The Losers

(2010) ** 1/2 Pg-13
98 min. Warner Brothers. Director: Sylvain White. Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Jason Patric.

/content/films/3802/1.jpgWhen The Losers first hit theaters, it didn't seem like much. And it still doesn't: it's a fairly generic actioner with clichéd characters. On the other hand, a few months down the line, with a little perspective, The Losers' humbly dumb action-packed entertainment looks like more of an achievement, since this comic-book knockoff of The A-Team (shepherded to the page by writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock) is a lot easier to enjoy than Fox's sanctioned remake of The A-Team. Perhaps that's because Sylvain White's The Losers is self-aware of its schlock value, with the sturdy cast obviously conscious that they're in a purely escapist shoot-'em-up matinee and ready to roll with the gunfire.

Not unlike "The A-Team," Vertigo Comics' "The Losers" are a crack Special Forces unit "burned" by the CIA. Forced into hiding, Col. Franklin Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), short-fused Cpt. William Rogue (Idris Elba), communications expert Cpl. Jake Jensen (Captain America's Chris Evans), pilot Sgt. Pooch Porteus (Columbus Short), and sniper Sgt. Cougar Alvarez (Óscar Jaenada) work out how they're going to counter the double-cross of their erstwhile handler Max (Jason Patric), a plan complicated by the arrival of mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana). After proving her ass-kicking skills, she offers them and key intel in exchange for being in on the takedown of Max. As it turns out, The Losers have a chance to save the world along with their own asses: Max's plot involves the detonation of a newfangled nuke as a misleading pretext for war. A few twists and many gunshots and explosions later, the rough-edged good guys carry the day and order is restored (oh, sorry: spoiler alert).

Puerto Rico stands in for a half-dozen exotic locales (and the Arecibo Observatory gets its close-up again), which White blows up real good. There's nothing finessed about The Losers, but certainly one can get one's action fix in relatively painless fashion. Evans (Fantastic Four) does his now-familiar droll-wisecracker routine, and Elba (The Wire) gives good threatening smolder, while Morgan and Saldana make effective semi-romantic leads. Perhaps what slightly elevates the picture is the screenplay credited to Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) and James Vanderbilt (The Rundown, Zodiac), which, well, never lets intelligence get in the way of an explosion, a good gag or a snappily effective pace. Strangely enough, the film's biggest failure comes from one of its most established talents: Patric miscalculates in his showy, looney-tunes take on Max, though the blame rests also with White for not reigning him in. In theory, the approach makes sense, but Patric's the wrong actor (too rational, methinks) to pull off the sort of thing that comes easily to John Malkovich and came easily to Dennis Hopper.

Share/bookmark: del.icio.us Digg Facebook Fark Furl Google Bookmarks Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo! My Web Permalink Permalink
Bluray

Aspect ratios: 2.4:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 7/20/2010

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Warner sends home The Losers in a spiffy Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy special edition that maximizes consumer value. Central of course is the hi-def Blu-ray transfer, which skillfully recreates Sylvain White's blown-out aesthetic. That crazy contrast is consistent, and black levels are pleasingly inky, with bold colors busting out all over; most importantly, details and textures are strongly defined for a crisp hi-def picture. Strap in tight for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix, which comes on with pummeling force from all corners; the music has a nice full sound and dialogue mostly survives (!).

There's a fair sampling of behind-the-scenes material, most of it exclusive to Blu-ray. First up is "Zoe and the Losers" (5:41, HD), emphasizing how Zoë Saldana became one of the boys during production. Participants include director Sylvain White, Saldana, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, producer Akiva Goldsman, producer Joel Silver, military advisor Harry Humphries, and stunt coordinator Garrett Warren.

Band of Buddies: Ops Training includes three featurettes: "Walk the Ops Walk" (5:41, HD), "Transforming Puerto Rico" (5:21, HD), and "Going Deep into the Action" (5:50, HD). These  self-explanatory titles go into the research, training and technical craft that went into creating the exotic action, with talking-head clips of Goldsman, Humphries, military equipment specialist Monty Hom, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Morgan, Oscar Jaenada, White, producer Kerry Foster, executive producer Stuart Besser, Holt McCallany, production designer Aaron Osborne, Silver, Columbus Short, Warren, and stunt man Dave Schultz.

"The Losers: Action-Style Storytelling" (10:09, HD) goes back to the comic-book source with comic-book writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock, White, Morgan, Silver, Foster, Osborne, and Evans.

Last among the Losers-focused extras is a sole "Deleted Scene" (:45, HD) featuring Chris Noth. Though brief, it's a nice look at a trimmed cameo.

Shooting for the comic-book audience, WB includes "A First Look at Batman: Under the Red Hood" (13:46, SD), which presents character designs, rough art and audio clips, and interview clips with director Brandon Vietti, writer Judd Winick, DC Comics SVP Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, producer Bruce Timm, co-producer Alan Burnett, casting and voice director Andrea Romano, Jensen Ackles, Bruce Greenwood, and Neil Patrick Harris.

Naturally, the disc is also BD-Live enabled for further online content.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

Share this review:
Share/bookmark: del.icio.us Digg Facebook Fark Furl Google Bookmarks Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo! My Web Permalink Permalink
Sponsored Links