Ever been to a wedding or a birthday party where everyone around you spent so much time insisting how much fun they were having that you started to doubt them? All those big smiles, all those jokes, all those goofy dance moves-- are these people even human? While The Losers isn't as awkward or as irritating as your Uncle Phil trying to Hammer dance, it often feels just as strained. The one-liners and jazzy fight sequences never turn into the zippy action comedy director Sylvain White was clearly going for, and while there are plenty of laughs and thrills to be had, eventually it all just becomes exhausting.
The best thing The Losers has going for it is the central cast, five former CIA Special Operatives forced to go rogue but still making time to play ridiculous card games and ask after one anothers' families. Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the pragmatic leader, Roque (Idris Elba) the hothead, Pooch (Columbus Short) the smart aleck with a heart of gold, Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) the silent but deadly one, and Jensen (Chris Evans) the dorky smartass, which you know instantly because he has a bad haircut and glasses. After a mission goes wrong and it becomes clear that mysterious leader Max (later revealed as Jason Patric) has betrayed them, the Losers hide out in Bolivia until they're approached by beautiful badass Aisha (Zoe Saldana), who has a plan to get revenge on Max and clear The Losers' names for good.
This plot requires a lot of trans-American travel and more than a few ridiculous stunts, including picking up an armored truck with a giant helicopter magnet and Jensen somehow breaking into a top-secret office by posing as an IT guy. All the while Clay and Aisha are making eyes at each other, Roque is wary of this new chick, and Max is gallivanting about the planet to pick up a new kind of deadly weapon, one that would be well at home in G.I. Joe or the most ridiculous Star Trek episode you can imagine. While The Losers themselves can seem a little cartoony with their nicknames and absurd skills, Max is part of another movie entirely; it's as if Patric is doing a demented Tom Cruise impersonation, or trying to create his own Bond villain. Some may see him as the campy heart of an over-the-top film, but Patric's performance is the clearest sign that White is not at all in charge of the tone of a movie that really needed tight direction.
White, whose single other major directing credit is Stomp The Yard, is no better with the action, employing a wild shaky camera and nonsensical cutting to give no sense of pace or location within the fights. It's hard enough to follow The Losers' circuitous, peripatetic plot, but when you can't tell who has the gun or even which ones are the good guys, all sense of stakes and tension vanish entirely. Some action scenes are better than others, and all have their moments-- Zoe Saldana wielding guns in lingerie is topped only by a particularly ingenious motorcycle trick near the end-- but none equal the verve the actors are bringing. The comic book graphics and occasional flashy camera tricks add a lot, but the fundamental cutting skills that make action movies work are simply absent.
The Losers has a similar cavalier attitude toward death and sarcastic punch as Kick-Ass, but simply due to shoddy direction and a lackluster script, it lacks that film's consistency, its ability to pull you into a completely parallel universe. It's fun to laugh and joke around with The Losers, but at no point do you feel invested in their mission or as convinced as the filmmakers are that you're seeing something new. It's all harmless fun when it works, but utterly disposable-- a shame for a film that had potential for a lot more.