The action genre has mutated quite a bit over the last couple years, as we have few figures like Sylvester Stallone in the recent generation of actors. Vin Diesel seems more like a right place right time guy than an actual star, and actual stars like Tom Cruise in Knight and Day no longer seem to excite the masses. Of course there are exceptions: The Bourne Identity fits more in the classic mold, but does anyone think of Matt Damon in the same category as Arnold Schwarzenegger, or – for that matter – Charles Bronson? In 2010, we’ve seen a number of straight action films, but few have connected with the mainstream, and the actors who look like they might be the next star of those sorts of movies don’t connect. Liam Neeson or Bradley Cooper in The A-Team, and Angelina Jolie Salt have had so-so grosses, while The Losers got lost in April. But Jeffrey Dean Morgan seems built for the genre. Weathered but capable, bemused, Morgan has both the physicality and personality to be an action star, and he gets to play off of Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, and Chris Evans in a classic “Men on a Mission” narrative. Sadly, The Losers isn’t the film that did that for him and my review of the Blu-ray follows after the jump.
Clay (Morgan) is the leader of some government do-dirt black-ops guys, with his team consisting of second in command Roque (Idris Elba), tech guy Jensen (Chris Evans), driver Pooch (Columbus Short) and sniper/all-around bad-ass Cougar (Oscar Jaenada). They’re supposed to target a drug dealer’s hide-out for bombing, but Clay feels they have to go in when twenty-five children show up at the house. They go in and save the kids, but on exit their transport tells them they can only carry the children or the mercs. The kids go first, and their helicopter is destroyed. Knowing they are assumed dead, they go on the lam and it’s in Bolivia they meet Aisha (Zoe Saldana) – who offers them fiscal assistance and a way into America. But only if they take on Max (Jason Patric), the man who killed her father and ruined “The Losers” lives. From there it’s a series of chases and action set pieces as the boys try and get closer to Max and foil his plan to use a “snuke” (taken from South Park) on Los Angeles.
Action fans are a curious lot – like horror movie fans – in that so much of the genre stuff is outright terrible that a lot can be forgiven for a fix. I say that in that even the least Seagal DTV movie might have some defenders, and it’s easy to be partial to crap if you accept it for what it is. That said, the film The Losers most reminded me of is The Replacement Killers. In both you can see what they’re going for and you can see how it misses but at the same time does deliver on the premise. The Losers is a small film, it was obviously done on a budget and with both Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt as the credited screenwriters, it must have come very close to production with Berg (perhaps too much work went into it to have it be let go), and so there’s a sense that Sylvain White is batting clean-up. The problem is that everything’s sort of generic. Morgan has personality, but he doesn’t have much to do, and the same can be said for Elba. Fortunately both are charismatic enough to carry it over. Evans is a talent, but his shirts do a lot of the lifting, and Short and Jaenada mostly fill their types. The film tries to find its personality in stylish transitions, and comic book-y things, but the word I keep circling is generic. We know the types, and they play them, but there’s no spin on it. “Remember when you liked the silent killer before? Well, we’ve got one too!”
If anyone comes out smelling like roses, it’s Jason Patric. His Max is a world class prick, and Patric gets to have enough fun that the audience can have fun with him as he showboats his dickery. The biggest problem with the movie is that The A-Team is virtually identical in plot and character archetypes, and does everything better. They obviously had more money. At home this plays much better than it did theatrically, as it’s very small, and perfectly competent.
If I were to get up in arms about the film, it’s that it features one trend I’ve noticed way too much these days. And it’s something in a number of larger scale blockbusters. The Losers doesn’t really end. Just like Star Trek, Robin Hood, The A-Team, and a number of other high profile titles, it doesn’t just set up the next film – it makes you feel as if you’ve seen a pilot. Fuck this trend.
Warner Brothers presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The Blu-ray transfer is perfect, and it also comes with a combo DVD/digital copy version. The supplements are mostly made up of featurettes. In the section marked “Behind the scenes there are “Zoe and the Losers” (6 min.), which focuses on the Avatar star working with dudes; “Walk the Walk (6 min.), which speaks to the black-ops nature of the plot and the weaponry; “Transforming Puerto Rico” (5 min.) talks about where they shot; “Going Deep into the Action” (6 min.) talks to the director’s approach to action, and “The Losers: Action-Style Storytelling” (10 min.) which lets comic creators Andy Diggle and Jock talk about their book and the film adaptation. There’s also a single deleted scene featuring Chris Noth (1 min.), which seems to be a possible end credit stinger. Also included is a fourteen minute preview of “Batman: Under the Hood.”