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The Losers

Director: Sylvain White
Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldaña, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Óscar Jaenada, Jason Patric, Holt McCallany

(Warner Bros.; US theatrical: 23 Apr 2010 (General release); UK theatrical: 28 May 2010 (General release); 2010)

Clay and His Unit

Aisha (Zoe Saldaña) walks into The Losers late. Or at least, later than the men who make up the titular special-ops unit, who spend the first 15 minutes being targeted by someone in the CIA, removed from the military, and turned into outlaws with grudges. Aisha is also an outlaw, with her own history of feeling rejected and angry and vengeful. She doesn’t appear to have any friends, though, and this makes her “mysterious.” Or maybe just a plot device.


In any event, Aisha’s most striking, immediately evident aspect is her very thick, Bolivianish accent. She’s pretending to be local, in a bar where Losers Leader Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is drowning some sorrows. She scoots her super-skinny, red-pantsed bottom onto the stool next to him and initiates the predictable come-on. When he protests, she smiles: “Relax, papi.” He turns to her with eyes bleary from exhaustion and booze: “Do I not look relaxed?”


Actually, he doesn’t. But neither does she look local or much like the hooker she’s pretending to be. And so their unconvincing dance of deception begins. She’s in place to make sure you know Clay is heterosexual—useful in a leader of a pack of men on their own, men who’ve shared long, intimate hours in jungles and war zones. She’s also the means by which the Losers will find their back to the United States, stranded as they are without money or weapons or identification papers.


Sort of based on Andy Diggle and Jock’s DC comic books, this crew is supposed to be dead, following a fiery attack on a rescue helicopter they’ve instead filled up with 25 Bolivian children whom they’ve rescued from a drug lord’s den of iniquity. Clay takes particular umbrage at this effort by Max (Jason Patric), somehow affiliated with the CIA, somehow really annoyed at Clay’s crew, and somehow in possession of a Sonic De-Materializer, a massively destructive weapon with which he means to destroy… something (could be the planet, could be a nation: “It’s like giving a handgun to a six-year-old,” Max doesn’t quite explain. “You don’t know how it’s gonna end, but you’re pretty sure you’re gonna read about it in the papers”). To get even, Clay throws in with Aisha (after they spend a few stretched-out-slow-motiony minutes slamming each other against his seedy hotel room walls, then burning down the entire establishment), and she somehow comes up with extravagant funding for something she warns him will be a “suicide mission.” No matter: Clay, knowing nothing about this girl or her motives, somehow says okay. 


That The Losers is premised on so many “somehows” is hardly unusual for comic book movies. But it does beg distracting questions, some even asked by men inside the film. Thus, Clay’s best friend Roque (Idris Elba) does wonder where Aisha came from, does worry that Clay has been hoodwinked by yet another sexy babe, and does suggest that revenge is not a worthy rationale for suicide. At least one crewmember, the self-designated “black MacGyver “Pooch (Columbus Short), has his own reason to stay alive, a wife back home looks very pregnant in surveillance images. By the same token, Jensen (Chris Evans) has an elementary-school-aged niece who plays soccer (no mention of the sibling who has parented her), and Cougar (Óscar Jaenada) has nothing. He’s an always-accurate sniper with an accent and no life beyond his gun-sight. (Neither does the righteously resentful Mumbai-based scientist Max enlists to design his weapon, Vikram [Peter Macdissi], occasioning Max’s racist humor, the overkill emblem of his status as a “bad man.”)


The film’s generic disinterest in the team members becomes fodder for an inside joke—when someone calls them “Clay and His Unit,” Jensen wittily observes, “It sounds like a porno.” They do what you expect: shoot stuff, blow stuff up, argue with one another, and suffer a betrayal. The tipping point for this last may or may not be Aisha, whose strangely skimpy and also elaborate backstory is as specious as her capacity to get all kinds of cash and arms at a moment’s notice. But really—it doesn’t make a difference. By the time one of Aisha’s several confrontations with the unit includes slowed-down, multiply-angled shots her underpantsed bottom diving through doorways, you’re quite finished guessing at what this “kick-ass bitch” is doing among all these manly men.

Rating:

Cynthia Fuchs is director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, Film & Video Studies, African and African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University.


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