If you just watched the icky trailer for The Losers, along with the opening few scenes, you would most likely expect the rest of it to be yet another exploitative comic book adaptation which sells garbage to undiscerning fan boys. As the film opens the titular group of military specialists is ordered to decimate a target that most certainly has children inside being used as a human shield. They refuse, but the higher ups insist, which spells out for us who we will be rooting for and who against. Unfortunately director Sylvain White keeps at it making The Losers bend so far over backwards for these kids that they whiz right on by good guys and instead become moral crusaders. The source material is a DC comic from 2003-2006 written by Andy Diggle and not having read it we have no idea how close it is to its film incarnation, though one would hope that it too didn’t pander so desperately to the simpletons.

After we hit the opening credits though White stops the useless underlining and focuses on telling a good story. The Losers are thought to be dead and have been sold out by the US government making their mission clear, get their lives back. The story hop-scotches from one sleaze ball spot on the map to the next as we get to visit Dubai, the US/Mexico border and the jungles of Bolivia amongst others. As strong as the writing here is what makes the experience is the acting as everybody brought their A game to this project. Idris Elba is still playing variations on Stringer Bell (laid back yet cold and calculating) and that should be good enough for you. Zoe Saldana, very popular all of a sudden, provides the sex appeal for what is sure to be an overwhelmingly male audience.

For more of a guilty pleasure check out Jason Patric as Max (aka: the really, really bad guy). He embodies your condescending, quick tempered boss only he is far more entertaining because his jokes actually land and he can make off the cuff Slumdog Millionaire references. But top prize, shockingly, has to go to Chris Evans (and his chest) who, as Jake Jensen, merges annoying theatrics with a frat boy attitude to create the funniest thing about the film. This marks the second quality performance of his career (watch Cellular, burn the Fantastic Four series).

In any other era this film would have just been released as a straight action flick, but with today’s comic book driven market the producers were forced to throw that crowd a bone. They do so via over stylization and a few ridiculous set pieces. It is also selling a seductive male fantasy that is sure to appeal to that demographic; here we have a tight knit group of man’s men who are outlaws and up against the world with only their capacity to bust heads and fly helicopters there to help them. That the fantasy is ultimately turned on its head will most likely be ignored by the masses. Their view of women is Neolithic but who can really complain when no actual females are going to see it. The weapons are too big and the dialogue too shaky. Plus the sequel friendly ending will remain open ended if the opening weekend box office numbers are to tell us anything. Too bad because this is one dose of action/escapism that deserved so much better.

Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Chris Evans
Director: Sylvain White
Runtime: 104 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Distributor: Warner Bros