[Note: Having just re-read this post I’m reticent to apply the word Review to what you’re about to read. It feels less like a critique of a film and more like an allusion to one with thoughts that were inspired by the release of one. I’m not saying it’s a bad entry, in fact to be honest I’m quite proud of it, it’s just that it might not be what you have come to expect from a Casta-Review. Still, enjoy it all the same and, as always, feel free to share in the comments section at the end.]
Volcano/ Dante’s Peak. A Bug’s Life/ Antz. Deep Impact/ Armageddon. Dated reference’s yes, but proof that Hollywood likes to play it safe, and that if one studio is taking a stab at a sub-genre, then so will someone else.
Ladies and Gentle-boons I offer you another summer trend for consideration and THREE (not 2, oh no, there are more fingers in this particular genre-pie) films vying for the crown of ‘Better than those pretenders’.
The shtick: Ex-Military types take on ‘The Man’ and win using cunning, guile and ingenuity; group comprised of individuals each with a very specialist skill set (the driver, the tech guy, the muscle, etc). Gang overseen by a leader- the man with the plan, and the great one-liners.
The MOVIES: The A-Team/The Expendables/The Losers.
Let battle commence.
Off the bat it makes total sense for The Losers to get a release date ahead of The A-Team and The Expendables. Of the three films on offer it has by far the least going for it in marketing terms. Whilst a revered comic-book series to hardcore fans (another one?), the tag of ‘The Losers’ is hardly one that will whet non aficionado’s appetites, whilst the cast does little to set the headlines on fire- The Comedian from Watchmen? That Black British guy who played a Black American guy in The Wire? The good guy from Speed 2? The best I could come up with was Johnny Flame from the Fantastic 4 and Sexy Lady Na’vi from Avatar and Star Trek.
In direct contrast we have The A-Team; a TV series that anyone above the age of 20 who enjoyed watching Saturday TV with their dad during the cold winter months of their youth will have an awareness of, and The Expendables; a film with a cast of action hero staples so recognisable even your Gran would have reason to exclaim “Bloody hell, how did they manage to get all those guys together!”; Stallone, Statham, Li, Lungdren, Austin, Crews, Rourke, Schwarzenegger and Willis (the last 2 are cameos but the marketing men don’t care about that)…if these guys flexed at the same time the testosterone levels created would shut down the Hadron Collider.
So, in a round-a-bout way, I’m saying that The Losers is the underdog. And like all good underdogs, it comes out fighting.
I had a lot of fun with this film, and I think the cast and crew did too because it certainly shows on screen. Picking out standout performances or sequences would be a disservice to the overall package on display because to be honest there were very few scenes in the film that dragged or didn’t have something going for them. It’s sexy, funny, exciting, fast paced and simple enough to make sure that you don’t feel like you’re missing any important plot points or twists whilst taking in all the explosive set pieces and locations on offer.
On finishing watching the movie though a few things were clear to me;
1) Thank god for Watchmen; Jeffrey Dean Morgan was an absolute find and a great leading man. It’s good to see him creeping up the A-list and away from smaller TV roles.
2) The role of “the funny/cheeky member of the team” is losing a formidable asset in Chris Evans now that he is set to play The Greatest Comic Book Hero Of All Time™. I’m happy to see him move on to bigger things, but he just oozes charisma playing periphery parts.
3) Some editors have a tendency to over do it with slow motion. Second only to montage in the pandering stakes, I found myself increasingly frustrated by the use of the long to mid shot as the whole gang walk towards the camera REALLY SLOWLY. There was even one with the obligatory waving of an American flag. Used effectively, and sparingly, a slow motion shot can often define a movie- take a bow Old School and any film by Wes Anderson- but only if it’s used once and at an emphatic point in the film, not every time the characters get off a bloody plane. Annoying!
4) Jason Patric is not afraid to take risks. His performance as the villainous Max is pure marmite and genuinely impossible at times to determine if he is in on the joke, or the butt of it.
5) Action sequences don’t have to make sense to be entertaining. Most of the explosive moments in The Losers are elaborate set ups that require millisecond accuracy and in a more seriously pitched film would be rejected out of hand. But in this film the overall tone is so OTT that it feels bad form to criticise gaps in logic when the entertainment quotient is so high. When you’re witnessing a light aircraft be stopped in its tracks by a ‘Human-strike’ which is the result of an insanely accurate sniper, all of which has been timed to perfection by the hero that the aircraft is barrelling towards, you have to stop yourself from screaming ‘HOW?’ and revel in the glorious explosion that these events produce.
And finally, Idris Elba tells lies. Last year Elba was quoted as saying “Unlike [in the UK], in the US there are lead roles for black actors…I went to America – to get the lead roles that I wouldn’t here.I wanted to be the lead, not just the black lead.” (check the whole article out here but watch out for SPOILERS of The Wire if you haven’t seen it yet). Referencing his own (and the many other) fantastic black characters in The Wire, Elba is drawing comparisons to the typical black characters found on our side of the pond- 2 dimensional criminals and wise guys, the likes of which he then ironically went on to play in Rock And Rolla.
How the tables seem to have turned in the space of a year. Elba can currently be seen on British TV screens in Luther as the title character, quite honestly one of the most complex and intense characters I have ever seen in any format. Defined by his nature, rather than the colour of his skin, John Luther is unashamedly British. Strong. Fragile. Impulsive. Calculated. Light. Dark. Compare this to what is very much a cut and paste role in The Losers as the second in command with the attitude problem and trust issues, and one feels compelled to ponder towards this talented thespian, “I thought all the meaty roles were in America”?
But let’s not take this too seriously shall we? If you’re in the need for some Friday night spectacle go and see The Losers. It’s the (in comparison to its competition) little film that could, full of energy and excitement, easy to digest and perfect to devour popcorn through. It also contains an opening action sequence that establishes our troops motivation for the rest of the film via a punch-line that you would never have thought Hollywood execs had the balls to include.
Stallone etc? Your turn.