Suicide Squad (2016).
Director: David Ayer (Training Day, Street Kings, Fury).
Cast: Will Smith (Men in Black, Seven Pounds, I Am Legend), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), Jared Leto (American Psycho, Dallas Buyers Club), Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, Child 44), Viola Davis (Get On Up, Ender’s Game), Jai Courtney (Terminator Genisys), Jay Hernandez (Hostel), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Concussion), Ike Barinholtz (Neighbours), Scott Eastwood (Fury), Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns), Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad).
Let me preface this review by saying that I fully believe that Suicide Squad was at some point an okay movie. Hell, it might have even been a great movie. But somehow the ‘worst heroes ever’ turned into DC’s worst film ever, with a third act that is reminiscent of 2015’s Fantastic Four. This mediocre movie that gets knocked down by lots of small, niggling annoyances. Poor editing, awful pacing, and a soundtrack that wouldn’t be amiss in a store that sells e-cigarettes and skinny jeans.
But before I lay into the film, I do want to highlight the good characteristics of Suicide Squad. Make no mistake, the cast is its saving grace and they carry it from start to end. Deadshot (Will Smith) shares main character duties with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). These three characters convey the majority of the plot, drama and emotion. Smith slightly deviates from his usual “Will Smith playing Will Smith” character, instead playing “Will Smith playing Deadshot playing Will Smith”. A little more development and focus on his character, and we might have seen him come out of his comfort zone. Margot Robbie nails the Quinn-isms, though her timing does feel a little off every now and then, which admittedly could be a product of the film’s peculiar editing. But as far as selling the character goes, Robbie does a fantastic job and no doubt she’ll be the standout star of the film. Finally Viola Davis outperforms everyone else in the film, she’s on a different level. She absolutely sells Amanda Waller as this badass, amoral woman who gets what she wants. Some logical inconsistencies in the script drag her character down a little, but I’ve no doubt she’s also one of the stars of the show. Unexpectedly however, Jay Hernandez also pits a great performance as Chato Santana, also known as El Diablo. It’s not a big role, but in a film full of filler characters, he becomes one of the more memorable ones.
Now I can’t move on without mentioning the world’s most famous villain. The Joker (Jared Leto) was always going to be a tough hole to fill after Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight (2008). Leto’s take on the Joker certainly fits within this universe that DC has created, using characteristics similar to a gangster, a throwback to early versions of the Joker. But his costume and design feels so forced, and his attitude doesn’t feel genuine, just slightly off-the-rails. However, his screen time in the film is considerably short. There’s not really enough here to make a concrete judgement, and we’ve essentially been given a teaser of what to expect from him. I just can’t get over the fact that he has the word ‘Damaged’ tattooed in cursive on his forehead. The character felt as if he belonged in the Schumacher Batman films.
The inclusion of the Joker hurt the film’s pacing considerably, introducing additional flashbacks that added into Harley’s backstory, but they were spread out all over the place it did more harm than good. The film tries to give you this disturbed Harley and Joker dynamic but it never amounts to anything, nor is there much reason to care.
We do get to delve into a fair share of the squad’s backstories. We see Deadshot doing his assassin thing, Harley turning from doctor to psychotic girlfriend, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and June Moon’s (Cara Delevingne) relationship forming, Katana (Karen Fukuhara) taking down Yakuza in typical comic book trope fashion. Even Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) gets a little recap as to how he ends up with the rest of the squad. It’s all shown alongside a playlist from your anti-social nephew’s iPod, quickly blasting through four or five songs, completely obliterating any sort of cohesive tone and instead going for this sort of montage scene that fails on execution. There were several times where this music drowned out the ability to hear dialogue too. Just baffling.
This squad could have easily worked with fewer people. There were a lot of characters that weren’t needed, or really had no business being there. I love the fact that Captain Boomerang literally uses Boomerangs to fight, but in the entire movie, I think he uses them twice. What on Earth is he going to do against a world-ending threat? Well, nothing! The same for Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Rick Flag, Harley Quinn and a couple more characters. The problem is that they think they’re on some rescue mission which all of a sudden changes to a “kill the evil people” mission. Amanda Waller sets this squad up with the intention of needing them to fight other metahumans, but only two of the squad themselves are metahumans themselves. She could have sent in El Diablo, Deadshot and a bunch of highly trained soldiers, because the film doesn’t actually need anyone else. It’s these types of logical inconsistencies that really hurt the film in the long run, because they continually pop-up throughout. Poking holes in the logic of these films isn’t hard, but Suicide Squad just felt insulting at times. The narrative comes across as if it was made up while they were still filming, letting the characters lead and having everything else come second.
The film’s antagonist, the Enchantress, has possessed the body of June Moon, and sets up the film for its third-act CGI final battle. A villain with very little motivation and some of the strangest body movements I’ve ever seen. While in her first ‘form’, Enchantress looks incredibly creepy and Delevingne sells it, but later becomes unintentionally and hilariously bad. She and her army are seen taking out goons and helicopters with ease, but can’t seem to handle some psycho-maniacs with guns, a sword and a bat? In general, the action scenes were filmed with so many quick cuts and odd angles, it was hard to follow. Even as a mindless Summer blockbuster this was hard to enjoy.
My main issue with Suicide Squad is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It starts a little dramatic, and those beats appear throughout, but it’s also trying to pose as a comedy, but the final product is nothing close to that. Neither is it an action film. Instead, we get lingering shots of Margot Robbie’s ass, followed by flashbacks, and then exposition in the form of vocal diarrhea. Ayer is a director who does his best with no restrictions, and this teen friendly version of Suicide Squad contradicts his style. He’s not a comedy or drama director, just look at his filmography. Sabotage, Fury, Street Kings! At one point Captain Boomerang gets the chance to run away, with no consequences, but then comes back a few minutes later. Why? Is that a gag on the nature of boomerangs? Is he a good guy, despite the film audibly telling you “We’re bad guys” every 15 minutes? That’s how safe they play the film.
It’s a forgettable pseudo-heist film with none of the charm of an ensemble you’d expect from say Ocean’s Eleven or The Dirty Dozen. Instead we have three or four characters that are fun to watch onscreen and another handful that the audience couldn’t care less about. Smith, Davis and Robbie are all fun to watch onscreen, but there’s not much else here to keep you engaged. Watch Escape From New York instead. I preferred Batman V Superman more than this, at least Zack Snyder created a couple memorable moments.
At least the costumes looked great.
Feature image courtesy of Warner Bros.