Usually, I’m not a big fan of action movies. If you see me in the audience of an action movie, it means that I’m either 1) on a date with a guy who really doesn’t care if I’m bored out of my skull, 2) the movie is actually a film with action as opposed to an action film, or 3) there’s absolutely nothing else playing. It was because of that third reason that yesterday afternoon, I could be found at the Regal Keystone, watching The Losers.
Surprisingly enough, however, I ended up enjoying The Losers.
Six words: Idris Elba, Jason Patric, and teddy bear.
Idris Elba. Oh God, where to start? I think Idris Elba may be one of the best actors working today. If you’ve seen him in The Wire then you’ve seen him as an intimidator. (And, admit it, The Wire was never as good after Stringer Bell got killed.) If you’ve seen him on The Office than you know that Elba can also be unexpectedly funny. In the Losers, Elba gets to be both scary and funny at the same time. (And incredibly sexy though I doubt that’s going to be a big selling point for this film’s target audience.) Idris Elba manages to look convincing while both blowing things up and, during one of the film’s many postmodern moments, commenting, “Wow, this is sleazy.”
Elba plays Rocque, the second-in-command of a paramilitary group known as the Losers. Much like the A-Team and the Expendables (both of which will be coming along later this year), the Losers are betrayed by their government and wrong declared dead. They — a glowering Elba included — find themselves stranded in Bolivia where they pass the time working in a doll factory, betting on cockfights, and plotting vengeance against Max.
Who is Max? This question is at the center of The Losers and it’s never really answered (perhaps it will be in the sequel). It’s insinuated throughout the film that he’s involved with the CIA, that he’s a terrorist, or that he’s just a patriotic businessman. Of course, the answer is that Max is actually Jason Patric (a.k.a. the son of Father Damien Karras).
I have to admit that, in the past, Patric has never really impressed me much as an actor. In the past, he’s always seemed a bit stiff and humorless. Patric plays Max as a man who is not only a comic book villain but who is totally aware of it as well. You can tell that Max is having a lot of fun being evil and that Patric is having fun playing evil. Patric’s over-the-top but compelling villainy let’s the audience know that this movie has no pretensions beyond entertainment. It makes both Patric and the film enjoyable to watch.
And this leads us to the teddy bear.
At the start of the movie, the Losers are rescuing a bunch of children who are being held hostage by some random bad guy in Bolivia. As they load the thankful children into a waiting helicopter, an angelic little boy attempts to hand over his teddy bear as a thank you gift.
“No,” Col. Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) replies, “you keep it. It will bring you luck.”
The angelic child smiles and clutching his teddy bear, he goes into the helicopter. The helicopter then lifts up into the air and promptly explodes. As the Losers stare at the burning wreckage, the camera zooms in on the only thing that apparently wasn’t incinerated in the explosion.
Yes, it’s the teddy bear.
And as soon as I saw that, I knew that the Losers was going to work. I soon as I saw that teddy bear, I knew that this was a film that felt no shame at being a work of pure pulp fiction. In this age when every studio film is trying to feel independent and when most filmmakers would be too self-consciously hip to actually do something as shameless as show that little bear among the wreckage, the Losers went for it. The Losers said, “We don’t care if it’s an obvious move and thoroughly illogical for a teddy bear to survive — with just a few burns — an explosion that so totally incinerated 25 people that not a single body part is seen among the wreckage. We’re showing the damn bear!”
That’s when the Losers won me over.
A few more random thoughts on The Losers:
1) As Arleigh pointed out in his review, one of the film’s biggest strengths is the chemistry of the Losers themselves. As opposed to most ensemble action films, all of the Losers are given clearly definable personalities, all of them are given something important to do, and most importantly, you believe that these guys would actually choose to hang out together. When one of the Losers is eventually revealed to be a traitor, you feel the entire group’s shock and pain. This adds an extra layer to the film that, for whatever reason, I suspect we won’t be seeing with The A-Team.
2) The Losers is yet another film that demonstrates the importance of not only walking in slow motion but having something to throw to the side while doing so. It just looks incredibly cool on-screen though people tend to get annoyed when you attempt to do the same thing in real life.
3) Throughout the movie, we are continually told that The Losers are waging war on the CIA and the American establishment in general. The audience I was with loved this. Once again, this validates my theory that the best reflection of the times can usually be found in contemporary pulp.
4) Zoe Saldana is in this film too as a mysterious woman who helps the Losers track down Max. In the style of Carrie-Ann Moss and the Girl with the dragon tattoo, she gets a chance to kick a lot of ass and I have to admit that I found this so inspiring that, once I got home, I stripped down to my undies, stood in front of my bedroom mirror, and attempted to execute a few flying kicks of my own. The lesson I learned from this is that I’m not Zoe Saldana. That and, regardless of how soft the carpet is, it still hurts when you end up falling flat on your ass.
In the end, The Loser is the perfect definition of stupid fun. I’ll take stupidly fun over funny stupidity any day.