is desperately unfunny and formulaic “paybacks a bitch, we got a situation here” stuff. The actors would have got more laughs had they recited an FSA report on financial mismanagement in the banking sector.

This isn’t helped by Jason Patric as C.I.A kingpin Max who was a badly misjudged piece of casting. Neither quirky, evil or funny enough to be a villain, you feel he took a wrong turn at the set of Nip/Tuck and ended up here by accident.

Idris Elba has made some curious choices since his break out performance in The Wire. His roles have been very hit and miss and proven beyond doubt that the real star of that show was writer/creator David Simon.

Ever the optimists, writers Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt left room left for a sequel.  Fortunately the movie underperformed at the box office and hopefully it will never see the light of day.

Sample quote

Jensen: Legless Pooch and I are on it!
Pooch: Call me 'Legless Pooch' again, and you're gonna be 'Headless Jensen'
Jensen: I think it's a cool name, makes ya sound like a pirate.
Pooch: Ya mama's a pirate.

Interesting fact

Even though various scenes from the film are set in Bolivia, Dubai, Mumbai and L.A. respectively the bulk of the movie was actually shot in Puerto Rico.  The producers managed to save money this way as the country’s variable terrain doubled up nicely for the jungle, desert, beach and city scenes needed.  I was in P.R. in November and can strongly recommend the rum.

Review by: Neon Messiah

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