Last week, regular Biff Bam Pop! movie box-office oracle Scotty G released his prognostication as to how many ducats the latest comic book-to-Hollywood-film would garner on its opening weekend.
Now, I’m not privy to what sorts of alchemy, witches brew, or conference with celluloid spirits Scotty employs in his currency-fuelled suppositions, but his prediction of a twelve million opening for The Losers seemed preposterous to me. C’mon, man! I read that comic book series! It’s badass! So badass, in fact, that I bought my maximum allotment of shares in the title on the Hollywood Stock Exchange (50,000 shares at $10.79/share) when I heard that the acclaimed Vertigo Comics series was being turned into a film nearly three years ago.
How could it go wrong? As a comic book series, The Losers was a fast-paced, stylized take on a time-worn tale: a rogue C.I.A. faction wrongs a group of special forces operatives who then seek revenge on their corrupt employer. Perhaps more so than the numerous explosions, vividly brought to life by artist Jock, characterization by writer Andy Diggle was key in the reader enjoyment of the series. And the film version gets all the necessary parts right.
Clay, played by Watchmen’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan, is the affable leader of the group of hard-luck heroes. Chris Evans, known for his comedic twist in Fantastic Four, works a breakthrough performance as the goofy but always likable Jensen, the team’s high tech communications wizard. Idris Elba, of The Wire fame, is the hard-nosed, no nonsense Roque while sultry Zoe Saldana, fresh off of hits (in little films you might have heard of called) Star Trek and Avatar, rounds out the cast by playing the mysterious Aisha.
Scotty G, in his weekly column, said that there was little “box office draw” here, certainly not enough to carry the film toward an opening weekend breakthrough. Now, I’m no rube. I know this film cost just under $30 million to make – a teeny, tiny sum in today’s filmmaking business. But it was also produced by Joel Silver, the master of the action genre, the guy that gave us Lethal Weapon and The Matrix. Because The Losers is a bit of an obscure title, I knew it wouldn’t make the kinds of money those films did, but I did believe it would garner more than $25 million on its opening weekend.
So did many others. Leading up to the day of release, I watched my pretend Hollywood shares in the movie rise towards the $55 mark, making me a virtual millionaire, all the while chuckling at Scotty’s box office prediction. I thought that maybe I’d email him, asking if he’d want to take a bet. I got busy and never got around to it.
I went out with my buddy Denny, another fan of the comic series, on the weekend and we plopped our excited butts onto the theatre seats, a big bag of popcorn in our laps and watched The Losers play out in front of us. It was exactly what we expected.
The Losers is a rip-roaring affair: a fast-paced buddy picture of military-sized proportions where the action is intense and the jokes between the ensemble cast of underdog characters make the audience vested in their personalities. I couldn’t help but feel that I was one of their gang. And being a Loser was a pretty good place to be.
Director Sylvain White gets the most out of his miniscule budget. The onscreen guys (and gal) all look like they’re having a fun time making this flick. And “fun” is the key to this movie. Jason Patric, playing the evil mastermind Max, is way over the top, eager to make a racist remark as quickly as kill one of his henchmen in a flight of fancy. There are laugh-out loud moments here too, like when the scene-stealing Evans runs through an office building with Max’s world-shattering secrets buried in a hard drive under his arm – all while Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ plays for the toe-tapping audience.
The film’s just over ninety minutes in length which helps to keep the momentum always feeling fresh. Still, I wish it were a bit longer as I was having such a good time watching.
In the end, everyone pretty much gets what they deserve – except for the audience. You see, The Losers is built to have a sequel or two and the film ends with this in mind. As a reader of the comic books, I know that there are surprise reveals to be had in the next chapter – game changing revelations that are hinted at throughout the movie – that only those in the know would ever discover. The audience needs to see a sequel so that they can experience these revelations for themselves!
Checking over Scotty’s weekend box office totals, I see that his deduction was right on the proverbial money. I love an underdog. The rest of the world? Apparently not so much. Logging into the Hollywood Stock Exchange, I see that my $55 stock has plummeted to nearly $20, my virtual millions have virtually evaporated.
I don’t know why The Losers didn’t do so well this past weekend. Maybe it’s not a chick-type flick and so didn’t take in the “date night” bucks. Maybe the ads I saw on all the websites I normally frequent were hitting too small a niche market. Maybe the word didn’t get out to the majority of the film-going public. Maybe reviews have been overly harsh.
Maybe the film’s title was always a prognostication of its future.
I don’t know. I don’t expect to see that sequel any time soon. Perhaps The Losers will have legs and make some real money over a long period of time at the cinemas. Maybe it’ll find an audience on DVD and Blu-Ray.
I may not know much, but I do know two things: I know I loved the flick. And I know I will never doubt the Box Office Oracle Scotty G in the future.
Good thing I didn’t make that bet. I’d have ended up being the…