Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Losers (1970)

I’m officially impressed. Mostly because director Jack Starett and screenwriter Alan Caillou was brave enough to take a typical exploitation-movie and raise it above what everyone probably expected. The Losers has every ingredient a exploitation-movie should have: nudity, graphic violence, exploding huts, cool actors and shot in the Philippines. BUT here comes the surprise, mixed with this is a quite smart and multi-layered movie with well-written characters and a world that’s not black and white.

Armageddon comes to mind when analyzing the concept in The Losers. Why not just take a couple of good soldiers and teach them driving motorcycles even better than choosing a bunch of rednecks and trying to make them do a secret mission in Cambodia? I guess you can see the connection to Armageddon (something even Michael Bay jokes about).

But it’s an absurd world, it’s a ridiculous idea – something one of the characters says in the end – but it could probably happen in the brain of some crazy military. On the other side, they don’t have to waste any more soldier-blood. Anyway, the bikers arrive – lead by Link (William Smith – awesome as usual) and of course they starting to behave badly, continuing their lifestyle with hookers, drugs and bar fights.

After being threaten with seven years in prison, Link gets them to work together and save the ass of an American, Chet Davis (an excellent Jack Starett himself, a bit drunk too in some scenes) – but of course, not everything goes as planned and in the end it’s hard to tell the bad guys from the good guys…

Yes, this is far from the normal men-on-a-mission movie. Our “heroes” comes off as kinda childish, immature. Violent and racist too, with no respect for either women or children. One of them is beating an old lady and also giving a child some brutal spanking. Later children are shot down by one of them. When it’s revealed that one of the more sympathetic characters was in prison for five years for raping young girls, it’s suddenly a mental stand-off between him and a higher ranking person, because not even him is good. He tries to defend himself, with some clichéd words about freedom and “You don’t understand us”, but by then it’s a joke. A very sad joke.

There’s more stuff that sets this movie apart from a lot of other movies in the same genre, and that feels genuine. But the real reason people went to see this movie was probably because of the fantastic and bloody action!

Yes, ton’s of Peckinpah-esque slow-mo, big squibs, explosions, crazy stunts and over all a damn fine action movie. Starett probably had very little to work with, but with fantastic editing and brilliant camera work this makes a movie that is highly impressive and makes even bigger-budgeted movies look weak and small.

It’s easy to appreciate The Losers, either you like it for the drama and satire or the action and bloodshed. This has it all, everything you need.


Anonymous said...

Nice review! Where can i find it?

Ninja Dixon said...

Thanks :)

Dark Sky has released an excellent version in the US, but it's also out in Thailand (check for example) - and I guess that version is the same quality.

Highly recommended!

Anonymous said...

Ninja: I saw this a while´s like the wild bunch on wheels...very influenced by Peckinpah.

Check out Savage! (1973)& The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)two very dark...complex films were it´s hard to tell the good guys from the bad.