In a project that sounds alternately fascinating and disappointing, and certainly is proof that we’ve looped around a bit from the pro-soldier anti-war flicks of the first decade of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tom Hardy is going to play a Vietnam veteran who, disillusioned by anti-war sentiment on his return home, reacts by joining a violent motorcycle gang. I find this thing sort of irritating because it feeds the persistent, and false, narrative that opposing sending young men into situations where they can be killed, maimed, and traumatized somehow means not being supportive of those men and their interests. But it’s also kind of too bad because one of my favorite, deeply weird movies about Vietnam deploys bikers to precisely the opposite effect.
I discovered The Losers a couple of years ago while writing a piece comparing Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan movies. The plot of the movie is essentially as follows: a group of violent bikers get dropped into Vietnam to do a covert mission the military apparently can’t, in its official capacity, carry out. They soup up their bikes with ridiculous killing machinery, wreck dive bars in Saigon, plot to get their Vietnamese girlfriends home, and behave with honor after serving time for rape. Eventually, they’re sold out and killed by the C.I.A. after they succeed in rescuing a captured officer in Cambodia—it turns out, they were meant to fail, and their failure was supposed to be a pretext for expanding the war into yet another country.
The movie’s a total mess, but it’s entirely comfortable with the idea that you can separate out the government’s interests from the interests of the men in its service. It’s unfortunate that it takes a B movie to embrace what should be an obvious principal, and one that, if it was championed by slicker, more high-profile movies wouldn’t be so easy to marginalize.