Film Club: ‘The Losers’
So Why Wasn’t This an R-Rated Comic Book Flick?
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Host Maureen Cavanaugh and film critics Beth Accomando, Scott Marks, and Anders Wright discuss "The Losers" on the April KPBS Film Club of the Air.
"The Losers" (opened April 23 throughout San Diego) is an adaptation of the Vertigo/DC Comics written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by Jock. You can listen to our KPBS Film Club of the Air discussion.
Well it takes some balls to call your film "The Losers." But it takes more to adapt a comic book that demands an R rating and to actually deliver the hard R, like "Kick-Ass" did. As a comic, "The Losers" had an attitude, violence, and style that really demands an R rating so it can go full throttle. But director Sylvain White, writers Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, and the Warner Brothers studio pull back to deliver a tepid PG-13.
But what makes the film entirely worth watching is Jason Patric's deliciously evil villain. His line reads are perfectly timed and delivered with a deadpan wickedness. He is a villain to be savored. The rest of the cast -- especially a charismatic Jeffrey Dean Morgan and a funny Chris Evans -- is also appealing and that makes the film pleasant enough diversion but it never kicks ass. And since Peter Berg (the man who delivered one of my all time favorite nasty works, "Very Bad Things") is involved I was expecting a little more edge and a little more beyond a snappy line or two of dialogue.
Here's what we talked about on the show.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now the last movie that we’re going to be talking about and actually we’re going to have to sort of power through it. I think that we can.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Which will make Scott happy.
CAVANAUGH: “The Losers” is the name of the film. It’s another film based on a comic book series.
SCOTT MARKS: Ohh…
CAVANAUGH: A group of CIA operatives is abandoned in South America after their mission goes seriously wrong. It goes wrong because they follow orders and they bomb a village. They see a truckload of children enter the vicinity and they cannot call the bomb back. So after this, “The Losers” are dead to the CIA but they are determined to wreak havoc on the evil genius who set them up. So this is another movie, as I said, based on a comic book series. And we just got right-thinking on comic books from Beth a little while ago. Scott, how would you sum up the movie?
MARKS: All right, first of all, Zoe Saldana.
ACCOMANDO: Zoey (phonetically).
ANDERS WRIGHT: Zoe.
MARKS: All right, Holofcener, okay. Where the hell did she come from and if this woman is in all these movies, why don’t we know more about her?
WRIGHT: Well, she’s going to be in every movie the rest of the year, so…
MARKS: Yeah, the rest of our life, I have a feeling…
WRIGHT: Yeah, yeah.
MARKS: …or until she…
MARKS: …hits the wall. You know, I think that in a lot of ways this film is – Well, obviously, I think it’s much better than “Kick-Ass” because I like when they blew up the helicopter with the 25 kids in it.
MARKS: And here people are sitting complaining about you have one child that’s killing all these people, that’s there to be cool. This is here to make a point. I think the bad guy in this film, Jason Patric, with his Dr. No glove is very, very appealing.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, he’s great.
WRIGHT: He’s kick-ass.
ACCOMANDO: He is great.
MARKS: This is one of the best bad guys I’ve seen in a movie in a while. But it’s a comic book film, it’s still a film where a lot of characters speak exclusively in one-liners, which bothers me. Chris Evans is guilty of that. And some of the stuff is very funny but it’s all one-liners. So, I mean, if you’re going to go see a comic book film, I would suggest this. But I don’t know that either of these is going to be around much longer because they’re not pulling numbers at the box office.
CAVANAUGH: And Beth.
ACCOMANDO: This is, I think, the example of the PG-13 comic book movie. It really felt like it needed to be an ‘R’ and it wasn’t.
MARKS: But didn’t this feel like it was an ‘R’ rated film. That there was…
MARKS: …enough violence in there? No?
WRIGHT: You know, it was…
WRIGHT: …it was originally scheduled to be an ‘R’ and the director talked them down to a PG-13.
MARKS: Well, then the director’s an idiot.
WRIGHT: Well, it’s a – I mean, I personally – Sorry, I interrupted you but I…
ACCOMANDO: That’s okay.
WRIGHT: …I have issues with a movie like this where, you know, they’ll shoot 200 guys, there’s no blood at all…
WRIGHT: …unless somebody, one of the main characters, gets a scratch. That, to me, is far more glorifying of violence…
MARKS: Oh, whoa, whoa, ‘R’, ‘R’, okay.
WRIGHT: …than something like “Kick-Ass.”
MARKS: So Nicolas Cage takes a gun…
WRIGHT: Rate it ‘R.’
MARKS: No, no, you don’t even know where I’m going with this. And shoots Chloe twice in the chest, and then she goes and they go to have dinner and there’s no bullet holes in the gun. Don’t you…
WRIGHT: Rate it ‘R.’ Rate it ‘R.’
ACCOMANDO: In the gun?
MARKS: I mean in her clothes. He shoots the kid and then as then, as a reward…
ACCOMANDO: Because you see the bullet hole, it’s tiny.
MARKS: You don’t see it in her clothes.
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, you see it in her down jacket. You see it in the shot…
ACCOMANDO: …you see it in the shot where she gets shot.
MARKS: When they’re in the diner. No, I’m talking about when they go…
ACCOMANDO: Okay, well, why…
MARKS: …to the dine…
CAVANAUGH: We cannot…
ACCOMANDO: What does that have to…
MARKS: I think it…
CAVANAUGH: We cannot move on from “Kick-Ass” but we must. We must.
ACCOMANDO: But what difference does that have…
CAVANAUGH: Speaking of “The Losers” now.
ACCOMANDO: …with violence being…
MARKS: Because I think if the kid would’ve walked in, you would’ve seen the bullet holes. It would’ve said something about the father and the relationship to the father.
CAVANAUGH: “Losers,” Beth. Go.
MARKS: How dare you discuss us in such a manner.
ACCOMANDO: It’s diverting. It’s diverting. I mean, I liked some of the actors. Jason Patric is a delight to watch. He is hilarious and his delivery on some of these lines is great. I liked Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I think he’s got some charisma and Chris Evans was funny. But it just – it just came up short.
WRIGHT: I found that as it ramps up to the big climactic ending I just got more and more bored as it got more and more ridiculous.
CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm. Umm-hmm. Well, and I know there’s some handheld camera work that you love, Scott.
MARKS: Loved it. Thought it was great. Give me more comic book films.
CAVANAUGH: “The Losers” is currently playing in area theaters.
Companion viewing: "Kelly's Heroes," "The Dirty Dozen," "Kick-Ass"