“That’s Right, Bitches. I’ve Got a Crossbow.”

I’ve been on a Chris Evans kick lately, so I decided to watch The Losers again.

The Losers movie poster entire cast

It’s definitely a problematic movie, but I enjoy it all the same. And Chris Evans isn’t even the only reason! (Though, admittedly, he’s probably the biggest one.) SUMMARY:

After Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his team are betrayed, framed, and left for dead by Evil CIA Dude, Max (Jason Patric), they partner up with mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana) to clear their names and get revenge.

NOTES:

1. The biggest problem this movie has, I think, is tone. The Losers is, ultimately, a fairly light-hearted, silly, comic book adaptation, and there’s nothing wrong with that on paper, until you take into account some of the pretty dark things that happen in this story. Now, I haven’t read the source material, so I don’t know if the tone of the film reflects the tone of the graphic novels, but gliding past the truly horrible things that happen with only the most cursory, “Oh, that was bad,” doesn’t really work for me. I don’t want this movie to be all dark, all the time — I mean, I wouldn’t cut out Jensen singing to Journey for the world —

— but if you’re going to mix the silly and the dark, you have to at least acknowledge the dark.

2. Also, the relationship between Clay and Roque is problematic.

Roque-Clay-the-losers-13980356-800-334

I’ll talk a lot more about this in the Spoiler Section, but by the end of the movie, I’m just not sure what kind of relationship I’m supposed to think these two guys have. Are they best friends? Are they just colonel and captain? I find their scenes somewhat inconsistent when it comes to characterization, and it’s frustrating, especially because Idris Elba and Jeffrey Dean Morgan seem to have such natural chemistry. I love watching them on screen together — I just wish the writing was a little stronger to back them up.

3. In fact, when it comes to acting, everyone’s pretty awesome in this movie. Everyone except Jason Patric, that is.

Max-Wade-the-losers-11557470-800-451

The guy on the right. We’ll get to the guy on the left in a minute.

Jason Patric isn’t a horrible actor, I don’t think — honestly, I haven’t seen enough of his movies to really judge. I seem to remember him being decent in Sleepers, anyway. And, sure, he’s annoying in The Lost Boys, but I’m not sure if that’s an actor or a character thing. But here . . . Patric is horribly miscast here. Max is not the easiest villain to play. He’s not supposed to be particularly ominous or threatening; instead, he’s the kind of villain that doesn’t really get his hands dirty because he has people for that. He’s smarmy and smug — the trick is, he’s also supposed to be funny. Jason Patric occasionally manages funny — we’ll say he lands 30/70 of the jokes — but mostly he’s just annoying. The guy who should have been cast as Max?

Patrick Wilson - The A team 2010

Patrick Wilson

Go watch him in The A-Team, and you should see why.

4. Now Wade, on the other hand?

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Previously known as the guy on the left.

Wade (Holt McCallany) is Max’s second banana, and he is AWESOME. If he is not my very favorite second banana of all time, then he is damn close. So many good line deliveries from this man. I wish McCallany was involved in more projects I was actually interested in because — even for him and the equally awesome Chi McBride — I have very little desire to see Golden Boy.

5. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is enjoyable, as he usually is, and Idris Elba automatically makes whatever movie he’s in better just by showing up. Columbus Short is pretty fun, especially in all of his scenes with Chris Evans, and Óscar Jaenada is decent enough, although I don’t think he has quite enough charisma to truly pull off the Nearly Mute Badass. But even though it’s a pretty good cast overall, Chris Evans and Zoe Saldana (and McCallany) own this movie.

Chris Evans

The Losers Chris Evans has done a lot of comic book movies and a lot of genre work, and he’s really different in all of them. Everyone was so worried about Johnny Storm playing Captain America, but it didn’t end up being a problem — I certainly didn’t see any similarity between the two characters. And it’s kind of fun now to go from earnest, virtuous Captain America to chatty, geeky, Journey-loving Jensen. Evans brings so much energy to the screen. He is awesome comic relief.

Zoe Saldana

Zoe-Saldana-the-losers

And Zoe Saldana? Well, she is just a badass. Honestly, she really rocks that balance between sexy and fierce — and I’m not Tyra Banks: I don’t apply the adjective ‘fierce’ to just anyone. Aisha is not a spectacularly original character or anything, but Saldana makes her awesome. I really hope she gets another chance to have her own action movie because, from everything I heard, Colombiana wasn’t all that great, and Saldana definitely deserves a film worthy of her talent. Also — and this is itty bitty spoiler time — I love that Aisha never has to rescued in this movie, not once. Awesome sauce.

6. I’m, rather famously, a horrifically picky bastard, and while this is often applied to food, I’m also picky about what counts as sexy, at least in terms of movies. I often find sex scenes themselves to be completely boring — I’m like Fred Savage in The Princess Bride, severely disgruntled at the notion that I might be reading “a kissing book”. (Also, I must be one of the only fanfiction readers in the whole world who’s like, “God, it’s porn again.”) As such, I can’t think of a lot of scenes offhand that I would qualify as sexy . . . .

. . . but this one, with stupidly light spoilers, would make the cut.

7. Of course, some of that might be the music. I really have to listen to more of The Kills — I only know a couple of their songs, but I kind of love them both. And The Losers has a pretty awesome soundtrack overall — so, of course, they never bothered to make an actual soundtrack that you can purchase. Bastards.

8. When it comes to the filmmaking itself . . . the movie’s pretty flashy and not terribly realistic. I actually like some of it — there’s nothing wrong with slow mo in moderation — but sadly, moderation isn’t this film’s strongest selling point, and certain scenes are just absolutely ridiculous. And, uh, not in the good way.

9. Also mildly ridiculous —

A. Wade tells his men to put their gas masks on but fails to put on his own because, apparently, he doesn’t need one. In his defense, maybe he doesn’t need one. Wade is pretty awesome.

B. Pooch, up in a helicopter, can clearly see and recognize Wade on the ground way the hell below him, even though Wade needs binoculars to see Pooch. Okay, sure. That’s how vision works.

C. Idris Elba’s American accent slip-up.

Now, let me back up and explain that I first saw this movie in theater, and I believe it was also the first time I’d ever seen Idris Elba. Elba’s American accent is really pretty good, and I probably wouldn’t have guessed that he was British if he didn’t say the word “taco” like, well, a Brit. Which is to say tack-o, not tah-co. And my sweet Jesus, this is hideously wrong. I mean, I know I should give him some leeway — I’m from California, and we can’t even pronounce the names of our own cities properly — but for the love of God, you do not say taco like tack-o. And honestly, I’m not even really blaming Elba here; I’m blaming everyone else in this movie for not immediately calling cut and saying, “Oh no, honey. No. That’s not how we do it in America.” It’s such a simple slip-up. Unless they were literally doing a one and done take before all the money ran out, I just don’t understand why the director wouldn’t want to go back and fix that . . . oh, I see that the director grew up in France. Fine, maybe he pronounces taco wrong too. Wasn’t there anyone else on set that day? JDM, I might have to put this on you, buddy.

10. Finally, before Spoilers, a bunch of quotes for you:

Pooch: “The Pooch may lie, the Pooch may steal, the Pooch may — ”
Jensen: “The Pooch may refer to himself in the third person?”

Aisha: “Wow, it’s everything a girl could dream of. Do you have a bathroom?”
Clay: “No, I specifically requested the only hotel room in the world that doesn’t have a bathroom.”

Jensen: “So, she wanted to meet in a cemetery? That’s not, like, foreboding at all.”

Max: “I’m saving the country, Wade, doing something for the benefit of the United States of America.”
Wade: “I was born in Quebec.”

Max: “God, you are short. Seriously, how much do you weigh? Are you standing in a hole?”

Max: “Always with the money. ‘Hi, how are you? How have you been? Namaste?'” Vikram: “I recently attended the funeral of my best friend, who you had thrown off a roof. How have you been?”
Max: “Can’t complain. Actually, I’m thinking of getting a satellite radio for my car.”

Vikram: “Thank you for agreeing to meet with us on a short structure.”

Jensen: “Base One, This is Cavalier 415. We’ve been in a collision with a civilian vehicle. Carvey’s dead, and Freeman’s been hurt real bad. We need MedEvac immediately. He’s got kids, Base One, he’s got kids! Oh (fake coughing/laughing), that sucked.”

Roque: “Gee, I hope they don’t see us in this bright yellow Pinto.”
Clay: “Are you ashamed to be seen in an American classic?”

Jensen: “Face down, or I’ll make your heart stop beating with my mind.”

Max: “Change of plan. Kill them.”
Wade: “Kill my eighteen guys?”
Max: “Or fire them. Whichever’s easiest.”
Wade: “Honestly? Firing them.”
Max: “Okay. Did you give them intel on Clay’s people?”
Wade: “Well, yeah.”
Max: “And we’re back to killing them.”
Wade: “Fine. I’ll kill them. What are we doing instead?”
Max: “What’s the matter? Related to them?”
Wade: “Actually, one of them, yeah.”
Max: “Really? By blood?”
Wade: “A brother-in-law. I said I’d kill him.”

Pooch: “Where’s your gun, Jensen?”
Jensen: “In the van?”
Pooch: “What’s it doing there?”
Jensen: “Not much.”

And now . . .

SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS
SPOILERS

First, this quote:

Clay: “What’s the catch?”
Aisha: “It’s pretty much a suicide mission.”
Clay: “And why should I trust you?”
Aisha: “Because if I were lying, I wouldn’t have used the words ‘suicide mission’.”

Because Aisha is awesome.

Now, back to the opening act: Clay and the boys are on a mission to assassinate Some Bad Guy. An airstrike is called, but when they see a group of children at Some Bad Guy’s pad, they call to cancel it. Unfortunately, Max is the one who picks up the call and he refuses to cancel the op, so the team gets to be all badass and rescue the kids before the compound gets all blown to hell. Also, Clay kills Some Bad Guy, which is plot relevant later. When the team gets to their extraction point, there isn’t enough room on the helicopter for both them and the twenty-five kids. So Clay, being a good guy, puts the children on the helicopter, and they fly away into the sunset . . . or into the path of an incoming missile, which blows the helicopter out of the sky. Max blames the tragedy on the team, and the team is forced to pretend that they died in the helicopter too.

So here’s my problem: killing twenty-five children? Kind of a big deal. I would think that would be kind of a traumatic experience for anybody, even for veteran soldiers — especially when those soldiers just nearly died trying to save those kids’ lives. Not to mention, these guys are framed for horrible crimes and forced to live in a foreign country, disconnected from their families and loved ones . . . this is dark shit, you know? But The Losers treats these things in an extremely cursory manner. Oh, sure, Clay mentions that they need to get vengeance for the children, you know, once. And Roque accuses Clay of being obsessed with vengeance and all . . . you know, once, and there’s not really a whole lot of evidence to support that, not on screen, anyway. The shit that happens in this movie is at least as dark as the shit that happens in the Batman films, and yet they barely address it.

losers_2_660

Throwing dog tags in slow motion? Not a substitute for genuine emotion.

I really do want to keep in all the silly stuff — the singing, the banter, the Petunias –but I think you need to use those moments almost as a coping mechanism for the characters, something that the guys need to do to keep on going, to get over the horrible shit they’ve gone through. I think we need to see little moments with each of them being upset now and then. They don’t even need to be Big Moments, just . . . something. And I really think we need to actually see Clay’s obsession with killing Max, not just hear about it, because that would help a lot with the problematic relationship between Clay and Roque.

The Losers

Can’t we all just get along?

See, Roque isn’t interested in revenge. He just wants to go home, so he and Clay keep butting heads throughout the movie, leading to awesome little exchanges like this:

Clay: “Roque . . . I’m sorry I hit you in the face.”
Pooch: “Oh, that was good. That was good. Roque? Roque?”
Roque: “Clay . . . I’m sorry I threatened to cut your head off.”

But apologies won’t cut it when Roque decides to switch sides and betray his team. Understandably, that kind of thing can sour a friendship. But I’m not sure how close of a friendship he and Clay are supposed to have. In certain scenes, I feel like they’re supposed to be really close, maybe even best friends close. At the very least, the two men seem like they rely on one another, depend on each other’s judgement, are used to having each other’s backs. But other scenes are trying so hard to obviously set up Roque’s villainous turn, even when I never quite buy it. Like at one point, Aisha tells Clay that if the two ever fought for real, Roque would win because he doesn’t really care about the men. Cause feelings are a weakness! (Except when they’re really your secret strength all along, of course. Ugh.) My problem? At this point in the movie, there’s not actually a lot of evidence for that supposition. I can see moments here and there where the creators are trying to show what a villainous bastard Roque secretly is and/or will become, but even though he’s a little trigger happy, all of those moments feel kind of artificial, more of an attempt at foreshadow instead of actual characterization. Whereas all the, er, happy moments between Clay and Roque, the banter and whatnot? Those seem genuine. I buy them as teammates and friends.

Of course, that interpretation is even more problematic by the end, when Roque is killed. We’ll get to the enormous stupidity of this death in a moment, but for now, I’d like to focus on Clay’s reaction: he laughs and walks away, like Roque is just any other bad guy and not a former member of his own team. And I’m not saying you need to weep forever for a dude that tried to kill you, but the betrayal and shock and hurt ought to still be a bit fresh, you know? I feel like your reaction shouldn’t be, “Well, ha ha ha. That guy’s toast. Who wants pizza?”

So, I have to wonder: was Roque just written as the rote member of the team that goes evil? Was he considered more of an archetype, rather than an actual character? I think he might have been. Unfortunately, however, casting Idris Elba automatically bumps things up to the next level — his performance makes the character more than a rote villain, even when the writing doesn’t back it up. And seriously, his crazy awesome chemistry with Jeffrey Dean Morgan doesn’t help at all. It’s a sad day when the actors being awesome only makes the story that much more confused. I think, in a better film, this is what should happen: Roque should be Clay’s best friend, his right hand man, his confidant. Their friendship should be shaken and eventually broken by both Clay’s need for vengeance and Roque’s desperation to get home — in a way, Pooch’s backstory would actually fit Roque really well (Pooch’s wife is having a baby), although I’m hesitant to take anything away from Pooch since there isn’t a whole lot to his character in the first place. But if you really highlight those elements in the writing — instead of just vaguely nodding at them — then we’ll understand where Roque is coming from, even though he does a horrible thing by basically leading the team to their (supposed) deaths. And when Clay and Roque fight at the end, it won’t be Hero versus Black Hat — it will be friend versus friend, and it will actually be a little sad when Clay has to kill Roque. Because it probably should be Clay that kills Roque, not a flying motorcycle.

Le sigh.

Here’s how it happens: Sniper Cougar shoots Wade’s motorcycle. Wade goes flying off the motorcycle straight into the jet engine. The motorcycle, now on fire, crashes through the plane window, and the plane explodes, killing Roque. This is so immensely, cartoonishly dumb. No. Just no. Roque and Wade — oh Wade — you both deserved better, my loves.

Let’s see, what else. Oh, we find out Aisha is actually Some Bad Guy’s daughter, and she and Clay basically decide not to try and kill one another until Max is dead first. Max, meanwhile, lives to see another day because he faces Clay with a Supposed Moral Dilemma: get his revenge, or stop a bomb from disintegrating the shit out of LA. Clay doesn’t even hesitate, which I actually like — I also adore that he shoots Max in the arm during one of those typical “you can’t shoot me” speeches — but again, if we saw Clay actually intent on revenge prior to this point, I would like it even better. So, the Losers are back in the US of A, although their names haven’t been cleared, setting up for a sequel that’s never going to happen. The movie has two little happy endings, one of which is kind of dumb — the team “infiltrates” the hospital where Pooch’s wife is having the baby — and one is pretty cute, where the team goes to Jensen’s nieces’s soccer game.

The-Losers-2010-Soccer-Game-movies-22353699-1280-534

And that’s about that.

CONCLUSIONS:

Despite the many tonal, thematic, and characterization issues — it’s a fun movie. I wish this movie was more balanced, but I also adore Wade, Jensen, and Aisha so much that I can overlook the problems, at least to a certain extent.

MVP:

Chris Evans

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B

MORAL:

If your one job is to hold an umbrella for a supervillain, for the love of God, hold it steady. I’m not saying getting shot in the face isn’t an overreaction for struggling briefly against a light breeze, but then again, maybe we shouldn’t be working for supervillains at all, should we?

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5 Responses to “That’s Right, Bitches. I’ve Got a Crossbow.”

  1. sooldman says:

    re: “I’m, rather famously, a horrifically picky bastard”….The American Heritage (vs a swarmy British Red) dictionary defines ‘bastard’ and the adverbs and adjectives associated with it in 6 ways and none of them say…”daughter”…small issue I know but it probably should be “biitch”…no, wait…that’s in your title…never mind………….P…….ps., no “F….!!!…yeah!!!!

    • Dictionary.com defines “bastard” as a person, especially a man, but does not insist that one must be a man, so I choose to continue using the word to apply to myself or others of any gender, mostly because it’s a fun word to say. 🙂

  2. Teacups says:

    “I often find sex scenes themselves to be completely boring — I’m like Fred Savage in The Princess Bride, severely disgruntled at the notion that I might be reading “a kissing book”. (Also, I must be one of the only fanfiction readers in the whole world who’s like, “God, it’s porn again.”)”
    Oh, thank god, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.

  3. James G says:

    Yeah, the Clay/Roque aspect felt leaden. In the comics Roque turns traitor almost immediately, so I can see the scriptwriter trying to make his betrayal more meaningful… to little effect, especially with that plane scene. And, those dialogues with Wade aside, Max didn’t really work. At one point near the end of the comics he declares, “I am America,” and I prefer him as a superpatriot willing to commit acts of domestic terrorism to strengthen his country. (He also has a gloriously ludicrous scheme that would have made for a more memorable film.) Here the combination of weak and powerful isn’t terribly compelling. Ditto on the sex scenes.

    On the other hand they had Jensen’s telekinetic speech almost word for word, and Journey is now stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

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