10.31.2010

REVIEW: The Losers (Sylvain White, 2010)

My direct approach to this DC Comic-based actioner was a bit different than I've taken to any film before. Initially I had next to zero interest, but I read Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt's script in the interest of learning more about various screenwriting styles and became eager to see how the resulting film measured up.

The script makes for an exciting, even riveting read - it's high action for action's sake, led by a dynamic collection of witty characters. It's not unlike The A-Team, but never loses a tongue-in-cheek nature regarding its intended "B" caliber. Frankly, it's impressive just how zippy the script is, as if twice as much was originally written then stripped down to bare essentials. Much would-be exposition is taken as read. Our heroes' origins and villains' motivations, while not entirely breaching fill-in-the-blanks territory, rely on previous knowledge of how these aspects typically develop in similar films. The mentality is clear - all that secondary storytelling just gets in the way of the "boom-boom ka-pow". On the page, the mentality works perfectly.

The final project is stripped further, however, and plowed through at such breakneck speeds the characters are frequently talking over one another, spoiling comedic moments and making an already-simplified plot difficult to interpret. It's a good thing I did read the script, as otherwise I doubt I'd have had any idea what was going on or have cared on some minute level about the protagonists, let alone been able to tell them apart.

Understandable and fitting tweaks were made to suit the production, like a greyhound racing track changing to a cock-fighting ring, but as a trade off certain signature moments ("You know there's a website where you can download MP3s of a donkey farting? How cool is that?" - actually a fair bit of character development in that line, believe it or not) have been traded in for generic ones (basically a bunch of "yo mama" jokes along with "Cats can make over one thousand sounds where a dog can only make ten" in place of our donkey fart).

As for a component not immediately related to script, the cinematography is capable enough. It's of the now-trendy shake-cam variety, but the style is actually warranted while managing to capture the action-oriented end of the scope well enough. Comedic moments are more or less left in the dust. The colors are super-saturated, which winds up hit-or-miss depending on the scene in question.

On-screen talent-wise, Chris Evans is really the sole notable, turning his jaunty character into the only worth remembering. The few times he is focused on, the film is at its best. Otherwise, the cast is stilted, as if they weren't given ample time to read into their roles. The villainous Jason Patric comes off on par with your average student film's lead talent, squandering a potentially hilarious turn.

With my read-first, watch-second order of business for The Losers, the experience was an interesting one, but one of unfortunately unseized potential. A relatively touching epilogue proved I hadn't been completely gypped - something was working on some level - but where this could have (and clearly wanted to) be a franchise, it hardly warrants its feature-length treatment.

5 comments:

  1. I (pretty much) felt exactly the same about this one. The script is competent enough, but White's direction is all over the place. All in all, it's mediocrity at its finest outside of some above average performances.

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  2. What other performances did you like? I suppose the actors behind Roque and Pooch were fine... and hell, Cougar was just fine, too... none of them were given enough screentime to push forth their characters, though... like how Cougar is basically Snake Eyes (with a hat instead of a mask and a rifle instead of martial arts skills) and Pooch is basically B.A. Baracus (without the jewelry/mohawk).

    Cool you had a similar reaction, though - I think I would have liked to see Peter Berg direct this.

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  3. You know, I liked the movie when I saw it, but I'm kind of struggling to remember anything about it now, except for the 180 degree turn one character took and Evans' finger gun shooting of the guards. So I think I agree.

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  4. That 180 felt pretty forced... although I don't really know anything about the source material, so... I dunno. The finger guns were pretty cool, even though I had already seen them a few times in the trailers - that whole sequence with Journey playing was the best part :)

    By the way - I loooove the moniker you're under :D :D

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  5. I didn't mind Jason Patric's performance, just because I've always had a thing for ridiculousness when it comes to certain characters. Other than that, the efforts of everyone else were mediocre at best.

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