‘The Losers,’ Well, Loses

It seems that so-called “edgy” comics are becoming the latest trend in comic-to-film adaptations. Each of these phenomenons follow a certain pattern: the first few years open with a collection of decent or cult favorite hits, followed by praise from both critics and audiences. As they become more frequent, they lose  their novelty, curling up and bleeding out for the next half-decade with box office fodder lacking a great deal of originality. As “The Losers” makes its way onto screens, I’m not too proud to say that this new trend may be curling up already.

“The Losers” is your standard comic book “de-make” straight from the horrid age of ’90s comics. Its timing couldn’t be worse: it comes to us sandwiched between a stunningly amazing comic book adaptation (“Kick-Ass”) and an upcoming blockbuster remake (“A-Team”). It even features a player from ”Watchmen” (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), reminding us of superior comic-flicks even as we watch it.

This movie is essentially a remake of a flaccid comic book, itself a remake of a half-decent ’70s series about a band of military blowhards in WWII. “The Losers” you’ll see at the theaters keeps the band but loses the stage, the elite Black-Ops CIA Special Forces etc. crew sent to and subsequently betrayed in Bolivia, and vow revenge on the man that made them his target. You’ll not only recognize nearly every member of the cast from bigger movies, but also every single gag, gaff and explosion from better movies.

In other movies, that easy recognition usually enters in a single moment – or, at worst, threading through a few scenes. However, in “The Losers,” the sense of the familiar can be found in nearly every frame.

The plot can be figured out by the end of the prologue, but that’s expected for cinema of such a loud variety. Unfortunately, everything else is just as predictable; almost every punch-line is delivered five years after the audience saw it coming, and every emotion is telegraphed like it’s trying to run down an airliner. This gross predictability could almost be considered parody – and, in better circumstances, the film could have been an exceptional send-up of ’roided-up ’90s action flicks. But the giddy sense of spoofing is completely absent from all proceedings, so that we’re left with only a dried-up lazy husk of a film.

Explosions, in their nonsensical sort of way, can usually fix all in this kind of movie. But “The Losers” even manages to blow up a good thing by failing to have a stunt or squib that doesn’t inspire a sense of déjà vu. Returning to the old movie review cliché, there isn’t anything present that hasn’t been done better elsewhere.

The very shot composition of some of these action sequences will weigh so heavy on the nostalgia lobe in your brain, you’re liable to leave the theater and buy up the Action section of Best Buy’s Blu-Rays. A merciful point can be bestowed for an action cinematography finally realizing that crowded shots make for better slow-motion — a lonely, ever-so-merciful point.

It’s impossible to describe the production elements of “The Losers.” Not for any measure of quality, but because none manage to leave an impression. The score is indistinguishable bombast and machismo, the costumes range from blank-slate rough for the men and hazardously little for the women, and the lighting, makeup, hair and set design all play such a straight hand that they vanish into obscurity… not into the background, but out of the entire movie. Another half a point for competent forensic rigging and bomb tech, if only because that stuff’s expensive.

At least they managed such a dumb ’90s blockbuster retread on a no-sequel necessary budget. “The Losers” is a film that could have made a pitch-perfect parody if it had the slightest inkling of how routine it was. The acting, design, explosions and painful humor are color-by-numbers pages that never managed to go outside the lines. The only lingering emotion left after runtime’s end is a slight moral pang as you sneak into another theater for a recuperating “Kick-Ass” re-watch.