Comic Book Movies 101: The Losers

The Losers is based on the DC/Vertigo comic book series of the same name (by Brit comic artists Jock and Andy Dingle) about a group of soldiers looking to find the man who tried to have them killed. I’ll hold my hands up now and admit – I’d never ever heard of, let alone read, the original comic series. I know, shame on me for calling myself a comic book geek. But one day, as I perused the never-ending isles of a London-based entertainment shop, the packaging caught my eye. I thought for a brief moment. Then suddenly I realised I’d left the shop, film now in my possession. (Don’t worry, I did pay for it.)

When I finally sat down and watched this comic book adaptation, to be completely honest, I was far from impressed. While the banter between the Losers themselves is enjoyable nonsense and the action sequences feel like a throwback to 80s action glory days, there’s little to really recommend. I felt both disappointed and disheartened that this film (which came before similar titles such as The A-Team and R.E.D in the same year) was such a missed opportunity.

Then something made me sit and watch it again. What that feeling was I shall never know. But what I do know is that The Losers is one film which does grow on you.

So what’s so enjoyable about a film which is basically a scaled down version of The A-Team? As I mentioned before, the banter is a big part of what makes the film likeable. You genuinely feel as though this rag-tag group of mercenaries have been through a lot together as the camaraderie is there from the get-go.

The film also has a good helping of immensely funny moments littered throughout. For instance there’s the opening school bus escape, which uses Black Betty by Ram Jam as the soundtrack to said bus being chased by a napalm explosion. In another scene Chris (Mr Captain America himself) Evans’ character Jensen is making his getaway from a group of security guards. What makes the scene all the more enjoyable is the use of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face then you’re just taking it too seriously. This scene is followed by Jensen’s invisible gun showdown with the aforementioned security guards (unfortunately the trailer’s “mamma didn’t raise no fool” line is absent).

But what of the action? I hear you cry. There’s little use of CGI which really gets you invested in each and every explosion. It’s also refreshing to see that in this more violent day and age, very little blood is actually spilt on screen. Considering how low the budget for the film was (it was made with the relatively small sum of $25 million) it’s also impressive what director Sylvian White manages to bring to the table in terms of both style (the slow motion bedroom shoot out is first-rate screen destruction) and energy.

What is possibly this film’s trump card is the appearance of former 80s film heartthrob Jason Patric as the diabolical Max. Even though he has every bad guy motive that’s now commonplace in action films, his overly camp way of delivering the dialogue makes it feel fresh and darkly comical. It’s rare to see a villain in a comic book film who’s actually more fun to watch than the title characters. He’s utterly compelling as he single-handedly steals the film from this cast of misfits.

The Losers is certainly a film which gets progressively better with each viewing. It’s light hearted entertainment which wears its comic book credentials proudly by including original artwork in the character intros from series artist Jock. Although at times it’s clear that the budget is a little stretched, particularly in a few instances where some poor greenscreen work is present and that it just suddenly ends on a duff note.

Yes, it may present very little that could be considered new within the action genre. Yes, it has numerous clichés intertwined in its narrative. And yes, you can spot the plot twist coming a mile off. But when all’s said and done, The Losers proves itself acceptable Saturday night entertainment for the masses. Plus how can you not like a film which makes up the word Blaguyver or, better yet, has Jensen exclaim “That’s right bitches… I have a crossbow”. That’s right, it’s impossible not to like it. Now go and watch it.

Dominic O’Brien

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