We Want Action: The Losers (2010)

Man, I had a great time watching The Losers tonight. As I said a while back, I was really looking forward to this movie along with The A-Team and The Expendables, one of which I haven’t seen yet and the other I loved. All three movies are action movies with tough badasses up against a tough mission, with Losers and A-Team both being about a team that was set up and attempting to clean up their good names. The Losers is a military team consisting of dudes with cool nicknames like Clay (Henry Dean Morgan), Roque (Idris Elba), Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), Jensen (Chris Evans) and Pooch (Columbus Short) who get burned by a guy named Max and set out to get revenge on him, later adding bad ass chicj Aisha (Zoe Saldana) to their little gang. First off, this cast is pretty rad. I haven’t seen Elba in The Wire but did enjoy him on The Office, plus the movie stars the Comedian from Watchmen, the blue chick from Avatar, one of my favorite characters from Studio 60 and the Human Torch. Fun stuff.

More fun, of course, is the flick, which doesn’t seem to go more than 10 minutes before getting into another rad action scene. The movie’s pretty easy to follow, though it does get a little wild with a weapon that seems to disintegrate islands, though I was glad they didn’t go with the regular old MacGuffin and actually showed the weapon of mass destruction in action. Other than that you’ve got the usual amount of ass kicking and plot twisting. I guess it’s a little by the numbers as far as the plot goes, but there’s enough other stuff going on that I didn’t really notice until looking back on it now.

The action scenes are top notch. There’s one earlier in the film with Aisha facing off against Clay that involves trashing a hotel room that catches on fire. It was such a visual fight without getting too wrapped up in the jerky fight scenes we’ve been assaulted with lately. Sure there’s speed-up then slow-down moments, but they seemed to serve the fight to my eyes. In fact, I was doing some writing while the movie was playing, but every time an action scene kicked off, I was drawn away from the computer and couldn’t take my eyes off the TV. The movie’s bright color palette in general helped with this as well, especially with scenes like the one with Cougar and Jensen working in a doll factory.

I also really dug the characters who all felt well acted and well rounded without having too much bogging them down. You get a good enough sense of who each one is thanks to the role they fill on the team and what we see here and there throughout the movie. Evans and Morgan really shined for me with the former’s humor and the latter’s general bad assness. Evans as the torch was one of the few bright spots in the otherwise boring Fantastic Four movies and I had only seen Morgan in the shark jumping episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and his role as the Comedian, so it was nice to see him get some more screentime and flex those cool muscles instead of getting murdered either by his girlfriend or Ozymandias.

My only real problem with the movie was the character of Max (Jason Patric) who was just a bit over the top for my tastes. He makes lots of lame jokes and changes his mind about huge plans all the time. I get wanting to add a layer to the character, but I started questioning how a man this flighty could run an organization big enough to mess with the Losers, which kind of breaks up the foundation of the movie a little. Not a good move. There’s also a bit at the end that will be considered a SPOILER. In a rad moment, Max throws a pressure switch off a high point where he and Clay are having a standoff. Clay dives into the water, grabbing the device in just enough time, but when he gets out of the water, the rest of the gang roll up in a yellow stretch Hummer limo. But I don’t understand why Cougar, the sharp shooter of the bunch, wasn’t still at his post to take Max out. Or any of the other guys on the team. It’s a little weird, but not a bad enough moment to completely kill the movie for me.

All in all, I had a great time with this movie, which is good because I really didn’t like one of the other two flicks I watched today. It can’t be ignored that The Losers is based on a comic book of the same name by Andy Diggle and Jock. The only reason I hadn’t mentioned it before is because I haven’t read them, though after watching the movie, I want to now and will probably start tracking them down on Sequential Swap.

We Want Action: The Losers, The A-Team & The Expendables

As I’ve mentioned here, here and here, I’m crazy excited for The Expendables, but it doesn’t come out until August 13th! Luckily, Hollywood seems pretty set on giving me cool looking, ensemble action movies to work my way up to Expendables. The Losers, which is based on a re-imagining of my newly beloved Jack Kirby book stars some pretty rad folks like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Avatar’s Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Columbus Short and plenty of others debuts on April 23rd.

While The Losers is about a crack military team who gets betrayed by their government and seeks revenge, The A-Team is about, well, the exact some thing, but stars different people and comes from different source material. This TV show revamp can boast a cast that includes Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel and Rampage Jackson. This one comes out on June 11th.

And because I can’t resist myself, here’s another Expendables trailer!

It’s good to see there will be something every two months to break the monotony. Well, that and Iron Man 2 which hits on May 7th.

Trade Post: Jack Kirby’s The Losers

Written and drawn by Jack Kirby
Collects Our Fighting Forces #151-162
I admit it, up until the last few years, I’ve been a bad comic book fan. Sure I bought comics and trades which helped the industry, but I rarely went back and read older comics or learned much about the history of the medium I love. I’ve been slowly rectifying that by reading as many Jack Kirby comics as I can get my hands on and buying issues of TwoMorrows mags like Comic Book Artist and Write Now which get into the nitty gritty of creating comics in the modern, silver and golden ages. In the past year or two I’ve read the four Fourth World volumes, OMAC, the first few Avengers issues, part of a book called The Complete Jack Kirby June-August 1947 and now The Losers. Damn, I love this guy. Sometimes his dialogue isn’t so great and when he was really busy in the Marvel days I feel like his backgrounds suffered, but there’s an amazing kind of energy that he packs into the panels that just blows me away.

This collection of Our Fighting Forces comics starts with an introduction by Neil Gaiman (whose Sandman I’m also reading now interestingly enough). It’s a fun and short intro that makes Gaiman incredibly relate-able because he’s basically geeking out about Kirby. I will say that reading the intro ahead of time might have painted how I read the comics themselves. If you want to go in with a completely clear point of view, I’d recommend just skipping it and jumping right into the book.

What I like most about these issues is that it shows Kirby’s incredible skill at drawing dynamic action, but unlike anything else of his I’ve read, these are real people set in the real world with real weapons and vehicles (99% of the time at least). Even when drawing something as simple as a gun, it’s got that Kirby-ness to it that makes it instantly recognizable. All but two issues are self-contained stories starring the four Losers–Storm, Cloud, Sarge and Gunner–getting teamed-up with another person or group of people during World War II. I’m not a huge fan of WWII fiction, but these stories really sucked me in. Another great part is that you don’t need to know anything about these characters or this book to enjoy this collection. All you need to know is that, during The Great War, we fought the Nazis.

My favorite story is called “Devastator Vs. Big Max” from Our Fighting Forces #153.  Consider this SPOILER territory. The idea is that the Nazis have this gigantic canon they call Big Max that can blast towns and convoys from miles away. The Allies don’t have anything to counteract this bad boy, but they’ve got a plan: Devastator. A sci-fi loving soldier tells the Army about his plan for a futuristic tank type vehicle called Devastator that the Losers tell him is real. In reality, it’s a sham set up to scare the Nazis into revealing the location of Big Max so the fliers can blow that shit up. In the end the sci-fi lover is completely disappointed, which is kind of poetic. Most of the stories end like that with no victory ever being 100% for the Losers or their compatriots.

Another fun bit about this book is the back up features Kirby did where he’d draw weapons, vehicles and uniforms of soldiers from various eras. You can tell he really studied these things, possibly while he served during WWII himself between 1943 and 1945, or at some other time between the end of the war and these comics being published in 1974 and 1975. As a quick note it absolutely blows me away that WWII comics were still so freaking popular 20 years after the war actually ended. That’s wild.

Of all the Kirby books I’ve read, I’d say this is the one I can 100% recommend to anyone. I like OMAC a lot, but it’s not a complete story and the Fourth World comics were hard to get through at times dialogue-wise. Plus, like with OMAC, they also kind of peter out at the end. And, from what I’ve seen of his Marvel stuff–I haven’t been able to get my hands on his FF stuff for the record–he got better when we worked at DC. The Losers is an incredibly easy comic to hand to just about anyone. War buff, parent, grandparent, history fan, anyone really. Next up, I want to finish the volume of The Complete Jack Kirby I’ve got and then onto The Demon, plus some more Avengers issues as I slog through them.