Director Sylvian White states in interviews on the Blu-ray of The Losers he wanted the action scenes to appear like a video game, himself being a fan of third and first-person shooters. That’s fine, the material here about an aggressive, wise-cracking military team seeking revenge perfect material for such a design.
However, the term realism is then tossed around, and that’s where things don’t mix. There is this wonderfully conceived sequence in which Jensen (Chris Evans) is trapped by some security guards. He holds ups his hands like guns and convinces the guards he can kill them just by flicking his fingers. The bullets of course come from a sniper named Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), showing a great sense of timing and camaraderie between the team members, but it’s also ridiculous and overdone, everything The Losers should have been.
The rest of the film feels stranded and confined, unwilling to break many barriers or give audiences the sense that this is all a comic book (which it is based on) or video game. Shoot-outs are familiar, the gunplay unvaried, and the direction rather unexciting. It is a hair flashy at times, a brawl between Clay (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and Aisha (Zoe Saldana) inside a burning motel rather exciting to watch, and Aisha blowing stuff up with a rocket launcher wonderful, but it’s too grounded in reality to work like it should.
To be clear, no one is going to steal a military helicopter, re-paint it, fly it to the middle of a busy intersection, and use a giant magnet to swipe the targeted van. “Realism” is movie relative. The Losers should break out like Shoot-Em-Up, nearly whimsical in its absurdity, or as White puts it, like a video game.
Instead, it meanders, although entertainingly so in most regards. Everyone plays off each other well, Chris Evans putting on the best impromptu performance of ’80s classic “Don’t Stop Believing” in movie history. The story rarely slows, keeping everyone moving after their target, and ensuring things blow up at regular intervals. It’s hardly dull, just lacking in its potential.
It might be impossible to inject any more color into a film than The Losers. Every shade is intense and vibrant, delivering eye candy at the most basic level, while Warner’s typically poor VC-1 compression struggles to keep up. Early scenes shot in Puerto Rico are alive with vivid hues of green, but it tends to collapse. At 6:22, the shot as the team considers taking a bus is awash with visible compression and lackluster definition, a far cry from the close-ups that kick off the film, generally of reference quality.
Black levels are rendered beautifully, typically maintaining the texture that gives the film a distinct look. It remains the distance shots that cause problems, especially the simply terrible establishing shots of the cities. Whether these were stock footage or captured on consumer grade digital cameras (they look nothing like film), they are awash with aliasing, compression, and even moire as Miami is introduced at 35:33. Not a single one of these brief snippets impress.
Sporadic aliasing hinders numerous other shots as well. The Pinto, already a sad sight at 36:12, suffers from jagged lines on the roof. As the team pulls up in the stretch Hummer at the end of the film, metal beams and the vehicle itself show the same issue. Noise is sporadic, nasty on the background at 1:17:32. Countless shots continue to underperform in terms of any film-like quality, including 27:06 and 54:57 (the latter both effects shots; make of it what you will).
At the very least, close-ups are generally consistent, if a bit over processed, but who knows what the digital intermediate did to all of this. As stated above, the first scenes of the team playing cards are spectacular, and the detail continues to come through in close, such as 10:46. Limited light is no issue at 14:23, and 1:12:36 provides some stunning hi-def imagery. There is a lot to like here, certainly enough to satisfy most, but the encode just doesn’t hold up.
This DTS-HD mix is nothing if not aggressive, providing immense levels of surround work right from the opening shoot-out at 5:09. Gunfire pings off the metal hull of the car, and crispness of each shot fired is pleasing. Explosions are powerful, although a bit restrained comparatively to other discs on the market. An air strike at 7:55 doesn’t rock the subwoofer as you would expect, although the flames roaring through the jungle afterward are captured well in the surrounds.
An indoor shoot-out may be the highlight, even though it’s one of the smallest action scenes in the movie in terms of scale. Gunfire hammers the low-end at 1:03:29, shattering glass from bullet impacts dropping through each channel. Everything is distinctly placed, and fidelity is flawless.
The final confrontation, in an open shipping port, is equally as lively. Guns continue to fire from all directions without fault, and a major explosion at 1:24:05 is beefy enough to satisfy. Through all of this, dialogue remains free of any faults, and the barely noticeable score a bit overwhelmed but clear.
Three featurettes make up the behind-the-scenes portion of the disc, beginning with a look at Zoe Saldana’s casting. The second looks at the Puerto Rico shoot, and the last one focuses on the action scenes. A single deleted scene (running all of 45-seconds) is followed by a promo for the new Batman animated feature and BD-Live access.