Movie Review: ‘Suicide Squad’ (Second Opinion)
Read Gfunk’s review here!
Plot: In the wake of Superman’s death, the world’s global problems become much more complex. With threats from meta-humans, monsters, and aliens no longer theoretical but real, the government needs new strategies. Enter Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a government official who proposes a bold and dangerous plan: Task Force X. Take the worst of the worst, criminals that other criminals fear, and put them to use for good. When an ancient threat arises that could potentially wipe out the entire human race, it’s up to Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Slipknot (Adam Beach), Katana (Tatsu Yamashiro), and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to save the day.
Review: One of the mistakes I made going into Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was focusing on the horrible reviews it received. I honestly believe that tainted my initial opinion of the movie and after re-watching the Ultimate Cut my suspicions were well founded. Although I was not able to avoid at least some of the initial reactions about Suicide Squad (after all this is the age of the Internet), I was bound and determined to go in with no expectations. And…I…had…a…BALL.
Frenetic, crazy, action-packed, funny, and flawed, Suicide Squad works, warts and all. BvS was knocked for being too grim (rightly so) but you can’t say that about Suicide Squad. Granted this isn’t Rainbow Brite, but it’s certainly lighter and more accessible. Most of the jokes land and the film bursts with color, everything from Deadshot and Harley’s costumes to The Joker’s (Jared Leto) nightclub.
Once again director David Ayer brings an intensity we’ve seen before with films like End of Watch (very good) and Fury (fantastic). Yet this time it’s in a comicbook world and succeeds in spite of itself. It also doesn’t hurt that Suicide Squad contains one of the better soundtracks I’ve heard in years. Tracks like the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” CCR’s ” Fortunate Son,” and of course Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” are completely in tune with the insane antics of this film. Harley Quinn’s introduction to the tune of “You Don’t Own Me” is perfect. And who doesn’t get fired up to Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead”? I only wish that Warner Bros. hadn’t taken some of the creative control out of Ayer’s hands so late in the game. Much was made about the reshoots in the wake of BvS and with good reason. There are times where you see how Ayer’s trying to tell one story and Warner Bros. is clearly trying to placate the audience with another. Whether that included more jokes I’m not sure as they did seem organic. Some of the blame falls squarely on editor John Gilroy though as certain cuts are decidedly slapdash. Again how much this was influenced by the studio remains unknown.
What I absolutely loved about Ayer’s take on Suicide Squad is that he fully embraces that Suicide Squad is a comicbook movie. Katana carries a magic sword that traps human souls? Let’s run with it. Enchantress (Cara Delivingne) is a 6000 year old witch who possesses an archaeologist? Love it. People surviving helicopter crashes? Let’s do three! There’s no pretensions here. Even the introductions to our main characters mimic comicbook panels, replete with back story and colorful graphics. As great as Marvel films are, they’ve striven to have some foundation in reality. That’s not what Suicide Squad goes for and long term I don’t think that’s what the DCEU is going for either. And I’m perfectly fine with that.
Suicide Squad possesses some faults. As I stated the editing is a little choppy. Katana just kind of shows up and really doesn’t get fleshed out as a character. Slipknot appears in the film merely as a plot device. Blink and he’s gone. (Each member has an explosive device in their necks. When Slipknot tries to escape his head explodes.) Killer Croc was also severely underutilized and regulated to the occasional grunt or joke. I thought the Big Bad wasn’t as weak as others have stated, although Enchantress is no General Zod, Two-Face, or Reverse Flash. She was serviceable, just as Delivingne’s acting was. Nothing more.
Although Suicide Squad‘s plot sticks to the basics, the film triumphs from a visual perspective. Roman Vasyanov’s cinematography is tailor-made for this type of film, reminiscent of 90s action vehicles like The Rock and Face/Off. There are set pieces galore, replete with machine guns, slow-motion, martial arts, sword fighting, high-rise rescues, and pyrotechnics. Basically the thirteen-year-old inside of me was doing backflips. Even Enchantress’ minions were awesome despite their heads looking like giant blackberries.
When you have an ensemble cast (after all this is a SQUAD) the chemistry and casting becomes paramount. Thankfully, SS gets it mostly right. This was the first film I didn’t want to kill Jai Courtney in. His Captain Boomerang is perfect. Volatile, funny, often intoxicated, the Aussie plays him to the hilt. He was enjoyable, pink unicorn and all. (If you want to know you’ll have to see the movie.) Hernandez stole every scene he was in. The pyrokinetic former gang leader chooses (at least at the outset) not to use his powers on the mission due to a tragic incident in his past. El Diablo evokes an empathy I was not expecting. Of all the squad members he may be the most sympathetic. Viola Davis also brings a ruthlessness and pragmatism to the role of Amanda Waller that I loved. She’s Rick James cold as ice and willing to do anything to get the job done, even murdering non-cleared I.T. people. There’s more than a little of her character Annalise Keating from How to Get Away With Murder in her Waller, just without the vulnerability. Too bad Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag isn’t as good, as the actor comes off very vanilla here, leaving audiences to wonder how Tom Hardy would have fared in the role.*
As to Jared Leto’s Joker…I have to see more. It was like getting a very good appetizer in anticipation of a main course that never came. He’s in it very little although (aside from him dressing like a pimp) I liked what I saw. Everything we’ve seen so far in the DCEU has been about power. Who controls it and who’s controlled by it. This isn’t the Heath Ledger Joker who was a nihilist bent on causing chaos. No, Leto’s Joker is a true psychopath. He craves power and control and you never know what’s going to set him off. One thing that I didn’t like was that the romantic relationship between him and Harley always came across more one-sided in the comics, with Harley’s feelings going far deeper than The Joker’s. However, here there seems to be an equal reciprocation. Again, I need to see more before I make a judgment call.
However, the real stars of Suicide Squad are Margot Robbie and Will Smith. They flat-out OWN the roles of Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Regarding Robbie–it’s all there. The high-pitched voice, the humor, the devotion to her “Puddin'”, her outlandish outfit–Robbie completely embodies Quinn. Hell, there’s even a shout out to the original Harley Quinn outfit from Batman: The Animated Series in a flashback! Furthermore, although some people say her role was sexist, in my opinion she owned her sexuality and used it as a weapon. Her comment, “I sleep where I want, when I want, with who I want” says it all. The fact that she says this line while in a cage and surrounded by men with oversized machine guns means something. Admittedly her sense of self-worth is somewhat caught up in her obsession with one man, however that’s always been a defining characteristic of her character. I can’t wait to see more of Robbie’s Quinn regardless if she gets a solo movie or not.
Will Smith kills it (pun definitely intended) as Deadshot. Although he’s a cold-blooded assassin for hire, he’s also a Dad. His relationship with his daughter means everything to him. Deadshot wants to provide for her and give her the advantages he didn’t have. The mission means a lot to Deadshot because it’s a chance to prove to his daughter, “that her Daddy isn’t just a piece of shit.” His relationship with Flag is contentious to say the least and Flag is convinced that given an opportunity Deadshot will cut and run. Smith’s Deadshot also has some of the coolest moments in the movie, whether it’s a demonstration of his skills in Belle Reve prison or a truly Audie Murphy-esque moment halfway through the film. It’s ironic that the person audiences will probably connect to the most is a ruthless killer.
No matter the circumstances, Suicide Squad was bound to have its detractors. In point of fact it seems like some critics came out to this movie ala Katana, ready to rip into it and store the souls of the Best Boys in their swords. Don’t listen to their prating. Suicide Squad isn’t the Titanic. While it contains several flaws, none of these take away from how enjoyable the movie was.
Join the squad. Trust me, you’ll have a blast.
P.S. Forgot to mention that Batman (Ben Affleck) does show up in this film and it’s awesome for the two scenes he’s in. Also don’t miss the mid-credits scene between Bruce Wayne and Waller. You won’t be disappointed.
P.P.S. Also The Flash’s (Ezra Miller) cameo is extremely short but cool. You could say he was gone… <puts on CSI: Miami sunglasses> in a flash. <YEEEAAAAHHHHH>
My rating: 8/10
Would I: A) Buy this movie? B) Accept as a gift? C) Accept as a gift and then throw away? D) Burn on sight? Answer: A) Buy
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*Tom Hardy was originally cast to play Rick Flag however scheduling conflicts with The Revenant forced him to drop out.