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The Losers lives up – and down – to its title in lackluster comic-book adaptation

by Mark Burger

It’s unmistakably clear that the makers of The Losers were hoping to make it a major screen franchise. Upon viewing it, it’s just as unmistakably clear that they have failed.

Adapted from a DC Vertigo Comics series, The Losers is the heartwarming story of five special operatives who are betrayed by their employer (that would be the CIA) after a particularly hairy mission, then set about exacting vengeance upon Max (Jason Patric), the smarmy sleazeball who screwed them over.

This they do, trotting across the globe with each new locale duly noted, delivering a maximum of violence and tough talk, a minimum of subtlety or decorum, and a consistent barrage of CGI special effects, some of which hardly qualify as “special.” (When the seams show, they show — and they’re sometimes painfully evident here, particularly in a climactic airplane explosion that appears to have been done on the cheap.)

The fierce five who comprise the title team are played by Chris Evans, Columbus Short, Idris Elba, Oscar Jaenada (who has almost nothing to say but is still annoying) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays their fearless leader, Clay. They get their opportunity to avenge themselves upon Max thanks to Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a curvaceous femme fatale who takes a shine to Clay but might not necessarily be what she says she is.

Is she on the level? Is this a set-up? Does anyone have any interest in how any of this turns out?

Predictably, for sure. Under the direction of Sylvain White — of Stomp the Yard fame (?) — the actors attempt some semblance of playing it straight and playing it rough, but this is not a film that depends in any way on characterization or storytelling. The principal concern is blowing things up, setting things on fire or shooting people. Yet it’s almost remarkable how uninteresting it all is. The term “soulless” comes to mind — and more than once.

Some of the more violent scenes have been scaled back just enough to achieve a more box-office-friendly PG-13 rating, although to date that hasn’t translated into hit status. Even so, this film is excessive — except in terms of entertainment, that is.

Only Patric, who wisely kids the material, makes any sort of impression, delivering his boasts and threats with an air of indifference, gliding through the movie like an actor acutely aware that he’s selling out. He is, but at least he appears to be having fun doing it.

Like the CGI airplane that blows up, this is one franchise that never gets off the ground.

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