Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
Kick-Ass kicked ass. Can The Losers do the same?
The Losers is the second film adaptation of a lesser-known comic book series in as many weeks. Written by Andy Diggle, The Losers series ran from 2003-2006 and was published by DC Comics under the Vertigo imprint. According to Wikipedia:
"the Losers were betrayed by their handler, Max, and left for dead following the conclusion of their operation. Eager for revenge and the opportunity to remove their names from a secret CIA death list, the Losers regroup and conduct covert operations against the CIA and its interests, uncovering startling operations spearheaded by the enigmatic Max."
I have never read any of The Losers comics, but based on that synopsis the film doesn't stray too far from the source material. I imagine the film diverges from the comics here and there, and it remains for someone else to determine if the potential changes are good or bad. I'm simply here to give you my judgment of the film.
The ensemble cast is fairly solid. Zoe Saldana as Aisha, a mysterious ally to the Losers with her own reasons for wanting revenge on Max is, well, hot. She has a few scenes where she kicks some serious ass and furthers her case for being a serious action star (if that's what she wants), but I'll be honest. I spent more time focusing on her beauty than her acting. Jeffery Dean Morgan as Clay is the leader of the Losers and holds the biggest grudge against Max. This is Morgan's first real near-leading role in an action film, and he avails himself nicely. Morgan plays the grizzled veteran quite well, probably why he was so good as The Comedian in Watchmen.
Jason Patrick takes a just plain weird turn as the villainous Max. I have no idea if this is how Max is portrayed in the comics, but it's odd. And not odd in a good way like what Nic Cage did with BIG DADDY in Kick-Ass. Idris Elba, Columbus Short, and Oscar Jaenada fill the ranks of the Losers nicely, but it's Chris Evans who most often steals the show with his role as the geeky tech guy Jensen. Evans manages to pull off bringing a lot of humor to the character when required without getting relegated solely to comic relief.
Sidenote – Evans is by no means scrawny, but watching him as Jensen gave me the impression that Evans will make a great pre-super soldier serum Steve Rogers. Hopefully his Captain America will be as good.
The Losers is certainly action-packed, but I found much of it unimpressive if not outright boring. I think part of this stems from my reaction to director Sylvain White's decision to frequently cut from fast real-time speed to slow-motion shots in the action scenes. As much as I liked it when Matthew Vaughn did much the same throughout Kick-Ass, White's use of the same technique wasn't nearly as effective. Maybe because White uses it to still-frame bad guys simply getting shot while Vaughn used it to showcase Chloe Moretz slicing and dicing bad guys like a human Ginsu knife.
I get the feeling that the plot of The Losers comic series has been distilled down maybe too much for the film. Max is this uber-powerful shadow director of the CIA, but we never learn how he got to that position or how his machinations will actually help him attain his goals. There's an attempt to paint his intentions as beneficial to U.S. interests, but it largely fails simply due to lack of any real explanation. Zoe Saldana's character Aisha flip flops from potential enemy to potential ally more than a U.S. senator, with little to no rationale.
The film ends with the Losers and Max in almost the exact same places they were in near the middle of the film (an obvious setup for a sequel), but this really makes no sense if you stop to think about it. Things could just have easily, and much more satisfactorily, been wrapped up and yet still leave the possibility of a sequel (that wouldn't be a simple re-hashing of the first film).
For better or worse I seem to keep comparing The Losers to Kick-Ass. The Losers isn't a bad film, and even though I've been harping on it throughout this review, I did actually enjoy it. But The Losers isn't as memorable nor as good as Kick-Ass. It's a fun movie, but if you're debating on which recent comic book adaptation to shell out your $$ on at the multiplex this weekend, give The Losers a pass and go watch Chloe Moretz kick ass.