A B-minus edition of "The A-Team," the comic book adaptation "The Losers" drags you down to its level at gunpoint with its drooling fetishization of weaponry, its focus on Zoe Saldana in wee shorts, various and sundry assassinations designed with gamers in mind and more rabid mistrust of the U.S. government and its freedom-destroying institutions than you'd find at a tea party fundraiser.
We're about as far from the quasi-lefty "Bourne" franchise as a moviegoer can get. Here, when enemies or even collateral-damage bystanders are wiped out (sometimes with tranquilizer darts, more often with real bullets, though the film barely distinguishes between the two), it's smirks and sub-James Bond-level wisecracks all around.
Except when children are involved. In the prologue, Jason Patric as a shadowy CIA-backed antagonist orders an assault on a helicopter full of adorable Bolivian kids. This is what sends our titular losers, Special Forces warriors assigned to wipe out a drug cartel, over the edge and off the grid. Presumed dead, the team led by Clay ( Jeffrey Dean Morgan,whose blase approach to the material suggests a bearded Perry Como) vows revenge and bloodshed and 'splosions.
With the help of a butt-kicking, butt-waving colleague (Saldana), that's what they do and that's what "The Losers" delivers. Director Sylvain White ("Stomp the Yard") doesn't edit action scenes so much as turn each micro-beat into a trading card with a fireball in the background. For all its insidious slickness — the deeply saturated, massively bright imagery comes courtesy of cinematographer Scott Kevan — the film is easier to take than, say, "Kick-Ass" or "V for Vendetta," both of which came to the screen saddled with misguided pretentions. No pretentions here.
Even so, the politics are slippery. Throughout, artfully dodgy images of American flags — or, in the pointed case of its heinous villain played by Patric, a U.S. flag lapel pin — signify hypocrisy and slaughter at the ready. The movie's laden with other hypocrisies as well. "Enough of this revenge bushwa," says one Loser, though I may have misheard "bushwa." It's a punch line: The movie is all revenge, all the time. Later, a minor character from India, forced to implement a doomsday "sonic de-materializer," decries his colleague's "Yankee Doodle tough-guy bushwa." And yet what would "The Losers" be without it?
✭1/2 The Losers – 98 min. Rated PG-13:
Action/violence, sensuality, language