The Losers/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< The Losers

Throughout the 1970s Director-Actor Jack Starrett (Cleopatra Jones, Hollywood Man, Race With The Devil) was one of Exploitation Cinema's finest auteurs. He worked in a variety of genres, but he was generally known for his exciting, action packed biker films. NOTE: Most film viewers will know Starrett from his role as the cruel policeman Art Gault in the action-thriller First Blood (1982) and as Gabby Johnson, the drunk old codger in Mel Brook's comedy masterpiece Blazing Saddles (1974). With The Losers, Starrett took on a very controversial subject at the time: The Vietnam War.

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A group of ex-veteran bikers from the United States have been brought into Cambodia on a secret mission to rescue a CIA operative that has been captured by the Red Chinese Army. They are The Devil's Advocates, a tough rowdy bunch of freaks headed by Link Thomas (William Smith). The rest of the gang is rounded out by Duke (Adam Roarke), Limpy (Paul Koslo), Dirty Denny (Houston Savage) and Speed (Gene Cornelius). As soon as the gang arrive they are briefed on their secret mission by the main man in charge: Captain Jackson (Bernie Hamilton). The Devil's Advocates are used to doing things their own way and soon they take off into a small town where they begin showing everyone the kind of men they are. They tear through the town on their bikes, causing chaos, drinking and getting it on with the local Cambodian whores. In one scene, Speed is making love to three women at once. Link has plans to create some suped up motorbikes complete with machine guns and grenades. The men make a trade with a funny young Cambodian man, in exchange for some American beer. They have to design the bikes themselves by using special armor and weaponry. There's one hitch, there's no Harleys here, these are YAMAHAS!

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While the others are distracted by the local women and their mission, Duke goes off on his own and stashes his bike in the jungle. We learn that he has a girlfriend from his years as a soldier in the Vietnam War. Duke and the young Cambodian girl Suriya (Lillian Margerejo) see each other and excitedly run into each others arms. We then have a 70s "love song" montage as the two walk together and catch up on old times. This could've come off as totally cheesy but it really seemed natural, honest and emotional. Duke knows he has to get back with the group, so he promises Suriya he'll come back to get her in a few days.

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One night at a dance in town, Limpy meets a young beauty named Kim Sue (Ana Corita). He asks her to dance with him and pretty soon they're in bed together making love. Limpy hears the sound of a baby crying in the room next door and checks to see if its alright. Kim Sue's baby is black, but Limpy doesnt mind. He's the hippy of the group so he thinks it's "groovy", and embraces Kim Sue and her baby. Duke brings Suriya to the groups base camp so they can spend some time together before they go to do the big job. While on the way to drop her off back at her home, the two are shot off the motorbike and wounded badly (a scene which reminded me of the end of Easy Rider). Duke is hurt but he drags Suriya out of the water and sees two Cambodian rebels staring down at them. The rebels open fire again, finishing Duke and Suriya off in a coldblooded fashion.

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The rest of the group find out about Duke but they're ready to rescue the CIA op Chet Davis (Jack Starrett) and they do their best to take out as many Red Army soldiers as they can. This is a high adrenaline motorized explosive battle as the gang blows up anything in sight, but instead of winning, Dirty Denny is killed and Link, Limpy and Speed are captured by the soldiers. They are placed in the same prison compound with Chet Davis. There's no warm welcome for Link and his friends, instead Chet Davis berates them, calls them freaks and lets them know that noone really cares if they're heroes or not. Link already knows Davis and he hates him and what he stands for. There's some really great dialogue in this exchange, its one of my favorite scenes from the film. After the heated argument, Link and the remaining members decide to smoke some weed and get high. They laugh and make lots of noise, but this is just a cover for their real plan. They escape on their bikes but the Red army is right behind them. The sequence cuts from night to day and they are still on the run (this may have been an editing error) but the group are finally cornered. Will this be the end of The Devils Advocates?!

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What I liked a lot about The Losers was the fact it wasnt just some simple Exploitation film, it's a solid commentary on the war which was raging in Vietnam. It also has elements of a love story. There's a nice amount of great humor in the film as well, so what happens is instead of it being another shallow B-film, it feels complete. You can see the big influence Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969) had on this film too through the social commentary, the comraderie between the men as well as the violent slow motion action sequences (featuring tons of bloodspurting gunshot wounds) which are really well done.

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I was really surprised by The Losers. I didnt expect such a well made, well written Exploitation film, but this one definitely is now one of my favorites from the era. It combines the War and Biker genres and it also has a great heart and charm. William Smith (Run Angel Run, C.C. & Company), Adam Roarke (Hells Angels on Wheels, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry) and Paul Koslo (Vanishing Point) in particular are excellent. They've always been favorites of mine in the 1970s Exploitation films. Jack Starrett's direction is superb, he shoots some incredibly exciting action sequences.

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Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.
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