Originating as a DC Comics World War II series in the early ’70s, The Losers got its title from a Special Forces group who dubbed themselves “The Losers” to honor the military personnel lost under their command. This is helpful background information, because in the new version—updated for Vertigo in the mid-’00s by writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock, and now adapted into cinematic dreck of the highest magnitude—the meaning of the title gets completely lost. There isn’t a whiff of humility or self-deprecation to Clay, Roque, Jensen, Cougar, and Pooch, a collection of black-ops douchebags and our ostensible heroes. Even when they’re off saving two dozen Bolivian schoolchildren from an impending air attack, they seem motivated less by compassion than by the dumb adventure of it. Anything to add to their mythos.
It’s a bad sign when the soldiers are mainly defined by small flourishes in their appearance. Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the leader, dresses like a Miami Vice castoff minus the pastels, Roque (Idris Elba) has a long vertical scar around his eye, Cougar (Óscar Jaenada) won’t let anyone touch his leather cowboy hat, and so on. Betrayed and left for dead in the Bolivian jungle after getting set up on a CIA mission, Clay and the gang join forces with the lethal Aisha (Zoe Saldana) to get back to the States and seek their revenge. Their nemesis is a comically evil mystery man named Max, played by Jason Patric, who’s striking hundred-million-dollar deals with terrorists over nuclear arms—or some such nonsense, anyway.
Director Sylvain White, whose credits include Stomp The Yard and a straight-to-video I Know What You Did Last Summer sequel, punches up every scene with comic-book graphics, multiple film speeds, freeze frames, and/or other splashy effects. There’s nothing wrong with style for its own sake, but The Losers works so strenuously to be cool at every moment that it can only be anything but. Pitched to adolescent boys—who are free to enjoy the sanitized violence and sadism under a PG-13 rating—the film takes the form of an extended trailer that never stops selling itself. What’s being sold is anyone’s guess.