Since Hollywood continues to mine comic-book-store budget bins for inspiration, you'll be forgiven for not recognizing The Losers. They started out in an obscure '60s mag about a World War II Special Forces unit that's handed hopeless assignments, but the movie's actually modeled on a modern "re-imagining" from DC's mature readers Vertigo line, which means they can swear and shoot people with impunity.
These new guys are an elite black-ops unit who get stranded in Bolivia after refusing an order to waste a cartel hideout staffed with child labor. Left for dead, this smug crew of epic hardasses declares war on the whole CIA, and especially their corrupt handler Max (Jason Patric), who himself has gone rogue, trying to procure a new untraceable "enviro-friendly" nuke. The good guys get help and needed sex appeal from a wildcard played by Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar), who's the fanboy's drool object of choice of late.
The Losers tries to make warfare a giggle, with its slaphappy warriors slinging just as many quips as they do bullets. Hopefully they're packing hollow points, 'cause the jokes are mostly blanks. The ever-sardonic Chris Evans gets in a few laughs as the goateed tech specialist who uses covert satellite links to follow his niece's junior soccer team. Jeffrey Dean Morgan — a riot in Watchmen as a morally shady super-soldier — seems oddly off here. As cocky team leader Clay, he's supposed to be a swift thinker, but instead seems to be shaking off a three-day bender. Too often he's forcing it, as are the cast members, who have to fight through not only a hail of bullets but an excess of slow-mo, used to pad every scene. Director Sylvain White never met a jump cut, freeze-frame or Journey song he couldn't beat to death, and the result is a comic-book movie that plays like an Xbox game made by a music video director. This macho posture-fest might've made a decent Spike TV series, but, up on the big screen, The Losers underachieve.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].