The world has been inundated with comic book adaptations this past decade, so new entries need to have something special to set them apart from the rest. Vertigo’s The Losers had a premise that made it appealing for a feature film treatment—a group of five ex-military covert-ops soldiers turned fugitives after being framed for a botched job in Bolivia, killing twenty-five innocent children, attempt to reenter America and clear their names. Sounds a lot like “The A-Team” to me, but I wasn’t going to let that get me down because I was in the mood for mindless action sprinkled with a little sarcastic wit. Sylvain White, who’s only theatrical film was Stomp the Yard, so I’m not sure how he got this gig, allows his actors to take control of their roles and really add some character to the proceedings as each has their own unique skill set and attitude. Being a PG-13 actioner does mean it falls into clichéd moments—I don’t think there could have been anymore slomotion sauntering even if they tried—but thankfully you’re having too much fun to really notice them too much.
Something I really liked about the film was that it kept things very simple. There is no need to find out where these men came from, nor anything about their pasts except for the mission we are thrown into at the start. Working for a CIA operative with serious clout, a job to take out an enemy to the country begins to show signs of deeper, or shall I say more selfish, meaning. When a bus load of children get ushered into the compound, the men in the air say continue with the mission because the target is too important to let go free. Unable to live with that type of collateral damage, Clay, the leader of this crew, takes matters into his own hands by saving all the kids, killing the mark, and getting away to safety before the missiles hit, destroying the entire area. He and his men were hired hands, though, guys that knew too much and were now expendable. And so the film really begins with the annihilation of their helicopter getaway, unfortunately containing the children instead. So, the guys fake their deaths and go into hiding down in Mexico, awaiting their chance to come back and set things right.
Along comes Aisha—played effectively by Zoe Saldana, readily making a name as someone who can hold her own in action packed films—with a proposition to scratch their backs while getting helped as well. With her own reasons to find Max, the CIA man wreaking havoc internationally, she gains the boys’ trust and smuggles them back to the USA in order to take down the highly fortified entourage supposedly driving their madman around town. In comes the third big scale explosive firefight in less than forty minutes, only to find Max is nowhere near the scene. Conspiracies finally get uncovered, secrets and motivations are revealed, and the heinous plot by this rogue agent buying futuristic technology capable of vaporizing large landmasses without a trace or pollution is brought to light. Now it becomes up to the Losers to fight the good fight despite no longer being soldiers or even welcome in their country, doing what they have to do for their own consciences, the families some of them have, and to get the evidence to clear their names. The fact that in order to do so means pitting them face to face with the voice that ordered their deaths is just the cherry on top.
As far as having something to set this adaptation apart from the pack, there isn’t really anything that sticks out. What The Losers does have going for it is that it could be a straight up action movie without the need of a built-in fanbase. Unfortunately, the filmmakers feel the need to make sure its audience knows where it all came from, instilling unnecessary freeze-frame kill shots during the opening ambush and animated cut-frames depicting the lead characters as an introduction. It’s a cheesy gimmick that really only attempts to cash in on the comic connection rather than serve any real purpose. Besides some odd cropping and confusingly shot battle scenes, everything else pretty much runs smoothly. There are a ton of fights full of explosions and gunfire littering the proceedings to make sure the audience is engaged and not looking too deeply into the story or getting bored with expository moments. Everyone involved is pretty much a lethal killing machine, so whether they are taking on an enemy or bickering against each other, the choreography is effective in its adrenaline rushed construction. Who doesn’t go see a film like this and not get excited for a sexualized fight involving a woman like Saldana or a knife fight amongst large and angry friends?
The real driving force behind it all, however, is the stellar cast that knows how to play it serious with an edge of camp. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the leader, a tough guy with a big heart who treats his unit as he would a family. When he is stripped of his title and therefore identity, he takes it as failure and buckles down to get it back. Add in the hot-tempered Idris Elba as Roque, Óscar Jaenada as the stoic but effective Cougar, and Columbus Short’s Pooch as the group’s conscience and you know humorous situations are coming. The real standout, though, is Chris Evans and his combination of good-looking charm and geeky tech-head wit. A lot of people will probably showcase Jason Patric’s turn as the villainous Max, but while he is so over-the-top it works, it’s Evans’ total lack of ego, doing whatever is necessary for a joke, that made the biggest impression. Between his t-shirts, his own shame in being a horrible ad-libber in the field, and a wonderful public karaoke impression of Journey’s Steve Perry, thinking about it all still brings a smile to my face. His Jensen is even center stage during the funniest moment of all during the end credits. It’s a great epilogue that helps wash the somewhat unsatisfying flavor of a blatant sequel set-up the film’s conclusion leaves.
The Losers 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
 JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN as Clay and IDRIS ELBA as Roque in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Dark Castle Entertainment’s action thriller “The Losers,” released by Warner Bros. Pictures. TM & © DC Comics Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
 ZOË SALDANA as Aisha in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Dark Castle Entertainment’s action thriller “The Losers,” released by Warner Bros. Pictures. TM & © DC Comics Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures