Many times, subjects and themes seem to hit the cinemas in pairs. This year, we've already seen two films with a Greek mythology theme and now two films with vigilantes bent on revenge. The first of these films came from Warner Bros. in the form of The Losers (the second was Fox's The A-Team), an abrasive action film based on a graphic novel of the same name. "The Losers" are five soldiers who disobey direct orders to mark a terrorist's location for bombing when they see that the enemy has used innocent children as a shield. Although the soldiers get the children to safety in the helicopter that was meant to extract the military team, our heroes are framed when the helicopter was destroyed, killing the children. Now disgraced and assumed dead, the Losers must either lay low for the rest of their lives, or find out who framed them and attempt to get their lives back. Like the film based on the TV show, The A-Team, these men are fugitives out for revenge and to make what was made wrong right again. And, sadly, like this summer's The A-Team, it's carried out in an often profane and violent way.
The cast assembled for the Losers is a strong one that helps add a fun element to the film. There's great camaraderie among the central quintet of vigilantes, lead by Clay (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and supported by Chris Evans, who adds a lot of comic relief through his tech geek personality. Idris Elba, who TV fans might recognize from season 5 of The Office, plays the edgy loose cannon, Rogue, while Columbus Short is fun as Pooch and Óscar Jaenada is great as the always reliable Cougar. There's an admirable loyalty among the core of the group that makes you want to root for the Losers, even if they aren't always the best role models making the best choices.
And like The A-Team, The Losers feels much more like an R-rated film that was cut back just enough to obtain a PG-13 rating (whether it was or not). Much of the subject matter is adult-oriented and handled in a stylized way (most likely inspired by its graphic novel origins). The language is considerably frequent and the violence is handled rather flippantly. The movie doesn't take itself all too seriously, with even the violence being taken casually at times. While it's intentionally not very realistic, the sarcastic and over-the-top villain Max seems to kill so randomly that it just feels excessive when it happens. Jason Patric plays Max so uniquely with a sarcastic wit that it makes him borderline likeable -- so much so, that it may actually make his more heinous acts seem even uglier. The attitude and vibe of The Losers is that they enjoy what they do because they're so good at it, but it never quite comes off as infectiously fun as the current A-Team entourage does. And with the content being as edgy as it is, it's certainly going to suck the fun out of the classic good guys versus bad guys merit because of how crusty the good guys tend to be. The Losers' team leader seems all too quick to hop in the sack when he meets the sexy Aisha (played by Avatar and Star Trek's Zoe Saldana), while Evans' Jensen uses an instance of public indecent exposure as part of a plan, and the guys have no problem using colorful language throughout the film as well. Still, they support each other selflessly when the going gets tough, and it's the most redeemable thing about our heroes.
As mentioned, the language is pretty colorful. Rogue spouts the film's single "F" word quite unnecessarily, while the cast utters at least 24 "S" words and an assortment of other profanities. Some crude comments or jokes are made, and we briefly see some blood during the fight sequences and briefly as one of the main characters is getting a wound stitched up. Also unnecessarily, we see a brief sensual sexual encounter between Aisha and Clay, as the two kiss and grope during a slow motion montage. Again, it's brief, but it's awkward and stylized to revel a bit too much in their passion. I suppose, compared to most rated R fare, all of the content would be considered mild, but The Losers adds up to be a pretty rough-around-the-edges PG-13 action outing.
But The Losers sets out to be a popcorn action film for those who enjoy movies you can shut your brain off for and view purely for entertainment. The acting is decent and the guys are fun to watch together, but the content could have easily been lightened up and still have worked as a story just as well (and more recent films like Inception prove you don't need all the language or sexual material to make an entertaining film).
The Losers most likely flopped at the box office due to its stylized approach that is certainly an acquired taste for some. The slow motion - a la John Woo - utilized for the action sequences never bothered me, but I can see why it may seem like a tired gimmick to others. The movie keeps things simple when it comes to plot and formula, so it works as entertainment, but it certainly not everyone's cup of tea. I enjoyed the characters, chemistry and story enough to be interested in a continuation of this series, but the language and sensual content were big hindrances for me. The film is left wide open for a sequel, but I'd be surprised if it does get a follow-up. The Losers certainly isn't as bad as its box office reception or reviews have made it seem, but due to the content, I can't exactly recommend it either.
Blu-Ray and Special Features Review
The Losers translates quite nicely to blu-ray, and Warner Bros. has released the high definition version in a generous combo pack that also includes a regular DVD and digital download. Along with these extras are a few behind the scenes featurettes...
Zoe and the Losers (5:41) - The first of the behind-the-scenes featurettes is dedicated to actress Zoe Saldana, who plays Aisha in the film, and their casting of her to play the female lead opposite the Losers. It features the director and assorted film crew gushing about Zoe, as well as the actress herself talking about the role. We also see some behind-the-scenes footage of Zoe learning the hotel room fight scene with Morgan as Clay, and a few other sequences. (There's also a little bit of language in this featurette)
Band Of Buddies: Ops Training - This feature is a series of three sub-featurettes, titled "Walk The Ops Walk" (5:41), "Transforming Puerto Rico" (5:21), and "Going Deep Into The Action" (5:50). The first sequence focuses on the special ops training that the cast had to undergo to pass off as real soldiers. Here the crew talks about the realistic gear employed as well as the true military consultants used to add some realism to the film. "Transforming Puerto Rico" reveals that the entire film was shot in Puerto Rico... even when the story took the movie back to the States. This segment features more of the cast talking about their roles as well as the country itself, and we get to see some behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew on set. Finally, "Going Deep Into The Action" goes a little more in-depth into the action style and sequences of the film. Here, the director talks about how he wanted to capture more of a first-person view of action (like in video games) and we see some pretty cool gear that filmmakers use to accomplish feats like this. The featurette ends with a neat revelation of how they film Clay's long fall dive near the end of the film.
The Losers: Action-Style Storytelling (10:09) - For anyone familiar with the comic books, this is the ideal featurette. It features the British creators and writers of the comic, James Vanderbilt and Andy Diggle, as well as many unedited moments from the film (which feature some of the profanity and violence from the movie). Because I have no history with the comic, this was pretty informative and neat to hear the perspective of the creators of the series. Pages and frames from the original comics are shown here too, along with interviews with cast and crew as well. A very informative piece.
Deleted Scene (0:45) - The brief deleted scene features actor Chris Noth, who is not in the finished film, calling up a villain from the movie who we otherwise assume died at the end, revealing that he in fact survived, and presumably enlists his help to go after the Losers. It sets things up for a sequel (should it happen), but since there's no commentary for this single, mysterious deleted scene, it's unexplained as to why this was filmed and ultimately left on the cutting room floor (and then added to the blu-ray as a teaser...?).
Extras - The "Extras" is simply a 15-minute preview of the animated direct-to-DVD film Batman: Under The Red Hood.
Although thin on features, The Losers home video release still offers enough goodies for fans of the film to sink their teeth into and go a little deeper into the making of the action film. Anyone hoping for a commentary audio track will be sorely disappointed as there isn't a single commentary track included. Still, the features included are adequate and the movie looks great in high definition.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/19/10)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: The opening scene shows Jensen making shadow puppets of dinosaurs and has one get behind another and pretend to have sex from behind; When someone comments on having a "great feeling," another jokes that "Your momma had a great feeling last night;" We see a few girls in the terrorist camp in bikinis; Aisha flirts with Clay at a bar when they meet. He offers her some of his steak saying, "Want a bite?" and she playfully responds, "Maybe later;" Clay takes Aisha to his room and she goes to the bathroom. When she emerges, she still acts flirtatious, but instead of anything romantic happening, they break out into a fight; Max makes a comment about Wade liking "big t*tties;" Wade tells Max that he saw "Clay and his unit," meaning Clay and the other Losers. Max sarcastically repeats what Wade said and remarks, "Sounds like a porno;" Aisha comes to Clay's trailer with a bottle of alcohol and we see them passionately kiss. The scene then turns choppy and in slow motion with sensual music over it as we see quick cuts of them making out, groping, her removing her shirt, her in her bra, and her bare back -- all in a series of quick cuts. We then see them cuddling on the couch, presumably naked, under a blanket. She sits up (possibly revealing her upper nudity to Clay), but we don't see anything; Later, there is another scene where Aisha comes to Clay's room and they kiss, but the scene immediately ends. We then see them in the room with her in her underwear (small panties and a lace top) and him in his clothes lying on the bed next to each other. We see more of her in her underwear after that; While Jensen's in an elevator, he drops his pants while changing. The door opens and we see a group of women staring at his lack of pants (we don't see the nudity). He blushes and jokes "like the angle of the dangle?" before the doors close again (apparently the girls like what they see). It appears to be part of his plan as he makes a call posing as security reporting of a flasher in the elevator, drawing a man out of his office; Jensen jokes that scientific experiments have been made on him, including "anal stuff;" We see more girls in bikinis at a pool with Max. When he takes a call, he tells a girl getting out of the pool to "stay wet."
Vulgarity/Language: 1 "f" word, 24 "s" words, 12 "h*ll," 3 "g*dd*mn," 2 "d*mn," 1 "a-h*le," 3 "J-sus," 1 "Chr-st," 2 "b*tch," at least 7 "G-d," 1 "cr*p," 4 "S.O.B," 3 "d*ck," 1 "s*ck," 1 "t*tties"
Alcohol/Drugs: Clay and Rogue are at a chicken fight and after one asks if it could get any dirtier, the other comments that they could be drinking too; We see Clay in a bar drinking and eating dinner. Aisha then joins him for drinks; We see Aisha and Clay in his hotel room with a bottle of liquor; Aisha brings a bottle of liquor to Clay's room before they sleep together; The team has some champagne to celebrate at the end of the movie, we seem some of them drinking straight from the bottle
Blood/Gore: We see the scarred, burned left hand of Max's briefly without a glove; We see a bloody cut on Aisha's arm after a bullet grazed her; We very briefly see a close-up of a rather bloody wound on a man's arm as it's being stitched up; Clay has some blood on his head after being hit there. He seems to spit some blood too, but we don't actually see it; We see a tiny bit of blood on Pooch's forearm after he was shot in the legs; We see some blood on the bandages around Pooch's legs; A man has blood running from his puffy, swollen eye after it was poked during a fight; Clay has some blood through his jacket sleeves after being cut; A man is shot in the shoulder and we see the blood squirt a bit and the bloody wound on his jacket afterwards (on the front and some on the back). We later see the man with cloth tied around his arm and blood around it
Violence: Lots of shooting and stylized action violence. We see lots of shootings with the person falling or flying due to the impact, but no impact wounds or blood; A building is blown up by a bomb; A helicopter full of children is shot down with a missile, killing all of them; Clay and Aisha have a very violent fight in a hotel room, including broken bottles being thrown at each other, her breaking a chair over him, throwing a TV at him, etc. The hotel then catches on fire; A shootout on the streets of Miami results in many car accidents and an SUV exploding, etc; Rogue holds a gun to Aisha's head and threatens to kill her; A man is hit on the head and knocked out; Some soldiers are shot with tranquilizer darts (and live); While talking to Wade, Max is being followed by a girl with a sun umbrella held over his head. She stumbles when the wind blows her a bit, so he take a gun from Wade and shoots her in the head (just off screen); Max orders Wade to kill at team of 18 guys who he'd originally asked him to assemble; Max shoots a man just barely off screen several times; We see a bomb obliterate an unoccupied island; Clay has a knife fight with a man who cuts him a few times. Clay then shoves his thumb into the man's eye, causing it to bleed; Max gives Wade a head nod (to do something to a man to intimidate him). Wade then throws the man off a building's roof. Shocked, Max scolds Wade for misunderstanding his head nod and killing the man; A man threatens to kill Wade for threatening him earlier; Clay punches Rogue and Rogue threatens to cut Clay's head off (Pooch then makes the guys apologize to each other); A motorcycle crashes, sending a man flying through the air towards an airplane. The man falls right into the airplane engine, dying instantly. The motorcycle then crashes into the front of the airplane, presumably killing all inside; A man shoots another man (who lives); among other action violence in the movie
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.