John Bramley
Zoe Saldana, left, Chris Evans, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Columbus Short, Idris Elba and Oscar Jaenada in "Losers."

THE LOSERS — ★★1/2 — Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zo?Saldana, Chris Evans; rated PG-13 (violence, vulgarity, profanity, drugs, sex, brief gore, slurs); in general release

"The Losers" has a couple of things going for it than some of its fellow would-be blockbuster movies of late haven't had.

For one, there's just enough over-the-top action in this revenge-thriller. In fact, the action is enough to right this vehicle even when the plotting gets a little sketchy or convoluted.

It's also considerably more fun than those other films — despite some meanness and nastiness, particularly toward women.

(It's definitely tamer in that regard than, say, "Kick-A--," which appears to fetishize women, in particularly underage ones.)

Based on the Vertigo/DC Comics series, "The Losers" follows the title characters, a handful of former mercenaries and soldiers who have been framed for the killing of dozens of Bolivian children and have been left for dead by the U.S. government.

The leader is Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who's trying to find a way to get back to the United States and clear their names — if not find a way to exact their vengeance on the man responsible for their predicament, the mysterious Max (Jason Patric).

But luckily they've found a nearly as mysterious benefactor. She's Aisha (Zoe Saldana), who has her own reasons for wanting them to find Max.

This kind of material is a welcome change of pace for filmmaker Sylvain White, who replaced Peter Berg as director. (Berg's name is still on the credits as co-screenwriter, though they're clearly working from James Vanderbilt's version of the story.)

This is nothing like White's idiotic 2007 hit "Stomp the Yard," and it shows he can direct a credible action sequence.

It helps that he has a winning cast, led by Morgan and Saldana, as well as Chris Evans and Columbus Short, who serve as welcome comic relief.

As for Patric, he's got equally good and bad moments as the villain of the piece. When he's wisecracking, he's less effective.

"The Losers" is rated PG-13 for some strong and disturbing violent content and imagery (gunplay and shootings, knife play, stabbings and slashings, fisticuffs and brawling, fiery vehicular and explosive mayhem, as well as violence against women and child-in-peril elements), suggestive references and language (slang and other sexually based crudities), other off-color references, scattered strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), drug content and references (narcotics, pain relievers and a hookah), simulated sex and other sexual contact, brief bloody imagery, and derogatory language and slurs (some based on stature). Running time: 98 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com