Sign up for our free newsletter
Two comic-to-film adaptations have opened in as many weeks—and, serendipitously, their respective titles can pull double-duty as pithy reviews. Sylvain White’s The Losers so badly wants to be Kick-Ass, only with grown-ups wreaking the impossibly choreographed havoc. Or Sin City, without the paint job. Or—the comparison must be made whenever a film so strenuously tries to mix action, crime, and bad-boy quirk—any piece of Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre. Instead, the movie is all fireballs and flat characters, with a villain who’s evil just because the scripters say so and humor that doesn’t aim much higher than, say, a cut to a chihuahua bobblehead in terms of sophistication. The story is loosely based on Andy Diggle’s first narrative arc of the recently revived World War II–era comic. Five black-op soldiers are presumed dead after a mission in Bolivia, betrayed for reasons unknown by their CIA handler, Max (Jason Patric). But a lovely, well-armed vixen named Aisha (Zoe Saldana) knows they are still alive and has her own cryptic reason for seeking revenge against Max, so she follows and seduces the leader of the pack, Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, aka Watchmen’s Comedian, aka That Guy Who’s Not Gerard Butler). Clay’s partners (Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Óscar Jaenada, and often-moronic comic relief Chris Evans, future Captain America) accuse him of thinking with the wrong head but naturally say yes to the job anyway, if only because it will get them back into the United States. What follows is predictable when not flat-out ridiculous, involving high body counts, weapons of mass destruction, super-secret hard drives, mountains of cash, and double-crosses. The fight scenes are messy blurs; the sexy slo-mo walk overused. You don’t know much about these characters besides their names, which might be forgivable for Clay’s wingmen but makes the leads awfully dull, no matter how pretty they look strewing a room with bullets. And a terrorist with no clear M.O. is about as intimidating as a kid with a toy gun. When Max is about to detonate one of his fancy bombs in Los Angeles, he growls that he’ll “finally establish some order to this big blue marble!” Uh, what? Better: Who cares?