Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Movie Double Bill Reviews - The Losers & Jonah Hex

We've got a great guest post here from Sam Dang, who previously guested to review the Batman: Heart of Hush trade, and this time returns to let us know all about two DC comic movies that came out recently and that we neglected to review: The Losers and Jonah Hex. He's got some interesting thoughts to share so hit the jump to see what his reviews are like.

Today's guest post is by Sam Dang, who you can read more from at his own blog: That Dang Blog.

The Losers

Directed by Sylvain White

I know The Losers is long gone from theaters but I hope this review spurs interest in its DVD release. The film reached #4 at the box office and remained largely ignored by the general populace, barely making just past its $25 million budget. However, the film remains to be one of the most enjoyable surprises of the year.

The film retains much of the comic book, while not translating the source material like 300 or Sin City. The film picks and chooses many of the action and plot points from the first two volumes (Ante Up and Double Down). The plot deals with the Special Forces team comprising of Clay, Jensen, Cougar, Roque, and Pooch (Jeffery Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, Oscar Jaenada, Idris Elba, and Columbus Short) who disobey orders from CIA Spook, Max (Jason Patric) in a routine mission in Bolivia. They get betrayed and are forced to fake their deaths. The mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana) makes a deal with The Losers to get revenge on Max and clear their names. Meanwhile, Max is prepping a destructive arms deal.

The film is a highly entertaining team revenge story. The cinematography and action are quite pleasing and you’d be surprised it was all done for $25 million. Sylvian White provides a kinetic and grounded action film. While not grounded in a “Dark Knight reality”, its flamboyant and slick action befit the tone. The film diverges from the comic in tone. The violence is toned down but you forget its PG-13 and the way The Losers get betrayed is absolutely shocking. The humor was added in hopes of reaching a broader appeal, as an action-comedy. It succeeds in that regard; the laughs and scenes of violence are balanced quite well and it suits the story, the characters become sympathetic and you really empathize with them. Chris Evans, future Captain America, provides the main comedic voice in the film as the motor-mouthed Jensen, stealing the movie. His dialogue is hilarious and makes the film worth watching. Of course Jeffery Dean Morgan and Idris Elba are perfect as the lead protagonists, providing the dramatic weight to the film. Also, Zoe Saldana solidifies herself as the bad ass chick in this film and her foreseeable future. I was a bit worried that they should’ve cast a real Afghani woman but she embodies the role.

The film’s real weakness lies in the villain. Max is played by the very capable Jason Patric but he’s a comedic villain. His lines are played for laughs and the problem is that he never felt like a real threat. The audience can’t take him seriously and he doesn’t come off as a worthy adversary for one of the best Special Forces team. There’s very little CGI which is great but the CGI that is in the film really takes you out of action.

Verdict - Check It. At the end of the day, you have to take the film for what it is, an action comedy. It’s quite enjoyable and worthy of a view. It lacks a certain memorable quality but it’s enjoyable enough for rental (I know I’m buying it) and believe it or not it beats Iron Man 2 slightly as my favorite PG-13 superhero film of this year. It certainly deserved better.

Jonah Hex

Directed by Jimmy Hayward

So what do you expect from a film by the director of Horton Hears a Who and the writers of Crash 1, 2, and Gamer? It’s what you think it is: horrible.

The film does remain faithful in terms of characterization. Jonah Hex is a miserable and apathetic bastard but the rest of the film is almost insulting. He is now able to talk to the dead and the tone miserably straddles the line between serious and absurd. The mistake is that it never decides if it wants to be taken seriously or not. Josh Brolin liked it because it was like Grindhouse but the result is a watered down and riskless film. The plot essentially rips off Wild Wild West as The President hires Jonah Hex to take down the terrorist plot of Quinton Turnbull, who wishes to destroy the newly founded union with a massive weapon (don’t worry no mechanical spiders). Why the president hires a bounty hunter to take down a league of terrorist is anyone’s guess.

Josh Brolin does what he can with the role and Megan Fox’s role mainly consists of looking pretty and acting tough. Of course John Malkovich is underutilized and his performance lacks any real life or ambition. Michael Fassbender (of Inglourious Basterds fame and future Magneto) steals the film as the insane henchmen Burke. Fassbender’s unhinged performance remains one of the more enjoyable elements of the film. I really feel like he could’ve been a great Joker. Fans of Will Arnett will be disappointed by his two expositional and wasted scenes.

The film is 81 minutes long and it cheats the audience of any understanding of the film. The character of Quinton Turnbull is said to be dead but he reappears without explaining how he faked his death or why. There’s no explanation for Hex’s powers, what powers Turnbull’s bombs (I would’ve liked a phony scientific reason at least), or why there’s a circus Snake Man with real venom. The film’s pace is quick, like the heavy metal soundtrack that curiously scores the film, but it paces way past the audience’s willingness to take in an absurd spectacle as this. The film makes you scratch your head and wondering how this film got made in the first place. The most absurd point in the film is the climax, where Hex and Turnbull face off which is also cross cut with scenes of Hex’s dream/hallucination of fighting Turnbull.

The film makes it clear that they did read Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s wonderful Jonah Hex series with small things like his scarring and ties to Native Americans but the changes are almost insulting, the fact that Megan Fox’s character is Tallulah Black (one of their best original characters) is appalling. They basically took the best things from the source but without its substance.

Verdict - Avoid It. Do yourself a favor, rent Wild Wild West you’re not missing anything from this movie. Even better yet, pick up the Jonah Hex trades (the first three are Must Buys: Face Full of Violence, Guns of Vengeance, and Origins) from Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, especially the original graphic novel, Jonah Hex: No Way Back. This graphic novel is like the trade series; absolutely beautiful and befitting of the amoral and cynical landscape of the west, rivaling the best Sergio Leone films.

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Anonymous said...

Yeah when people say DC movies are just as good as marvel ones I point to this

Anonymous said...

"The film" was said a lot in these reviews.

Anonymous said...


@Anonymous 1 you should remember that Howard the duck, Hulk, Elektra, Ghost Raider, Captain america, 3 punisher movies also exist.

Anonymous said...

@subramaniam: good point man

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Hey SUBRAMANIAM - thanks for not mentioning Daredevil in that list. Much appreciated.

I also wanna see Ghost Raider, without Nic Cage, ha, I kid.

I think when it comes to quality movies from both publishers they've each had their ups and downs.

twobitspecialist said...

Maybe Jonah Hex could've benefited from mechanical spiders. ;)

Daryll B. said...

@TwoBit ... then it truly would have been Wild Wild West II: Now We Dabble In Mystical S*** With No Explanation...

My friends still look at me strange when I said I liked the Losers much better than Kick-Ass. What can I say? As a black comic book fan, I hate pandering and stereotypes. When I handed one of them my Losers big trade, he goes "Now I get it.."

Ian said...

The Losers was a movie that definitely peaked my interest when it first came out, seemed like what I wanted the A-Team movie to be. Didn't end up seeing it but after this review and the fact thats its on my On Demand list means it might get a weekend rental.

Jonah Hex was a movie I really wanted to like, but Im going to have to agree with two bit that magical mechanical spiders might have been an improvement.

The Dangster said...

*dammit, well now all I read is "the film."

*they had a steamship that fired bombs instead of a spider. Less awesome in every way. Even the animated series has Hex on a steamship/BLIMP.

*also, John Malkovich is a great actor, but he needs to take a page from Wild Wild West and do roles that involve him having spider legs.

Nuv said...

I couldn't agree more! The Losers was solid fun, if somewhat forgettable.

Jonah Hex could not have been more opposite in quality from the excellent comic books. What a wasted opportunity!

Here's my take on the fiasco of it all.

Weekly Crisis rules!

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