UK Release Date: 5th August 2016
Runtime: 123 minutes
Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Starring: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood
Synopsis: A group of villains are forced to take on a supernatural threat whilst under the control of a government operative.
The DC Extended Universe has had more false starts than a sprinter with a nervous twitch. Man of Steel was supposed to be the spark that ignited a Marvel-rivalling franchise and, when that didn’t work, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was expected to pick up the slack. That became one of the worst reviewed superhero movies of all time, leaving their next movie with a hell of a mountain to climb. That was the challenge facing hyper-realist director David Ayer when he took on the job at the helm of Suicide Squad, featuring an array of villains forced to turn heroes at the behest of an icy government official. The resulting film is a right royal mess, but it has a certain entertainment value to it.
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is concerned about the potential threat to humanity posed by “meta-humans”, such as Batman and Superman. With the help of soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and his girlfriend June Moone (Cara Delevingne), who is occasionally possessed by ancient being The Enchantress, she seeks to assemble a team of super-powered goons. She enlists a group, including sharpshooter Deadshot (Will Smith) and fireball-conjuring El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). The wildcard of the bunch, though, is the unhinged Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), whose incarceration brings her boyfriend The Joker (Jared Leto) out of hiding.
Suicide Squad is a bizarre mish-mash of a movie, with studio interference clearly battling with Ayer’s vision throughout. The finished product – and it’s a product in every sense of the word – bears little resemblance to the grit that has become Ayer’s trademark in films like his tank drama Fury and found footage cop thriller End of Watch. It’s a combination of amphetamine-fuelled pep and DC’s signature blend of moody grey characters moving around moody grey landscapes. It hurries through character introductions in a nonsensical and hyperactive opening ten minutes and introduces all of the characters again in a needless exposition scene later on, in one of the film’s many editing faux pas.
There is, however, more to enjoy here than in your average DC superhero effort. Despite the ham-fisted, clumsy execution, there’s something inherently novel about the Suicide Squad as an idea and the film benefits from the fact that DC has a far better gallery of villains than it does heroes. There’s a slapdash quality to the film that suits the anarchy so enjoyed by its central characters, but also proves damning when the third act veers into the standard bloodless violence, with a glowing ring looming in the sky, that has become a staple of the superhero movie in recent years. It’s this jarring opposition of tone that is a clear example of the discrepancy between Ayer’s vision and the studio’s for Suicide Squad.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the somewhat troubling portrayal of Harley Quinn. Margot Robbie brings real zeal to her performance, chewing up and spitting up Ayer’s one-liners with gleeful relish. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to the character other than her quips, a pair of hot pants and the fact she is completely, 100% in love with the Joker. Leto’s take on DC’s Clown Prince could have been excised without any detriment to the plot. Side character status is not the proper venue for Leto’s all-out method performance and he feels teleported in from a completely different film. Robbie’s Quinn could be dynamite in the right hands, but she needs better material than this.
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Some of the other cast members fare better, including Will Smith, who gives Deadshot enough movie star charisma to ensure that he is the standout character by some distance. Viola Davis, too, brings an icy coolness to Amanda Waller that ensures she feels more like a villain than any of the myriad baddies at the heart of the film. Other performers, however, feel a bit like set dressing and Cara Delevingne, in particular, spends most of the movie silently gyrating in a funny costume.
Despite its flaws and despite its trouble with constructing anything approaching a coherent narrative, Suicide Squad works better than it could have done. Robbie and Smith are a compelling double act and there’s a glimmer of mob boss cool to Leto. The action is uninspired, but the scenes of the Squad bonding and bickering are the best back-and-forth that a DC script has showcased to date. It’s a film about the worst of the worst and is far from the best of the best. It’s more like the middlingest of the middling.
Pop or Poop?
Suicide Squad is a nonsensical movie that has clearly been put together in the midst of a blazing row rather than a smooth creative environment. There are glimmers of a fun, edgy superhero smackdown trying to get out, but they, and the style of David Ayer, are buried under hopelessly generic genre clichés and needless universe building cameos.
This could have been a great movie with a bit of freedom, and it’s certainly good fun in comparison to other DC movies. It’s not quite the finished product yet, but with some great characters and an intriguing world, it’s definitely halfway there.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.