Sunday, May 02, 2010

Bye, Wade

If, as they say, a movie is a critique of another movie, the fast approaching summer has at least three or four hard-edged barrels of bloody insouciance, coming right up, to do the hard critical lifting for us. Between The Expendables, the A-Team, and the already released Kick-Ass (more vigilante superhero than mercenary, but bear with me) and The Losers, does a critic even need to do the job?

If only wishing made it so, especially if The Losers is any indication of what to expect in terms of self reflection. Oh, it's self-REFLEXIVE, all right, revealing the source of its central frustration. It's sad when a movie attempts ironic detachment but pulls off mostly slovenly detachment. Don't even get me started on the "slick" camera work and editing, and the terrible, washed out pallet of the whole endeavor. For all the money they've obviously spent here, the movie just isn't that much fun to look at.

What's really any fun at all about this thing is the two-thirds of the cast that seems to be not taking it too seriously. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Jason Patric, and particularly Chris Evans, all seem to know what kind of movie they're in. Evans's giddy sketch comedy and collection of t-shirt insta-commentary should be about the only thing you remember from The Losers two weeks later. Idris Elba, it should be noted, does not look happy in this at all.

The story can be summarized fairly succinctly. An elite team of special ops is framed, by a billionaire megalomaniac, for the killing of some thirty or so Bolivian children. Zoe Saldana shows up months later and gains Jeffrey Dean Morgan's trust by beating the shit out of him and burning down his hotel. It's kind of like the Comedian's death scene from Watchmen, only boring. Afterwords, they together convince the team to sneak back into the U.S. and find the billionaire, to exact, well, what exactly? Swift vengeance? Do they go to clear their names? Now, consider the scene here where a helicopter full of children is shot down. You'd probably think you're in for a serious revenge story, right?

Not the case. The tone of the movie kind of allows you to forget. It certainly doesn't presume you should care. Say what you will about Kick-Ass, whether you can sustain yourself through its sky-high level of violence or not, the stakes are always pretty emotionally clear. Deaths, kidnappings, beatings, atrocities, etc., are always felt and felt hard, in spite of the flick's cavalier tone.

The Losers seems to be approaching a similar revenge story, aspiring to the same level of hip, cool self reflexiveness. Kick-Ass succeeds wildly where The Losers seems not to try at all. I must stress this point: Thirty-plus children are brutally murdered onscreen in the first ten minutes of this flick, and by the end, they haven't really been mentioned again, and then the villain ESCAPES. Instead of retribution, we get some more goofball mugging from Chris Evans, which is entertaining, but more YouTube friendly than $10.50 a pop, right? It's sad to think they were setting this up for a sequel.

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