Movie Review: ‘Suicide Squad’
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Cara Delevinge, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Jared Leto
Plot: A shady government agent assembles ‘Task Force X’, a mismatched crew of psychotic and psychopathic criminals who can be sent on covert operations to tackle other metahuman problems. When an inter-dimensional being starts attacking a major city the squad get sent in to perform a rescue of an important figure.
Review: Poor DC, they really are struggling to make this film franchise work. The first crack, Green Lantern, fell flat and the second attempt has been divisive at best. When playing catch up with Marvel’s seemingly unstoppable MCU franchise they needed a hit. Marketing is putting their chips on Suicide Squad, a band of colourful misfits who could replicate the success of Guardian’s of the Galaxy. With some big name characters and A-List actors on the slate things were looking good.
And there is some good. I’m a huge Harley Quinn fan, her being my favourite villain in my favourite comic series, and seeing her turn up in a live action movie was a highly anticipated. Margot Robbie sounded like a good casting choice and apart from an odd design of costume it was a promising selling point. Fortunately this character delivered. Harley Quinn is kooky, insane, tough as nails and with a soft centre. They’ve played it fast a lose with the origin – the electroshock scene was an odd choice – but the character motivation stays true to the source material. It was a good take on the character and was plenty of fun.
Deadshot, played by Will Smith, is the other lead character and he does pretty well. There’s some script problems that we’ll get to a bit later, but he continues to be a charismatic lead playing a conflicted criminal. Most of the rest of the squad do pretty good with the limited time they get to develop their individual characters, but many of them don’t get fleshed out enough. Katana, Slipknot and Killer Croc might as well have been cut out for all they contributed to the plot, with the latter having some distractingly bad effects work. He prosthetic mask looks about three inches thick and doesn’t give him much to work with. Viola Davis was an obvious pick for Waller, but the character was not scripted especially well in this incarnation. Captain Boomerang is the most fun aside from Harley, getting some of the biggest laughs from the crowd.
Much of the marketing focused on Jared Leto taking on the ever popular role of the Joker, which lead us to believe he was going to be a major player. Perhaps even the big villain. He’s barely a subplot, with most of his scenes being Harley related flashbacks. Most of his scenes were in the trailer. This is going to be subjective, but this version of the Joker is downright bad. With all the different versions of the Joker we’ve seen over the decades we’re open to a new direction for a new franchise, but this doesn’t quite feel like the Joker. The character is often driven by his demented sense of humour, even when he was the only one you found the joke funny, but this Joker doesn’t have that. He’s just a generic gangster character with make-up and lots of tattoos. It’s a shame he didn’t work out.
The biggest flaw with Suicide Squad is the script. You can see the cracks caused by the reshoots, the marketing and studio notes and the need to fit it into the upcoming Justice League movie. Perhaps there were scenes of character development cut out, because there’s an expectation that we’re invested in small, seemingly pointless details. We get a scene where they put emphasise on Deadshot being reluctant to put on his mask because of what it represents, but then it’s gone a few moments later and never seen again. We also get a lot of fake-outs that are resolved within moments. Captain Boomerang walks out on the squad but returns at the beginning of the next scene without a word, having no impact on the story or the characters, and this kind of thing happens several times. Two major characters have fake out deaths, and another character leaves the team to return within minutes. Much of it feels like band-aid fixes to bigger story problems. There’s also no explanation as to why Batman and Flash and the other Justice League heroes don’t help take out the villain even though they’ve held a city hostage for three days. We know they’re out there, because there are a number of references to them throughout the film.
Suicide Squad has a lot of style, especially compared to the bleak and serious Batman v Superman. It begins with a neon colour scheme, some creative editing and creative use of text in introducing the characters. Montages featuring the squad members being dragged out of their cells by small legions of the guards sets a fun tone and shows how dangerous the characters are. These creative flairs get fewer and further between until halfway through the movie when they stop entirely, so gets a tad dull during the later exposition. The soundtrack is pretty heavy handed, jamming in as many crowd pleasing classic rock songs as they could. It makes for a decent playlist but a bit of restraint would have gone a long way.
Suicide Squad has some fun aspects to it, but in a market packed with big budget superhero movies it doesn’t do enough to stand out. It’s got style and good actors, but the problems exist on a script level. The ensemble cast don’t get enough individual time to get fleshed out, or enough time to build a good dynamic.
As a Harley Quinn fan, it gets an extra point from me for delivering that character.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN