Review: 'The Losers'

(One-and-a-half stars)

Sometimes the title says it all.

This chaotic action flick features a terrific cast but a plot so insipid and a script so cliched that filmgoers who shell out 10 bucks to see it may feel like the title is directed at them. Explosions, slow motion and a handful of appealing actors can't quiet the death knell of poor writing.

"Watchmen" bad boy Jeffrey Dean Morgan -- new to the leading-man foray -- is Clay, the gruff-voiced leader of a special-ops squad known as "The Losers." Clay is flanked by wisecracker Jensen (Chris Evans), ruffian Roque (Idris Elba), father-to-be Pooch (Columbus Short) and soft-spoken sharpshooter Cougar (Oscar Jaenada). A misled mission in Bolivia forces the team to feign death -- and seek vengeance on murderous government powerhouse Max (Jason Patric).

The group finds an unlikely partner in mysterious femme fatale Aisha (star-on-the-rise Zoe Saldana), whose own animosity against Max is fueled by personal motivation. Soon the gang is stealing helicopters, firing rocket launchers and planning suicidal assaults in hopes of finally putting the kibosh on Max's war-mongering machinations.

Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo graphic novel, "The Losers" is riding the coattails of popular comic-based films such as "Sin City" and "Wanted," but without the imaginative touch of either. The direction by Sylvain White ("Stomp the Yard") is uninspired, often making the film feel like a very long, very expensive music video. But the screenplay is the real weakness. Hokey dialogue ("If you're lying to me, I'll kill ya") wrangles with lackluster character development and implausible scenarios (a firefight on a Miami city street screams "suspend disbelief").

The movie isn't a complete loss. Elba, Evans, Saldana and Short all do well in their roles. Even Patric hams it up as absurd antagonist Max, who wears a glove on one hand like some sinister Michael Jackson wannabe. Patric rarely plays a villain, and it's obvious he had fun with his part, even if his over-the-top malice borders on comical.

Morgan is arguably the weak link and may not be quite ready for the leading-man spotlight. He lacks a certain charisma -- an "X factor" -- that is essential in holding a film together. Maybe Morgan can still develop that spark, but it doesn't come across this time around.

"The Losers" is harmless -- and mindless -- entertainment. But at $10 a ticket, you deserve better than that.

Rated PG-13 for a scene of sensuality, violence, sequences of intense action and language. 1 hour, 38 minutes.

— Tyler Hanley

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