Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"The Losers" Review

“The Losers” playfully posits an ironic title, but under release by Dark Castle Entertainment, it became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their marketing for this comic-book action throwback was sparse at best, and internet enthusiasm walked the line of virtual nonexistence despite a trailer no more corny than that of the wildly-anticipated new Iron Man film.

But without the advertising oomph of a superhero sequel, moviegoers were quick to hypocritically label “The Losers” ‘stupid,’ while salivating over Sylvester Stallone’s upcoming “Expendables.” Like that film, “The Losers” embraces the disposable entertainment it was inspired by, and all of the popcorn fun and narrative pitfalls that entails. Title cards splash flamboyantly across the opening scene, introducing us to our protagonists via nickname and destructive area of expertise. These colorful freeze-frames are perfect snapshots of the one-dimensional cartoon characters the film is populated by; in thirty seconds we understand their clichéd team dynamic, and the lame plot wheelbarrows forward.

And you know what? I kind of like it that way. I’ll gladly take ‘stupid’ over pretentious, and “The Losers” doesn’t get hung up on whether or not it’s going to inspire conversation on the ride home. Instead, it sets up a premise and executes it point blank: the story is your typical connect-the-dots of entertaining but unremarkable action sequences, whose best quality is probably legibility. Thank your deity of choice that they’re not cut like “Transformers 2,” which is maybe a necessity of shooting at an eighth of Michael Bay’s budget, but even with a comparative shoestring and seldom a spark of originality, “The Losers” wins hands down in the comprehensibility department—And it’s a movie where motorcycles can and will fly into airplane turbines.

It’s actually the comic-book stuff—The flourishes “The Losers” hopes to distinguish itself by—That come off feeling superfluous and out of place in the heat of the action. I know it’s based on a graphic novel (even though I’d hitherto never heard of it), but I gotta tell ya, Ang Lee’s “Hulk,” isn’t the best style manual for making the jump to the big screen. Freeze frames, artificial zooms, and drawing on the image is ugly and distracting.

Fortunately, that stuff really isn’t a huge issue. I’ll cope because the most important aspect of the film—Its cast—Is fun to watch play off each other. They share a convincing rapport that transcends how surface-level gimmicky their roles are; you have the tough-as-nails leader (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the romantically-challenged computer nerd (Chris Evans), the beefy black guy (Idris Elba), and the token sex appeal (Zoe Saldana). They breathe life into otherwise decomposing archetypes, and have a great time doing it.

The bottom line is that though “The Losers” fails to distinguish itself in all the important ways, stapled to a hopelessly generic plot with nary an innovative action set-piece or idea, it actually excels at the status quo. It isn’t crippled by its clichés, it wears them as semi-ironic badges of honor. After all, when else will you see a caricatural evil genius (Jason Patric) taken to the comedic absurd of blowing a hole in the head of his parasol-toting assistant for letting his shade wander?

A more pronounced tongue-in-cheek sensibility might have taken the film to another level, but as it stands, director Sylvain White polishes this very surface film to a fine gleam. It’s just a shame that some imaginary line’s been drawn between it and the undisputed summer heavyweights, because a quick glance back at what made money last year makes abundantly clear that “The Losers” is rarely one-upped in intellect.

It may be ‘stupid,’ but it's more than that. "The Losers" is stupid fun.


No comments:

Post a Comment