Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Losers (Nam's Angels)

The Losers (rereleased as Nam's Angels)
D: Jack Starrett

Trivia: The movie Bruce Willis is watching in "Pulp Fiction"

Members of a motorcycle club go to Vietnam to prerform a covert mission in Cambodia, the rescue of a CIA agent

In 1965, Sonny Barger, a supporter of the war and himself a veteran, sent a letter to President Johnson, volunteering a group of Angels to be deployed. While Johnson declined, at least someone had the good sense to turn the idea into a dumb movie.
One would expect a movie with this premise, starring the always reliable William Smith (and directed by Starrett), would be a can't miss, but somehow they manage. Watch the trailer and you'll see about half of the entire movie's action. This is especially disappointing, because as the film opens the Devil's Advocates (nice colors, by the way) are already in 'Nam, and you're thinking, "Holy shit, this one moves fast." But how wrong you are.
Though Link (Smith) is the lead character and the leader of the DA's, his is the only backstory left hazy rather than fully told to bore the shit out of us. Dirty Denny (Houston Savage; the character name was probably an in-joke) was a minor crime boss/pimp when he served there and looks to reclaim what was his; Duke (Adam Rourke) falls in love with a local with a baby fathered by a black soldier; Limpy (Paul Koslo) is there to retrieve a girl he was in love with when he served. Most of them are incredibly boring, and what's revealed in one would mean the guy would have to have been in Vietnam for at least three years.
The central plot that they keep pulling away from: A CIA agent (played by Alan Caillou, the screenwriter), with whom Link has an unpleasant past, is being held prisoner by the Chinese(?) in Cambodia. US troops can't go in--but the bikers can. Their bikes will be armored and armed, and they're to find him and bust him out. Nonsensical, ok, but it should have been enough.
Though it takes forever getting there, the climax is actually pretty worth the ride. Some genuine action, and a very good ending. I won't give it away, but the script had an opposite ending that would have ruined it.
The whole culture part of it is a little lazy, with everything just feeling sort of generically Oriental. It was shot in the Phillippines, with locals playing the Vietnamese.
The music is by Stu Phillips, and is mostly pretty solid. A local band mimes to an Iron Butterfly-ish tune that's not bad at all.
Most of the bikers look pretty good (I mentioned the great colors)--with the major exception being Speed (Eugene Cornelius)'s green headband with magic marker swastika. Some of the older soldiers, who would have joined shortly after WWII, would not have tolerated it. And it looks like it was made by a child. I'd kill for the tie-die shirt Link is seen wearing.
It sounds like I just shit all over this, but it's actually pretty watchable. I picked up the DVD, which comes from a really nice print (and even includes commentary tracks and the like), so now I can toss my taped from tv copy. It's one of those you can watch any time, from any point, and gets a solid 3.

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