With Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Jason Patric, Idris Elba, Chris Evans. Directed by Sylvain White. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language. 98 minutes.
Having run out of ideas, Hollywood has turned to graphic novels, the grown-up version of comic books. Some of the resulting movies, like “The Road To Perdition,” “V For Vendetta” and “A History of Violence,” have been outstanding, no matter what liberties were taken in adapting them. THE LOSERS isn’t in that league in terms of substance – this is a pulp-driven action movie – but in terms of being more than a rehash of a bunch of other movies, it scores. You may have to check your brain at the door, but you certainly won’t be bored.
The premise is that an elite team of Americans is sent to Bolivia to take out a drug lord. They are headed by Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who aborts the mission when he sees a busload of children brought into the camp that’s about to be bombed. However, a mysterious CIA agent named Max (Jason Patric) overrules him and orders everything destroyed. In the aftermath, Clay and his team are presumed dead and blamed for the fiasco. Enter Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a mysterious woman who promises the men she will get them back into the United States and bankroll them provided they perform one service for her: take out Max.
If you have some idea of where the overall plot is heading, it’s the details that are surprising and entertaining. Max turns out to be a rogue agent trying to start World War III by obtaining a weapon of mass destruction that has the benefit of not harming the environment. Jensen (Chris Evans), the team member who excels at breaking into secure facilities, also has a penchant for wearing colorful t-shirts, including one for the Petunias, his niece’s middle school soccer team.
In other words, we’re not to take any of this seriously for one minute. From transportation expert Pooch (Columbus Short) hijacking an armored car in broad daylight to sharpshooter Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) demonstrating that no target is too far away, this a movie about relentless action, not logic. The violence is shamelessly over-the-top. This is a movie where a man is thrown off a building because of a misunderstanding, security guards are taken down by “mind control,” and a woman with an umbrella pays the price for letting Max out from under its shade. Those with a high regard for the Geneva Conventions or the rules of cause and effect will be disappointed.
For those willing to take “The Losers” for what it is, none of this matters. This won’t make any but the most twisted “ten best lists” at the end of the year. It’s trash and makes no pretense to be otherwise. Yet it’s done with such a sense of style and fun that those moviegoers looking for a junk food movie, as many of us do from time to time, will find this filled with the empty calories they crave. If you feel guilty afterwards, put something by Bergman or Fellini in your Netflix queue to make up for it.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.