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Movie review: 'The Losers'

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana and Jason Patric star in a violent, bloody and sometimes fun mess.

April 23, 2010|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
  • Zoe Saldana as Aisha and Jeffrey Morgan as Clay in the action-thriller "The Losers."
Zoe Saldana as Aisha and Jeffrey Morgan as Clay in the action-thriller "The… (John Bramley / DC Comics/Warner )

Thousands of Hummers, helicopters, hot cars, houses, hotels and humans — well, actors playing humans — were sacrificed to make "The Losers" what it is: a violent, bloody mess.

For the action-loving comic-book fans the film has in its sights, just one word: Duck! There are burning fragments of what passes for a story flying around everywhere in the massive debris field that is "The Losers."

There's a full metal jacket of pounding sound, blood, fireballs, mayhem, double-crosses and the entire future of the U.S. of A. on the line. But the plot? Who decided to kill the plot?

Screenwriters Peter Berg, of the excellent "Friday Night Lights," and James Vanderbilt, of the tightwire thriller "Zodiac," seem to have lost their moorings here, along with director Sylvain White.

Bummer. The film had promising roots in the comic book's band of irreverent brothers created in the '40s during WWII then reborn into the 21st century as special ops bad boys in 2003 via writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock's DC/Vertigo series.

There is charm aplenty in this scruffy bunch. Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( " Watchmen"), Chris Evans ("Fantastic Four"), Idris Elba ( " Obsessed"), Columbus Short ("Stomp the Yard") and Oscar Jaenada ("Che: Part Two") make up the CIA wolf pack forced to go rogue in the backwaters of Bolivia. The film gets a little Adrenalin shot every time they get to use some of it, which is not nearly enough.

Meanwhile, Jason Patric as Max, who is suffering from a bad attitude and a receding hairline, does a very nice turn as the villain with the heart of cold, a mysteriously gloved hand and a teasing mince in his step.

"The Losers" opens with some questionable boom-boom in which 25 school kids and a teddy bear are blown to bits in a drug bust that goes wrong. It's a frame-up that leaves the Losers for dead. Actually, they're just lying low, passing time betting on cockfights and working in a Bolivian sweatshop that makes dolls destined for American toy shelves. It's a slooooow start as the boys wonder if they'll ever make it back home.

Instead of ruby slippers, which wouldn't fit the mood as surreal as it is, they get Zoe Saldana's Aisha, who turns up like a bad penny in a black hat. Finally, some real action and a ticket back home that includes payback for Max.

This chick's all fight as foreplay, slinking around in "action wear," which I believe is really just a splash of body paint, a belt and some boots. By the way, apparently those long legs that were blue in "Avatar" are hers and not a special effect.

The opening violent coupling between Aisha and Clay (Morgan) involves a brutal Tarantino-esque ballet of whirling kicks and bruising chops, all delivered with camera moves that would make Linda Blair's head spin faster than the devil. It also brings "The Losers" some measure of redemption.

From this point on, there are enough clever bits, in that exploding-bodies kind of way, to inject some fun into the party. White and director of photography Scott Kevan, who collaborated on "Stomp the Yard," have some seriously inventive visuals, which at times are smash-cut fabulous.

Morgan brings his swag, his 5 o'clock shadow and his sentimentality to Clay, which is really enough for most Morgan fans. Evans as the computer buff who's actually is buff, and briefly in the buff, has one of the funniest bits — it involves pizza, an iPod, an elevator and over-exposure. In fact, just about every character in "The Losers" has promise.

Now if only they can locate that plot in case there's a sequel.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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