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By Rick Kisonak | April 28, 2010

What is it that causes so many people who make movies based on comic books to take themselves so seriously? Is it a matter of overcompensating? Whatever the source of the phenomenon, I’m pleased to report it does not afflict this film. There isn’t an iota of pretension or self consciousness in its 98 minutes and, while it’s hardly great art, it is an unexpectedly good time.

Think The B+ Team. The upcoming adaptation of “The A Team” may have bigger stars, a bigger budget and more name recognition but I think it’s unlikely to significantly outscore Sylvain (“Stomp the Yard”) White’s testosteronefest when it comes to pure dumb fun.

Based on a semi-obscure series on DC’s Vertigo imprint, the picture tells the story of The Losers-five Special Forces operatives who go rogue when a shadowy CIA higher up named Max (Jason Patric) attempts to have them killed in the middle of a mission in the Bolivian jungle. Nothing turns loyal soldiers into a blood lusting band of brothers quite like an assassination attempt by the boss.

Looking for payback are “Colonel” Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), his demolitions expert Roque (Idris Elba), transport specialist Pooch (Columbus Short), sniper extraordinaire Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) and resident tech wizard Jenson (Chris Evans).

The unit is presumed dead and can’t risk entering the U.S. under their own names. Luckily for them, Clay shortly finds himself in a barroom brawl to the death with Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a mysterious beauty who has not only the money to slip them all into the country but her own reasons for wanting Max whacked. Even luckier, the two don’t kill each other but hook up and burn down a hotel instead. You had to be there.

It’s a given that they’ll join forces and close in on Patric’s character and that, along the way, stacks of bad guys will be blasted with honking automatic weapons and much stuff will get blown up. What distinguishes The Losers from your standard issue action comedy, however, is the comedy. The script by Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt keeps the killer lines flying as fast as the bullets.

Morgan and Elba perfect a gruff, understated delivery while Evans is light and loose with the energy of an early career Jim Carrey. The scene in which he shoots two guards “telekinetically” is a classic. Then there’s Patric’s performance as the power-mad sociopath. Equal parts Dr. Evil and Anton Chigurh, it’s easily the most entertaining creation of his career. And I haven’t even gotten to the weapon the writers unveil just in time for Earth Day: The Snuke-a green WMD that delivers “all the destruction and none of the pollution.”

Why does Max want these five guys dead? Why does Saldana attack Morgan-a total stranger-when they first come face to face? Why would a psycho bent on world destruction give a crap about the environment? What keeps our heroes from simply picking up the phone and reporting mad Max to his superiors at the agency?

Hey, I never said this was Shakespeare. If it’s answers you want, watch an episode of Jeopardy. The Losers haven’t got time to make sense. They’re way too busy unleashing hell on a government that betrayed them, turning anything that moves into Swiss cheese and firing off some of the funniest dialogue to grace a cineplex so far this year, in the process reminding us precisely why they called them comic books in the first place.

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