Friday, 29 October 2010

Kidulthood; The Losers


Noel Clarke, previously best known for playing Billie Piper’s boyfriend in the updated Doctor Who, here writes and co-stars in a film for the hoody generation.
I get the impression that the UK urban yout drama has been done to death but arguably there was little out beforehand, save for a handful of examples such as Bullet Boy. It’s not that original, after all the wasted youth films have been around since teenagers as a term in itself came about, and the more modern brand of inner city disaffection has featured in dozens of films, albeit the majority based in America.

We follow a group of boys getting up to mischief, involved in petty crime and looking to graduate up to the next level. The escalation in violence and commitment this involves puts some off, though it might already be too late. There is teen pregnancy, drugs drinks, fights and muggings, there are points made about black and Asian kids being followed by shop security and getting ignored by black cabs, but somehow these depictions of institutionalised racism don’t do enough to explain the boys’ anger. The film’s depiction of violence and bullying at school, leading in one case to suicide, is brutal and one example of the film moving away from genre conviction to frame a British experience; aside from a section of the teen audience many won’t be aware of the reality affecting children like those in the film, halfway between kids and grown ups.
Clarke takes a central if supporting role as the school boogey-man Sam, all Ice Cube scowl and permanently be-hooded. After a less than wise opportunity for the main trio of boys to ambush him he hunts them for the rest of the film until the inevitably tragic conclusion. It’s good that Clarke was able to continue the story past this point in his written-and-directed sequel, Adulthood, as it’s a further chance to carry on the film’s standpoint of not judging the characters for their choices, instead showing that leading such lives isn’t without consequences. Still, however many films attempt to get the message across that life for a bottom-rung teen crim is far from rosy they usually fail to burst the “that won’t happy to me” attitude.

The Losers

A good natured action romp, initially the 12A certificate is alarming for a film about an A-Team alike bunch of mercenaries, but The Losers successfully exchanges any more brutal violence for some pretty decent comedy. The overall feel is light hearted, with off-screen shooting of minions in the head and throwing people off buildings played for laughs.
Jason Patric as the arch-nemesis CIA man Max is wonderful, freed from a leading role and good-guy template he attacks his handful of scenes with glee, dripping with irony and pithy put-downs. The main team of The Losers work well together with all of the actors creating likeable characters. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is good as the head of the team Clay, exuding a ‘man’s man’ air and a sense of reluctant authority; Idris Elba is good as the menacing Roque, using his imposing presence to convincingly backup his character’s anger and frustration; Columbus Short is good as Pooch, tying the team together, Oscar Jaenada draws the short straw as the strong and silent sniper Cougar; Chris Evans is great as the comic relief Jensen, stealing the scene time and again with his skewed outlook.
The plot centers on how this special ops team are sent after a drug baron only to find a bus load of children at the compound to ward off air strikes. Their bosses press ahead regardless so they storm the compound, rescue the kids and escape to the evac point in time to avoid the bombs. Once at the chopper they load on the kids to send them to safety, only to be betrayed and the chopper destroyed, leaving them stranded in South America, officially dead back in the US. The mysterious Zoe Saldana as Aisha approaches Clay in a decent fight scene standing in for a passionate sex scene, crashing around a hotel room and leaving the building in flames after they finally come to an understanding. She is a source of friction for the team as her motives for helping them get revenge against Patric’s G-man are unknown, with Roque particularly averse to her presence.
The action scenes are fine but it’s the interactions between the cast that shine, Jensen provoking reactions and Max’s exchanges with his right-hand man Wade are juicy.
The Losers is not the best example of a tent-pole blockbuster but it’s a fun ride and a good example of a film going for a lower certificate not feeling like a dilution of the original idea.


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