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The Losers

Dir: Sylvain White. US. 2010. 97mins

Representing yet another broadside in Hollywood’s seeming war on original material, graphic novel adaptation The Losers delivers an intermittently punchy but essentially unmemorable take on a very standard, familiar soldiers-gone-mercenary revenge tract. A young male-leaning demographic should deliver a solid eight-figure opening weekend for the film — which is reminiscent of big, gaudy, colorful action comedies like The Big Hit and Smokin’ Aces, except here with enough judicious cutaways to ensure a PG-13 Stateside rating — but The Losers seems otherwise destined for rapid anonymity.

The muscular visual style of the original comic gets faithfully translated to screen.

On a mission in the Bolivian jungle, an elite U.S. Special Forces unit, led by Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), refuses an order that would result in the collateral damage death of two dozen children. Betrayed and presumed dead, the group makes plans to even the score with the higher-up who authorized the attack, a shadowy enemy from within known only as Max (Jason Patric).

They receive bankrolled help from Aisha (Zoe Saldana), an enigmatic operative with her own agenda. Takedown-style vengeance ensues, against a backdrop of Max trying to get a weapon that will allow him to stage a terrorist incident and kick-start a new front in the global war on terror.

The muscular visual style of the original comic (created by British pairing of writer Andy Diggle and drawn by artist Jock) gets faithfully translated to screen, as director Sylvain White displays a music video sensibility throughout, employing flash edits, whip pans and up-tempo music to go along with an expressive colour palette that counteracts any narrative grittiness.

One could argue this is a case of overdone source fidelity, however, as all the characters and conflicts herein are one-note, and third-act betrayals and revelations are apparent by the second reel. Max’s motivations eventually become problematic, too, since there’s never a clear sense of whether he’s working for himself or as part of a larger government plot.

Patric, a talented actor sometimes given to dourness, gets to truly cut loose for the first time in years, but even his scene-chewing villainy isn’t enough to redeem The Losers.

Production companies: Dark Castle Entertainment, Vertigo/DC Comics, Weed Road Pictures

US distribution: Warner Bros.

Producers: Kerry Foster, Akiva Goldsman, Joel Silver

Executive producers: Stuart M. Besser, Andrew Rona

Screenplay, Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, based on characters created by Andy Diggle

Cinematography: Scott Kevan

Production designer: Aaron Osborne

Editor: David Checel

Music: John Ottman

Main cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Holt McCallany, Jason Patric

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