For a reason I’ve never been able to explain, Hollywood loves to set action sequences in industrial port harbors. Directors probably feel that such locales offer striking visuals and opportunities to have their characters run across cranes, ships, and in between large crates. Maybe its cheap to shoot in these types of locations. Or both. Regardless of the reason, setting an action sequence in a port harbor smacks of laziness and cliche. We’ve seen it in way too many movies and we see it again in The Losers, a film adaptation of the popular Vertigo/DC Comics’ comic book series of the same name. Despite my issue with the filmmaker’s choice of setting, The Losers is not a bad movie, but its not great either nor very good. Its a mixed bag that contains some really cool shit and some not very cool shit.

The Losers is about a group of special ops guys who go out on missions for the CIA. The film begins on one such mission in Bolivia where the group is ordered to take out some drug lord. However, the group discovers that accomplishing their mission will result in the killing of a bunch of children so they abort. Consequently, their CIA contact turns on them by attempting to kill them off. They survive of course and they plot out a scheme to get their revenge on the CIA contact who betrayed them. Along the way, they meet Zoe Saldana’s character, whom little is known of for most of the movie.

Until I saw The Watchmen, I had never heard of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and even after I saw that film, I didn’t remember his name. Apparently, women everywhere were already very familiar with him due to his long run on Grey’s Anatomy. Although he bears a striking resemblance to Gerard Butler, I can see why he’s a big deal for many as he does a great job to help carry this film. He possesses charisma, charm, humor, and a tough guy attitude thats hard not to like. Fortunately, Morgan is not the only actor who gives a good performance in The Losers. The movie’s biggest success lies in the chemistry between all the actors who play the protagonists and the dry, likable asshole played by Jason Patric. Without this casting, I can confidently claim that I would have walked out of the theater. By the way, I’m sure many guys are going to see this film just to stare at Zoe Saldana for a couple of hours. In case you’re wondering whether or not she’s worth the price of admission, she most definitely is. She has one particular fight scene with Jeffrey Dean Morgan thats as intense as it is sexy. However, where she really earns her pay is toward the end of the film when she does something that was lifted right out of a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez film. Finally, I can’t talk about the characters without giving high praise for Jason Patric’s antagonist character. Talk about scene stealing. Patric has had the unfortunate curse of always starring in big box office flops (and based on this weekend’s past box office take, The Losers is no exception). Sadly, his lack of commercial appeal has overshadowed his talents and they especially stand out here. The writer saved the best lines for Patric in this movie and many times I found myself getting impatient for the next Jason Patric scene.

Some critics have referred to The Losers as the poor-man’s A-Team. Valid point? Well, yeah, especially when you consider that The A-Team movie comes out in a few short months. However, I don’t think this should lessen this film’s appeal. After all, its not like The A-Team was an original concept or even that it was the best use of the concept. The idea of a team of special operations soldiers or mercenaries contains an infinite array of possibilities that has already been explored in countless TV shows, movies, and comic books. The Losers is simply one more of those. As I’ve alluded to above, the best thing about this film is not its story, but its casting. The plot is as cliche as you can possibly get. As I’ve never read the comic book series, I don’t know if this problem is attributable to the story contained in the comic or the screenwriter’s lack of imagination. Whatever the source of the problem, the story plays like a SNL spoof of your typical action movie. The good guys get framed by the bad guy. Of course. The bad guy wants to cause World War III. Of course. The mysterious girl turns out to have a surprise secret in her past. Of course. There is nothing here you haven’t seen before. Even the good guys are cheap carbon ripoffs of previously established character types.

I’m probably not the only one to think this, but the style The Losers is shot in reminded me a lot of your typical Michael Bay movie. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for a movie of this type, but like most Bay movies, this film suffers from the same annoyances you see in Bay films. You see it all here: shaky cams, fast cutting, slow motion, and loud obnoxious music. Admittedly, although most of the action scenes were simply copied off shit I’ve seen in much better action films, a few scenes were rather cool.

In the end, The Losers is a purely popcorn movie thats to be seen, at best, at a matinee. Its harmless fun that will require you to check your brain at the door. The Losers is a classic example of style over substance and, you know, sometimes thats ok. I don’t expect all my movies to be masterpieces of cinema (especially when the film is made by the director of Stomp the Yard and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) because I know most filmmakers out there are not great. If you’ve already seen all the films I’ve recommended to have come out so far this year, then you might want to see this at a matinee. Otherwise, do yourself a HUGE favor and check out Kick-Ass, which is one of the best comic book film adaptations I have ever seen or How to Train Your Dragon.