Ah, DC Vertigo. You should be a fertile
source of dark and edgy movie material, if not gripping
at least atmospheric and with a point of view that covers
up for any bald spots in storytelling. Then somebody delivered
The Losers to Akiva Goldsman. Thus does a more adult
riff on The A-Team end up looking like no better
than the D-Team.
In The Losers, actually directed
by Sylvain White, a ragtag group of special ops guys get
assigned to take down a drug lord in South America. When
they realize that the guy uses kids as drug mules, their
leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tries to abort the mission.
Of course, far more nefarious forces are
at work than the group, awkwardly dubbed The Losers, could
possibly imagine. If they are working for the CIA, it's
been hijacked by the mysterious Max (Jason Patric), a single-gloved
megalomaniac who accidentally wandered in from an old James
Now believed dead by the U.S. Government
and reviled for a crime they did not - oh, heck, there's
just not going to be anything original going on in this
film no matter how hard I try to make it sound otherwise.
The least that White could do would be to make up for the
staleness of the premise by giving it some style and wit.
Style he has, but it gets overused to compensate.
If all the slow motion shots in this movie were played at
normal speed, it might be up to half an hour shorter. When
a sequence gets directly lifted out of the source material,
it brings a moment of competence, such as an office building
team-up between Chris Evans' Jensen and Oscar Jaenada's
sharpshooter Cougar. But such moments are few and far between.
They're made all the more precious by a
leaden script that thinks all of its dialogue is precious.
Credited to Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, it's a careening
mess loaded with witty banter that can barely coax a smile
out of the audience. Full of supposedly sarcastic exchanges,
it strands actors like Patric, Morgan and the still trying
very hard Idris Elba as the scarred Roque.
And that's what makes The Losers
so frustrating. It's got a handful of actors who are not
only sincerely trying, but would be succeeding if they had
Morgan plays world-weary very well, and
he's waiting for another role on par with the Comedian in
Watchmen to cement his reputation as a thinking action
hero. Unfortunately, his scenes take him from brooding to
horny (thanks to Zoe Saldana's appearance) to ridiculously
happy without a lot of build-up in between.
Given only a little prosthetic make-up
to create a character, Elba struggles gamely with the material.
He has a brooding intensity that works as well on the big
screen as it does on television; if only he could develop
as intensely sharp a taste for material.
As Aisha, the token female also seeking
revenge on the shadowy Max, Saldana runs through her usual
tricks. Already her smoldering eye-batting feels old, but
when the inevitable sex scene happens with Morgan, it's
not quite her fault it doesn't feel earned. Instead, it's
just gratuitous and a set-up for another slow-motion sequence.
Let's just put it on the table now - if
a movie is adapted from a graphic novel, it should still
function as a movie and not waste a lot of time reminding
us that it comes from the funny pages. There just aren't
enough readers of any title to be pandering to them like
that, and bringing in comic book imagery starts to seem
like a crutch or worse, an apology for the weakness of material.
Yet it seems hard to believe that the source
material is that weak. The Losers has been
a pretty successful title for Vertigo, and it just seems
terribly watered down here. Thanks to the movie, however,
I may never know for sure. It killed my desire to pick up
And sadly, that makes Vertigo the real