The Losers starts quickly, with "Black Betty" blaring over scenes of a special ops incursion. It's canopy jungle, with bad guys going down left and right, "the Losers" squad delivering headshots with surgical precision. There are worse ways to start a movie, and this sudden onslaught of violence and one-liners feels like it could add up to a nice time at the cinema. Then the action stops. "Black Betty" fades into the background, we get to know the characters and the setup, motivations are established, and the story is afoot. And this is where things start to get very silly. Logically silly, occasionally purposefully silly, with bouts of accidental silliness mixed in for good measure. Action films can be light on logic and realism if they're long on gritty action while steeped in care for the protagonist; sadly, The Losers never gets you there. The action, while fun, isn't enough to keep the film afloat, and the characters aren't compelling enough to carry even 90 minutes.
After the first action beat things go cattywampus for the squad. The crew is comprised of:
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Clay: The "guy in charge," loves his crew but isn't above jokes or a casual fistfight.
Idris Elba as Roque: Takes things a little too seriously, constantly challenges Clay's authority.
Óscar Jaenada as Cougar: The sniper, doesn't say much, wears a cowboy hat.
Columbus Short as Pooch: Demolitions expert, wants to get home to his wife.
Chris Evans as Jensen: Technical specialist, able to sniff out any password, cracks massive amounts of jokes no matter the level of peril to the team.
With the major players set, enter Zoe Saldana as the mysterious Aisha. She's aware the guys have been double-crossed (I forgot to mention that -- the guys have been double-crossed) and she's willing to help. But is she who she says she is? And are the guys who they say they are? And can anyone really trust anyone? Good question, dear reader, good question.
I should mention Jason Patric as the bad guy, Max. He's great in the role, full of mischievous murder, sarcastic with a side of sociopath. I really liked him, though it's probably at least partly his fault the whole film feels so off-kilter. Are we meant to laugh when he kills people? Are we meant to despise his wise-cracking ways? He's a very interesting character, and as such you want to see more of him. But he's also the "bad" guy. It's the burden of antiheroes the whole world round. Unfortunately, The Losers never really solves the conundrum.
The other thing working against the film is the "kitchen sink" mentality presented. Twists, turns, with twisty turn cherries added on top until you're completely lost. Even if you weren't lost it still wouldn't logically add up. Then throw in a few crazy cliche slo-mo shots -- but (sigh) are they knowingly being cliche? -- and you're doubly detached. The film flat-out doesn't make any sense; no big deal, but it also doesn't deliver any character empathy. That's a burden it can't escape.
On the bright side, the film does look very good. They beat you over the head with American flag symbolism, and they go to the aforementioned slo-mo well too often, but there are a couple dozen really nice stylistic choices. It's a very glossy postcard. If only the writing on the back made any sense.