The Messy Guns: From The Files Of ‘Suicide Squad’ (Movie Review)

suicide squad thumbThere’s a scene at the end of the second act of Suicide Squad where Task Force X, a group of supervillains brought together to fight fire with fire (sometimes literally), hang out in a bar. The idea is to have the group relate to each other and come to the conclusion that the world may actually need them to do some good or die trying. This would be an effective scene were the movie not preceded by so much visual chaos and a lack of strong choices when learning about these characters. It is truly a shame, as Suicide Squad was lined up to be a breakout in a fairly bland summer, only to deliver another disappointing attempt to flesh out a comic universe.


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A few redeeming elements, as mishandled as they are, do shine in this latest entry to the DC Extended Universe. However, writer/director David Ayer got lazy or was forced to watch his work be compromised by an interfering studio. Sadly, the latter seems to be the case, given word surrounding the tinkering done thanks to reception based on Suicide Squad’s initial trailer. Of course, it is not a matter of what went on behind the scenes. Discussing a film’s quality comes down to what was witnessed in the final product.

In short – this movie is a mess, despite a promising premise. The film takes several second-string comic book villains and places them on a team under the watch of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Waller is a tough-as-nails government official, who is more intimidating that Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury and scarier than anything Jared Leto’s Joker has to offer. Few things standout as memorable in a movie composed of neon-lit montages and repetitive action scenes set to obvious and loud soundtrack choices, but Davis is easily one of them.

As far as the supervillain team goes, you have Will Smith as Deadshot, an assassin who never misses. Margot Robbie plays Harley Quinn, the Bonnie to Joker’s deranged, psychopathic Clyde, and there is a delicious amount of glee found in her present day work (the flashbacks are a wash). Jai Courtney is allowed to retain his Australian accent for the role of Captain Boomerang, a loud mouth bank robber who…uses boomerangs. Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje gets the award for “actor who will surely complain about his makeup in a future memoir” by playing Killer Croc, a man with reptilian features. Lastly, Jay Hernandez plays El Diablo, a former gangbanger with the power to summon flames. Leading this band of misfits is Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag, an all-American soldier with a Southern accent that comes and goes.

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The film’s flimsy story relies on its biggest weakness. Poor Cara Delevigne plays archaeologist June Moone, who has been possessed by an evil force that turns her into Enchantress, a powerful sorceress. Waller had initially thought she could control Enchantress, making her a part of this suicide squad, but alas, things did not work out that way. It then becomes a job for Flag, the supervillains and an indeterminate number of Navy SEALs to take down Enchantress and her army of disposable mutated henchmen. This actually makes Suicide Squad DC’s first zombie movie, except more in the vein of the derivative Resident Evil films.

It was irritating to think about how little care was given to the film’s plot. Rather than assembling this team for a specific purpose, we watch these people be brought up at random. The motivation is especially weak, as the reward is apparently ten years off their prison sentence. Given how the boomerang-using bank robber is apparently facing a triple life sentence, what kind of time are the murderers and cannibals facing where ten years will make a difference?

Anyway, because Waller couldn’t keep a lock on one of her own team members, massive destruction happens and the team must go on a vague rescue mission with no shocking reveal and eventually take out one of those shining blue lights in the sky that will cause world destruction, I assume. Why? Something about Enchantress and her brother (a CG creature that you’ll never remember) needing to be worshiped again.

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One could argue that this is just a silly comic book plot in an effort to get to the point. That would be fine if the point was worthwhile. Instead, Suicide Squad seems hell-bent on over-explaining everything. Thankfully Davis is a pro at delivering mountains of exposition, but this film is against having any sort of proper structure. For example, we are introduced to Smith’s Deadshot not once, not twice, but three different times. Only the second is truly worthwhile and this makes it a good time to talk about one of the film’s other highlights.

This may be the worst Will Smith film to feature a great Will Smith performance and that comes from putting a movie star into a film like this. When character actors pop up in these flicks, that’s fine, but take a scene like one where Smith’s Deadshot has an encounter with Ben Affleck’s Batman and you have the kind of gold you want to see when comic book characters meet on film for the first time. It’s these kinds of moments that clearly hint at another movie not beholden to expectations that Suicide Squad needs to be a lot more like Guardians of the Galaxy in order to work. While the movie has many issues, Smith does what he can to make Deadshot a memorable presence, as he’s the character we are clearly supposed to be most invested in.

Another character who works well is a real surprise. Hernandez’s El Diablo has a compelling redemption story at play, which manages to sneak through the cracks of this film’s pseudo-cool sheen. Given Ayer’s penchant for making gritty LA films about cops and gang members, it shouldn’t be surprising to see so much effort being put into making El Diablo one of the more intriguing characters. This plays well for Hernandez, who works with the right beats and has scenes that truly resonate.

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Save for Robbie, you can take or leave the rest of the cast. As Harley Quinn, Robbie has a presence much like Smith in the way you are constantly entertained by her presence. Her level of crazy plays to the film’s advantage; despite lacking more to really make her cinematic take on the popular comic book character the breakout role many hope for. The reason comes down to a sore spot in the film, which is Leto’s Joker.

After hearing all the stories about Leto’s ‘artistic’ choices in how he wanted to play the role, the only real question I have is: why? The Joker has no real bearing on this story and never interacts with the rest of the cast, except Harley Quinn. Why is Leto sending dead animals to the stars he shares no screen time with? It’s maddening to consider, especially given how irritating the performance is. His sole purpose is to appear in a few flashbacks and have a desire to rescue his girlfriend, hissing and laughing all the way through. There is nothing here that adds new, interesting layers to the classic comic book villain, despite any enthusiasm I had in wanting to see what would be brought to the table this time around.

All of this is a true shame, as a talented ensemble cast in a film that should have a go-for-broke attitude to be a ludicrous action-fest feels compromised at nearly every step. Thinking back to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I can at least acknowledge the ambition in what it tried to do. Suicide Squad feels like a retread of ideas we’ve seen plenty of times. This is a film sorely mistreated when it came time to editing together something that passed as watchable. It makes me continue to question the choices being made by a major studio playing catch up when it comes to superhero franchises. I also sit in awe at watching some key actors clearly making the most in a film that lives up to its tagline – worst heroes ever.

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