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An American special-ops squad on a mission in the Bolivian jungle: technical gimmickry and action galore, but the characters are two-dimensional.

2 out of 4 stars


The Losers

  • Directed by Sylvain White
  • Written by Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt
  • Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana and Jason Patric
  • Classification: PG

An appetizer for The A-Team and other summer heavy-metal action movies, The Losers is aimed at a young male demographic.

With its video-game-inspired adrenalin spikes, lots of displays of military hardware and smart-alecky humour, the movie earned a mild PG rating in the United States, where the high body count is fine as long as the vital parts of the sole female character ( Avatar's Zoe Saldana) are kept mostly covered.

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Providing expectations are kept low, there's some fun to be had in the elaborately preposterous action set-pieces, and especially Jason Patric's campy performance as the movie's villain. The Losers, based on a DC/Vertigo Comic series, is the moniker of a five-man, American special-ops squad, which we first meet in the Bolivian jungle (okay, Puerto Rico in real life) as it prepares a hit on a drug camp under the auspices of the CIA.

When grizzled leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) sees the camp is filled with kids, he tries to abort the mission, but a mysterious CIA officer named Max comes on the radio and orders fighter jets to unleash their missiles. After a rescue attempt on the camp, they soon learn they were betrayed and targeted for death.

While hanging out in Bolivian bars, planning how to get his men back home and clear their names, Clay meets the mysterious Aisha (Saldana). After a testy martial-arts battle that destroys a building, we learn that Aisha will help the Losers get back to the United States if they promise to kill Max, who is planning on selling "snukes" to foreign bad guys. (The "snukes" are new sonar-operated "green" bombs that leave less of a trace than an audience's memory of a second-rate, spring action movie.)

The next major conflagration sees the five Losers halting a 30-car security convoy, hoisting an armoured car into the air and engaging in a downtown Miami battle involving crossbows, a purloined helicopter, an anti-aircraft gun and a bright yellow Pinto. All this is a prelude for the even more outlandish final showdown at the Los Angeles port, with room left for a sequel if box office justifies it.

Characters remain in comicbook two dimensions, including the villainous Max (Patric), a needlessly sarcastic, snappy dresser with serious impulse problems and a plan for world domination.

Despite their common enemy, the Losers can't quite get their act together and tensions arise between leader Clay and the appropriately volatile explosives expert, Roque (Idris Elba). Meanwhile, peace-making driver Pooch (Columbus Short) just wants to get home to his pregnant wife. Marksman Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), who sports a Carlos Santana leather hat and facial hair, talks little but hits targets from great distances. The most entertaining of the group is computer geek Jensen ( Fantastic Four's Chris Evans), who has many disguises, including hot-dog vendor and bike courier, and talks and sings himself out of life-threatening predicaments.

French director Sylvain White ( Stomp the Yard) works here under the auspices of veteran action producer Joel Silver, who made his name on the kind of eighties blockbuster series ( Die Hard, Lethal Weapon) that The Losers imitates, in its bargain-basement way. A string of international locations - marked by squares on the ground saying Mumbai and Los Angeles - looks unconvincing. The cheap visuals are covered by a patchwork of technical gimmickry, including rapid editing, undersaturated colours, stuttered and slow-motion sequences and occasional freeze frames that transition to comic-book illustrations. The idea, presumably, is to keep the audience distracted between explosions.

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