Both RED (Retired. Extremely Dangerous), its sequel, RED 2, and The Losers play with the idea of government agents or soldiers who have been sold out by their country and now live on the margins of society. From those margins they are drawn back into action in order to clear their names and right wrongs that have been perpetrated against them and others. RED and RED 2 play with that idea with its tongue firmly stuck in its cheek, never taking itself too seriously, while The Losers has more of a gritty edge to it.
Director: Robert Schwentke
Director: Dean Parisot
The original comic, RED, was created in 2003-2004 by writer Warren Ellis and artist Cully Hamner. It ran for three issues, out of the DC/Wildstorm imprint Homage Comics and told the story of retired CIA agent, Paul Moses. The comic’s story concerns the CIA’s attempt to “clean up” Moses and the things he has done by having him killed. It is dark, violent, and gritty and not comedic like the films.
The two films, on the other hand, are action-comedies that assemble an ensemble cast of retired agents who are trying to living out their retirements with varying degrees of success. When members of the team are killed by a corrupt CIA director hiding a political mess, they join forces to clear their names. The second movie continues their exploits when they clean up another mess connected to their past.
Director: Sylvain White
The Losers was a comic series created for DC/Vertigo by Andy Diggle and Jock that ran for 32 issues (2003-2006). (There was a previous comic series with the same name from DC with a similar premise back in the early 1970s, though that was set in World War 2, but that series is independent of the more recent one). The comic series focuses on a group of US soldiers who were abandoned by their handler during a mission that was part of the US’s “War on Terror.” The story concerns their quest to seek revenge and to set the record straight, even though the world thinks they are dead.
The film version of the The Losers (2010) plays the comic book story in a straightforward way. I’d read the comic years before I saw the film and wondered why it was so familiar because I’d forgotten I’d read the comics. It is one of those comics which seemed to be easy to transfer to the cinematic screen with little being lost. The film does the whole ensemble cast thing like RED/RED 2 (with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, and Idris Elba) and there are no real surprises in the outcome of the story.
There was also a film called The Losers/Nam’s Angels produced in the Philippines in 1970 which also played with the idea of a team of outcasts operating behind enemy lines.