Directed by Sylvain White
Just in case the opening credits don't tip you off that The Losers is no mere men-on-a-mission heist movie but one based on a semi-popular comic book, the movie assembles its elite squadron from other geek properties. You could say that it stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, and Zoe Saldana, or you could call out: the Comedian, the Human Torch, Uhura, unite!
They're joined by heist vets Columbus Short (last seen in the well-crafted Armored) and Idris Elba (who has his own Matt Dillon heist movie, Takers, out later this year). These Losers, not unlike their multiplex brethren in Kick-Ass, don't have superpowers, but specialties: they're a Special Forces unit double-crossed and left for dead. They're laying low until Aisha (Saldana) appears with an offer to lead them to their powerful betrayer, the mysterious Max (Jason Patric).
This involves pulling a series of outlandish but, refreshingly, not quite overblown heists, from the blueprints established by Andy Diggle's comics. Diggle's original material is snappy but thin; the movie's attempts to plump it up with interpersonal conflict and guilt for leader Clay (Morgan) only manage to telegraph a few plot turns. Similarly humanized, Aisha remains a badass—with once and future Na'vi Saldana on hand, how could she not?—but a flirtier one than her comics counterpart, causing less collateral damage and more prone to wearing cute, brightly colored clothes (whilst executing spin-kicks and gun-flips, of course). Director Sylvain White draws in vivid, saturated colors that recall blasts of old Sunday funnies more than the darker shades of artist Jock's original drawings.
But the process of softening and brightening The Losers for the masses has made it a little looser and more fun, too; the B-team stars offer plenty of charm shortucts. The movie retains the book's casual multiculturalism—imagine, a team with more than just a token black guy!—and Max looks more lily-white when removed from the shadows and embodied by Patric's detached smarm. Patric has a way of deflating the grandeur of his own nefariousness and much of the film's dialogue, while over-reliant on non-witticisms like "really?" and cliches like "payback's a bitch," follows suit with this tossed-off humor.
On its low-down terms, The Losers only really falters when it tries to saga up. The comic only ran for thirty-two issues, yet the movie, at a trim ninety minutes or so, holds back on completing its mission, obviously angling for franchise potential. Anyone who made this movie, though, ought to be hip to its lack of necessity.
Opens April 23