Tuesday 1 June 2010

Review: The Losers

Year: 2010
Director: Sylvain White
Screenplay: Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Edris Elba, Chris Evans, Jason Patric, Zoe Salanda

The Plot is here.

Coming out in a year where the A Team, The Expendables and are throwing their A listed weight around like nobodies business, The Losers bunch of "lesser knowns" almost looks like it will come up short. However due to the hype and the pressure between the bigger films to bring about the spirit of the 80's action; The Losers may be able to score some formidable points if not win the whole things hands down for simple being a thick slice of fun.

While the other retro actioners will spend a lot of their time winking at the audience, with their pop-culture nods to their original shows or their creators; (case in point B.A Baracus whistling HIS OWN THEME SONG DURING THE A-TEAM TRAILER), The Losers has a small advantage in the fact that not that many people would have read the graphic novel it originally stems from. This is a good thing, because The Losers now has to stand up without the need for rose tinted nostalgia, and to be fair, I feel it does quite well.

The Losers is the kind of film that you could have easily imagined Sly or Arnie having a part in back in the day. It's a lean adventure without fills, but with enough thrills to remain entertaining. It's narrative may be simple, however it's a refreshing change from the overcomplicated plotting of recent summer blockbusters. It's an old dog and therefore has no new tricks, but the direction had enough of a division tactic that made sure I missed a plot twist I could have sniffed out in many other films of it's type. Cliche at times isn't that bad a thing if fun can be found.

A bright film (nice to see such a bold colour scheme as opposed to murky and/or bleached out) The Losers, interestingly enough feels like a video game. But unlike using this statement as a tired critical negative, Sylvain Whites use of over the shoulder visuals, point of view fight shots and one on one combat moments to his advantage trying to coax life out of a genre that sees it all. It doesn't all work but it does have an interesting feel to proceedings. The same goes for some of the more obvious scenes. We see the romantic leads fighting in a blazing hotel room, the music is sexy and many of the shots are slow....yes we're clearly looking at foreplay. But the films back to basics outlook reminds you it's not pretending to be something it's not. No morality issues, no gray areas, just stripped down nonsense. It's simple intentions serve it well. So much so that when the film reaches it's most outrageous moment, it almost feels taken from another film. Despite this it STILL works, and credit is deserved for it's most straight shooting style.

The films cast are also clearly under the films chilled influence. Funny when they want to be (most jokes stemming from the very game Chris Evans), cool when they need to be (with maybe a little too much help from the slow motion); the performances work mostly because there's no preconceptions of the actors. These are the faces of the D-list and character actors, chosen due to their screen presence and not star power, it shows. The interplay between Morgan and Elba is solid, Evans once again shows why he enjoys supporting roles and while Zoe Saldana is little more than eye candy, she is an actress that can do enough with a small amount and infuses the film with more than enough sex appeal. A nod of approval must also go to Columbus Short (Pooch) and Oscar Jaenada who get a lot of fun out of their admittedly one note characters. In an ensemble piece like this, they do well to not feel like also rans. However the best praise is saved for the highly amusing Jason Patric. An actor whose career has never really gone the way many thought it would, his villainous performance is one of old school Saturday morning cartoons. Gleefully evil and hilariously overconfident, it's not a display of mugging, but a performance of oil slick megalomania that had me grinning more than once. It's silly but not over done.

But that's what I enjoyed about The Losers, it knows where it stands. It's a well done genre flick done well. Eschewing anything too over the top for simple pleasures. At first I was weary of where the film was going with the first act bringing up memories of Tony Scott's 00's over-stylised visuals/editing, however the film takes a step back and then goes at it's own pace. It doesn't want to bother anyone, it just wants to have a little fun. Can't argue with that.

*Note: It's clearly obvious that the casting for the up coming Kane and Lynch film is wrong and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the right man to play Kane. Sorry Mr Willis!