I have a very personal relationship with The Losers when it comes to TTAG. You could, without a doubt, say that if this movie didn’t exist at this time and place, I would have never come on board to write here. It was several weeks ago when I got a look at the posters for this Vertigo Comics adaptation that my rage-dar (like radar, but you know) went off like a klaxon in my mind. In terms of gun handling and firearms accuracy, the posters were atrocious. I spit some 600 words on the subject and before the imaginary casings didn’t hit the ground, Robert Farago contacted me with an opportunity to merge my two loves: guns and cinema. Fast forward a brief period of time and I’ve not only seen The Losers, but I’ve talked to a few cast members (more on that soon). Did it live up to the failings of the posters or should this ragtag group really be called The Winners?
Based off of a Vertigo comic of the same name by Andy Diggle (writer) and Jock (illustrator), The Losers follows a group of tough-as-nails black operatives who get set up and left for dead by The Agency (the Central Intelligence Agency for those not in the loop). Max (Jason Patric), the mysterious handler, sends the team deep into the Bolivian jungle to eliminate a drug lord by lazing his mansion for the delivery of a special, explosion package.
As is apt to happen in the first act, a problem arises when a school bus full of children arrive at the compound, inciting team leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to call the whole thing off. Only problem is, the call is answered with a negativ-o.
While completely fine with killing evil men, the group has a collective heart (otherwise they wouldn’t be the good guys). They then fly into fast paced action, full of frenetic cuts, crash zooms and plenty of bullets sprayed across the screen.
I’d hate to spoil the completely unforeseeable (to me, at least) event that happens next, so I’ll fast forward to the part you’ve heard in the trailer: the group is presumed dead but out to clear their names. To do this, they need to find Max, which means putting their trust in the dangerous, secretive and sexy hands of Aisha.
With trust in short supply but plenty of bullets, the (kind of) heroes embark on a suicidal mission that will shake their friendship, and refeine how they define themselves.
Heading into this film with a mind full of explosions and shell casings rattling around from the posters and trailers, I expected a ton of action and little, if any, character momentum. While there wasn’t as much action as I anticipated, the character interaction was the film’s real stand-out. I fully believed that this group of guys were best friends that had been through the shit together.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the eldest (on-screen and off) carried himself so confidently I was ready to grab a gun and join. Okay, I’m always ready to grab a gun and light something up, but still.
In the opening sequence, he interrupts his men playing a card game. It’s really a simple scene and he speaks informally, but the crew responds with a well earned sense of respect, instantly assuring you this guy is the man.
The film also stars Chris Evans, the future Captain America, as Jensen, the technical nerd and funny man. His scene with the crossbow is brief but hilarious. His real moment to shine (highlighted in the trailer): infiltration of a secure building, backed by the strong, silent, sniper Cougar (Oscar Jaenada). His comedic partner is the Black MacGuyver (Bla-guyver!) Pooch (Columbus Short), an expert pilot and funny man. Pooch’s reaction to .50 caliber M2 machine gun fire is one for the highlight real.
Rounding out the team: outsider Aisha (Zoe Saldana), sexy and volatile, and Roque (Idris Elba) the knife-wielding straight man who wants nothing more than to disappear and forget about revenge. The 6’3″ Elba does a kick ass job at the intimidation thing, serving as the foil to Clay. They’re best friends on an edge – one is dedicated to staying on mission while the other maintains that the mission is long over.
I would be held criminally accountable if I didn’t bring up Jason Patric as Max. Patric plays the perfect megalomaniac. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it role; I stand so far over in the ‘love it’ column that I simply can’t comprehend any other reaction.
Supervillain Max is creepy, evil and . . . blasé, He treats executing an employee or tossing a negotiator off a ten-story building with the same sang froid as ordering tea. When confronted by two street thugs admiring his watch, Patric’s close-up sells the laugh far better than any one-liner ever written (need I mention any Bonds?).
The Bolivian Bus Battle kicks things off with a fully-automatic series of bangs, though the fast cut editing can be a little off-putting. Here we’re treated to your standard Black Ops payload: four of the Losers are equipped with tricked out M4A1 assault rifles while the long-range specialist Cougar hoists a Knight’s Armament SR-25 semi-automatic sniper rifle, equipped with a suppressor and tactical bipod.
Trained by former Navy SEAL Harry Humpries, the Losers carry their weapons well and move like a tactical team should. That means rifles at the ready, body facing forward, both eyes open while shooting.
Camera wise, things settle down by the time the team attempts a dangerous extraction in the middle of a city. Gunfire wise, that’s when Ma Deuce (the Browning M2) has a few words of wisdom to spit out. Lead man Clay gets his hands on a pair of HK MP5K Personal Defense Weapons – nasty little 9mm submachine guns with folding stocks. While I can’t endorse two-handed operation as recommended or realistic, sometimes being a cinematic bad-ass takes precedence over proper procedure.
I will, however, take a stand against Aisha hip-firing the M136 AT4 rocket launcher. There is an aiming device on that tube. Sure, her pose is sexy as hell and she’s firing a ROCKET (mmm). But when every shot counts, take the time to aim. (Free lessons available.)
Speaking of aiming, I was impressed with Cougar and his SR-25. And why not? A former member of the British Special Air Service (SAS) trained the actor on proper sniper etiquette. He looks comfortable with the weapon, exercises proper trigger discipline (finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot) and holds the rifle appropriately for bipod use.
How is that, you ask? Since the bipod is doing the work of supporting the barrel of the rifle, your gun hand grips the gun normally while your now free hand doesn’t grip up on the stock, but rather back on the butt of the rifle to keep it steady and secure.
Back to the battle at hand . . .
An injured Pooch gets his hands on a great stand-off weapon: the Remington 870 shotgun. With a pistol grip, shell carrier, short magazine and a breaching cap. If you watch carefully, Pooch gets a little to excited and short strokes the gun, catching the not-quite-ejected shell in the chamber, causing a stovepipe type jam.
Across the shipyard, Aisha ditches her one-and-done AT4 for the wicked looking HK MP7 with a standard HK multiposition stock and a flip down forward grip. This siren redeems herself by handling the MP7 professionally, with her shoulders square to the target, both eyes open, the sub-machine gun held firmly to the shoulder.
Clay, having expended his rounds for his PDWs, switches to the always popular 1911, wielding what looks to be a Kimber Tactical Elite .45 ACP. I spoke to Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He’s a huge fan of this pistol, and it shows. His two-handed grip is strong and he advances on his target while firing.
At the ending shootout, some of the bad guys are armed with the HK G36 rifles (did HK pay a premium for this placement?). Max carries a stainless steel 1911 model, Aisha sports a Beretta 92FS and a Beretta Cougar simultaneously, Roque has a Desert Eagle .50 AE, and Cougar’s back-up weapon is a Smith & Wesson Model 629.
I’m happy to report that when wielding just one weapon (Aisha and Clay both dual-wield at times), the firearm action is legitimate, illustrating proper grips, good form, and excellent movement, especially in the Bolivian scene and the climax. This gives The Losers fairly high marks for realism, though the “secret weapon” of the film is sci fi silly, with a dumb name. Thankfully, it’s a small role for a big gun.
The Losers is a fun flick. It’s rated PG-13 so there is a lack of blood and explicit gunshot wounds, though I’m sure some parents will be happy to hear that. What they won’t be happy to see is Aisha (Zoe Saldana) leaping through the air, slow motion, in her underwear, as director Sylvain White trains the camera on her rear. Strike that. Fathers will be ecstatic to see that sequence, though mothers concerned about their children’s purity may take issue.
The Losers is great summer fare. It’s not too heavy and not too dark; when the gun start rip roaring, a child-like smile will creep across your lips. But it’s the character interaction that lifts The Losers into the winner’s category. Can the producers catch lighting in a bottle twice? Something tells me we shall see.