(CNN) -- If you've been to the movies recently, you've probably been pummeled with trailers for interchangeable all-star action movies: "The Expendables," "The A-Team" and "The Losers." Mercenaries are in this year, and khaki is the new black.
"The Losers" is first out of the blocks, and it's a cheerfully vulgar shoot-'em-up that doesn't have a serious bone in its pumped-up body.
Based on Andy Diggle's Vertigo comic book (itself loosely inspired by the old DC comic), the movie doesn't really flow; it just spurts out in quick, oily jets. It's actually less like a comic book and more like a 90-minute trailer: all the best bits stuck end to end and the filler condensed into a pithy line or (better yet) a clubby music cue. (The Kills' "U R A Fever" comes up twice -- once for a fight scene and then again for a sex scene -- but there's no doubt the fight is the turn-on, and it lasts much longer, too.)
If you've seen the trailer, you'll feel you're halfway there, and if you caught co-writer Peter Berg in "Smokin' Aces" a couple of years back, you'll know what else is in store.
The Losers are some kind of CIA black ops squad, but only for a nanosecond. There are five of them, each with his own wardrobe fetish and each with a prescribed skill set: Clay is the leader (Jeffrey Dean Morgan from "Watchmen"), and he looks good with one shirt-tail hanging out. Jensen (Chris Evans) is tech support and comic relief in a series of nasty T-shirts. Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) is a sniper and never separated from his cowboy hat. Pooch (Columbus Short) is the driver and family man. Roque (Idris Elba, aka Stringer Bell from "The Wire") is second-in-command, a knife expert with a scar down his cheek.
They're a bit lightweight in star power -- Evans is the biggest draw and the most fun -- and they're not so badass that they're willing to take out a Bolivian crime boss when they realize he's surrounded himself with children.
In rescuing the kids, the Losers seal their own death warrant with their controller, Max, a super-patriot whose precise role in U.S. intelligence is shrouded in secrecy but who has been written as a cross between Dick Cheney and Dr. No (though Jason Patric, who plays him, resembles a psychotically soft-spoken Warren Beatty).
Left for dead in the jungle, the team is rescued, sort of, by a high-kicking beanpole with an open credit line. This is Aisha (Zoe Saldana), and she hires the Losers to bring down Max.
"How do I know I can trust you?" Clay wants to know.
"Because if I was lying, I wouldn't have used the words 'suicide mission,' " she very reasonably points out.
Locked into the faddish slam-cut video game look and filtered (perhaps in deference to a string of Central American locations) in malarial shades of green and yellow, "The Losers" wants to seem cutting edge, though it clings to a quaint Saturday morning serial black-and-white morality. Max isn't just down on kids, he plans to get his paws on "next-generation" weapons, kick-start a war or two, destabilize the developing world and put the U.S. back on top. Laughable!
Directed by Sylvain White ("Stomp the Yard"), the movie musters a modicum of snap, crackle and pop, but the whole shooting match is delivered in such an assiduously shorthand style that when the smoke clears, it's hard not to feel a teensy bit short-changed.