There are few things as frustrating as wasted potential. Good idea, but poorly executed? Bummer, but at least one can say “you tried man”, and tell your friends, “at least they swung for the fences”. Complete crap in every measurable way, but made with such gusto one is forced to tip one’s hat in acknowledgment? Also, tolerable and slightly cute in an Ed Wood / Michael Bay kind of way. But wasted potential? Of that, there is no other hand. That is the unforgivable sin in movie. Worse than a cliche-o-fest. Worse than a thousand “in a worlds”. The Losers is 90 minutes (give or take some snap cuts) of wasted potential.
So what is good?
The people in it and the story foundation, hence the massive frustration! Fine, you want more details, I will provide you with more. The Losers is based upon the DC / Vertigo comic of the same name. They are a crack team of US operatives that do the blah, blah, blah. The background isn’t what makes the book a blast to read and the movie so goddamn frustrating. The Losers has always been more about the interaction between a bunch of characters that appear to have nothing to live for, but in reality risk everything for causes they believe in. And, as in the best “I love my country but hate my government” moments, the Losers become fugitives forced to get back their lives from the big bad guy all while pulling off stunts that would make Col. Hannibal Smith say “whoa”. The studio put together a solid little cast. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a solid Clay, the leader of the Losers. There are times when he suffers from Costerism (Look down. Look at the camera. Back down. Back to camera. Nod). Still, me thinks that falls in the directors lap and we’ll get to him later. Zoe Saldana is, well, Zoe Saldana. I was hoping for more based on the trailers. Someday I’ll learn not to trust them. Still, she makes the good parts because, well, she’s Zoe Saldana and her bum alone is worthy of praise. (Um, which is something else I need to take up with the director later in this review).
Chris Evens sold me more on his pending performance as Captain America than he did as Jensen. However, during the good moments (and I think The Losers had it moments – see again the extreme frustration), Chris is a damn charismatic actor. He’s like an Anglo version of The Rock. (Chris, never answer a call from Disney. Ah crap. Never mind). Anyway, whenever Jensen is on screen, you know you’re gonna’ at least laugh out of sincerity and not irony. Doubly so when he’s paired with Columbus Short, aka Pooch the driver and all around “Blackguyver” as he calls himself. He has the buddy cop role nailed to a tee and I’m pretty sure he and Evens performed all their parts when the director wasn’t looking. Then we’ve got Óscar Jaenada, the zen like sniper of the group who does a great job wearing a hat. No really, he really makes that hat work. Who cares if he’s a walking cliche from every war movie, the hat totally sells the guy. Rounding out the team is Idris Elba as Roque, clearly using this movie as a calling card for the pending Avengers movie and really hoping Joss Whedon writes in a part for Luke Cage. Finally, Jason Patric as the evil Max. (FYI, Jason, just give in and shave that head already. You’re balding. Badly. Deal.). Jason Patric does his best to be a Bond villain, with a fun mix of Goldfinger, Goldeneye, and The Man with the Golden Gun – Yea, pretty much all the metal villains. So, you’ve got all these just on the cusp of being fun actors wrapped up in a tried and true tale of American’s getting hosed by the man but standing up for the little guy with a sprinkling of Vertigo Comics morality. And, about every 20 minutes or so, you get that movie… In 45 second increments.
Enter where I place all the blame. Enter Sylvain White.
It probably isn’t fair to place all the blame on the director, as the story, even for one based on a comic book was a tad out there. (Side note – Hollywood. When you base a movie on a comic, you don’t have to cram a 24 issue story arc into 90 minutes. Trust me, just a couple of books is all we viewers need). Still, a film set is a ship and when she goes down, the captain goes with her. White has a good eye, but it is clearly an eye trained to work within the confines of a music video. Indeed, the only time the movie seems to come to life is when a song kicks in and White’s video instincts take over. Once he’s forced to have characters interact with each other and there isn’t a soundtrack blaring in the background, it turns into an episode of Riptide. (Except with the above noted Evans and Short, who I still think told the camera guy to just roll and they’d tell White later what they did). The Losers is a heist movie, and with most heist movies you make a deal the audience. It goes as such: “Hi – we’re gonna’ do some crazy and completely nonsensical shit here. We promise to pay it off in the end with utter coolness and maybe a token explanation. Cool.” To which we, as the paying audience looking for some out there adventure reply “cool”. The Losers makes that promise, then never follows through. They just keep pulling off insane and stupid tricks over and over again. In fact, I can tell where the explanation was meant to go, but the director (and possibly writers) just said, “Screw it. Cut. Print. Move on”.
The Losers could have worked, and work well, if Sylvain White wasn’t using the movie as one giant pick-up line to Zoe.
Sylvain, I get it man. We all do. Ms. Saldana is stunning to behold, but we don’t need a visual reminder every 10 minutes. That includes having her take off her shirt for no reason. That includes her stretching and bending over every 30 seconds. And, it definitely includes having her ass reflected in a gun-shattered mirror – in slo-motion no less! Less is more good sir. Hell, watching her get into a drop down fight with Clay felt less dirty and exploitative than some of the shots you put her in.
Which brings us back to the beginning of this rather long and pedantic review. The Losers is stuffed to the gills with potential, but White never once knows when to reign it in. And, even worse, when to amp things up (that doesn’t involve Zoe Saldana’s stunning booty).
The Losers opens this Friday. Skip it. You can read a better versions right now at your local comic book shop. Trust me, you’ll have more fun and probably save a buck or two.