You know, I’ve never been big on bad movie nights. I can appreciate a hilariously-awful movie, sure. I paid good money to attend one of Tommy Wiseau’s midnight screening of the Room a few months back. However, the programming for these kind of get-togethers too often veers from humorously bad to just plain bad, and I’m not that much of a glutton for punishment. That said, I’ve got a movie here that I was introduced to through a bad movie night; a genuine exploitation flick that would’ve played in one of those oh-so-romanticized grindhouse theaters in the 70s. It isn’t weird in the way these other weirdies have been so much as it’s just utterly ridiculous, without any outward sense of self-awareness about it.
At least, I don’t sense any self-awareness. Can you sense any in this trailer?
Not to be confused with the heist movie based on the Vertigo comic or the 80s rip-off with a title only a letter off from this movie’s alternate name, the Losers (or Nam’s Angels, as it’s sometimes called) is the kind of cult shocker that’s usually ladled into the trash cultural stew of a White Zombie album or a Tarantino film. A clip of it even showed up on the TV in that scene in Pulp Fiction where Bruce Willis’ lover is busy “watching a motorcycle movie.” I’m sure QT was having himself an in-jokey chuckle when he wrote that line in, because this motorcycle movie’s about the Hell’s Angels (OK, the “Devil’s Advocates”) coming over to Vietnam to fight the Viet Cong… on bikes with sub-machineguns mounted on their handlebars.
Supposedly, the plot of the Losers was inspired by the time the Hell’s Angel’s “Maximum Leader” personally telegrammed Lyndon Johnson an offer to volunteer his clubs’ heavies for guerilla warfare in Vietnam. Whoever’s imagination was captured by that incident was also looking at the Dirty Dozen and the Wild Bunch, because the tagline for the Losers succinctly describes it as “the Dirty Bunch on Wheels.” Only the high concept's never really that clear or neat because this is a real exploitation movie, not a pastiche. Ergo there are a number of key scenes are handled awkwardly and sub-plots are left dangling - - and none of it happens in a knowing, tongue-in-cheek way.
Anyway, you’ve got the usual skeleton of morally-gray roughnecks brought together by the man for a suicide mission. A couple of the bikers might be veterans with prior involvement with intelligence operations, but I’m still not quite sure how it shakes out. That particular bit of exposition is confusingly, and clumsily, presented late into the run time. One guy’s got an in-country girlfriend and their sappy reunion seems to entirely consist of them telling each other “it’s been so long.” That part makes such a tonal switchback turn that the host of this bad movie fast-forwarded through all 10 minutes of it, and nothing was really lost to us.
Oh, and another one of the Devils Advocates might be a neo-Nazi--or maybe just a Buddhist with a cavalier hatred of the Vietnamese. I can’t recall if the swastika on his bandanna ran clockwise or counter-clockwise, but he does find such glee when he turns his Harley into a sped-up half-track with a rocket launchers and .50 cal MG’s.
Seemingly in defiance of Godwin’s Law, bringing up the Nazis might actually be appropriate, because I see this war-time romp’s on a tamer end of the curve of bad taste that includes something like Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS at its steepest extremity. Time may have softened the tackiness a little, but this remains a ludicrous farce that was made about a war that was still happening at the time. That it makes some bumbling, blundering attempts at "message" moments really seasons it the unmistakable bad taste of vintage junk. Of course, if you're the kind of cinephile who loves him some vintage junk on a bad movie night with his pals, then the Losers is a flick to properly fit your agenda.
Check out some previous "Weirdies" below...
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Videodrome
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Holy Mountain
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Bubba Ho-Tep
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Santa Claus
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Moonwalker
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Meet the Feebles
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Being John Malkovich
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Death Race 2000
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: A Scanner Darkly
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Buckaroo Banzai
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Twelve Monkeys
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Dark City
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Yellow Submarine
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Shadow of the Vampire
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Return to Oz
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Koyaanisqatsi
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Erik the Viking
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Altered States
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Repo Man
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Peanut Butter Solution
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Toxic Avenger
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Begotten
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Fantastic Planet
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Plague Dogs