Suicide Squad (2016)
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach
When Suicide Squad was first announced in 2014 with director David Ayer at the helm I was very curious. Ayer’s most recent film at the time was WWII era Fury which was fairly well received and some people were saying that Suicide Squad could be DC’s answer to Marvel’s rag-tag team of misfits Guardians of the Galaxy.
As you may have heard, Suicide Squad’s tagline is Worst. Heroes. Ever. They are a bunch of crazy, lethal convicts on a covert prison release program. Rounding out the team is hitman-for-hire Deadshot (Will Smith), Joker’s psychopathic girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), pyrokinetic ex-ganster Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Aussie super thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), rope master Slipknot (Adam Beach) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).
The catch is that the Suicide Squad are sent on insanely dangerous missions. If they try to escape or disobey, their commander Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) or ruthless, high-ranking official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) will detonate the bomb implanted inside their head.
The casting and characterizations of the main characters are well done. Will Smith brings a strong likability and charisma factor. He’s a good fit for Deadshot who’s motivation is clear and consistent through-out the film. Margot Robbie is a scene stealer! Just about every funny line is perfectly delivered and she’s a big reason Suicide Squad has a funnier tone compared to other DC Extended Universe movies so far. Rarely did I think “oh that’s Margot Robbie in make up acting“. She definitely loses herself in the role. Yes, Harley Quinn is zany but in lesser hands she easily could have been a soulless caricature ie. we are laughing with her, not at her. Viola Davis is perfectly cast as the cold and calculating Waller. These are the core characters in my mind that a better sequel could be built around.
Colonel Rick Flag is the role that Tom Hardy was at one time going to play. I can see why this role wouldn’t be interesting enough for Hardy. The character’s function is to be the by-the-books military guy to keep the Suicide Squad in line and for the rebellious team members to play off of. Strangely I sort of liked the character and actor. Joel Kinnaman isn’t a household name in the U.S. so I liked how casting him made me wonder if Rick Flag might get killed off or not. It is called the Suicide Squad after all.
I’m putting Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker in the good column. I mean, I would love to see Jared Leto’s Joker return in a central villain role. More on him later. In my theater, the audience was laughing at every silly thing Captain Boomerang was doing and I have to say Jai Courtney performed well with the little material that he got.
The Not So Good
Where do I begin? I’m just going to limit this to several big things. Aside from a couple of incredible shooting scenes featuring Deadshot, which weren’t even that well directed, the action is lackluster. There’s no amazing, memorable battles or fight sequences. The action scenes are stiff and on a smallish scale for a big budget blockbuster. The villain’s foot soldiers give the Suicide Squad something to shoot at but man, are they unimaginative and boring.
This brings us to the villain. The initial set up of the villain had me intrigued and is promising but only for the first couple of scenes. The villain might be better suited for Justice League Dark. Most of the Suicide Squad are physical fighters and should go up against something they can beat the snot out of. When it comes to the supernatural or magic stuff it’s out of their wheelhouse. This made for an awkward final battle where you just have to go with the flow and not think too much about the logistics of it all. How does a film with supposedly many villains, not have a good super villain?
After all the hype about the cameos, Suicide Squad under delivered in that area. From a story and directing stand point, it would have been a stronger decision to introduce these popular DC characters into the movie in a bold and iconic way. It should leave the audience talking about the cameos after the movie and anticipating to see more of them in the future like Spider-man’s cameo in Captain America: Civil War.
What about the ugly you say? Some of the critical reviews, at least based from their headlines since I didn’t read them, are hyperbolic. It’s not the total train wreck some make it out to be. In fact, you could argue that Suicide Squad’s formulaic story could use some controlled chaos to keep viewers in suspense.
Having said that, some of the editing particularly in the first act needs to flow better for the audience to follow along. For example, a character is in one place and in the very next scene appears in another location. They later explain in an awkward exposition flashback that days had passed between those scenes.
The other messy part is the first act has heavy lifting to do before the team can form. The Avengers had the benefit of introducing the team members beforehand and assembling them had a good, natural flow. The Suicide Squad are introduced through flashback vignettes as narrated by Waller. On one-hand it shows Waller is a puppet master pulling the strings. However, because it’s shown in the past tense, it lacked immediacy and didn’t engage me as much as I would have liked. It’s like an info dump when I’m trying really hard to like these characters.
In the end, a number of the supporting characters didn’t get enough to do, serve a purpose or show why they are awesome. Apparently, some fans like Diablo a lot and his sympathetic backstory. He never won me over.
Reportedly there are more Joker scenes that didn’t make the theatrical cut. I can only react to what I saw. As good as Leto’s screen presence is, The Joker didn’t have a big iconic moment. I don’t mind that Leto’s version doesn’t have a classic Joker feel. Perhaps it’s because he didn’t get that much screen time or the editing wasn’t favorable, but there are moments the Joker is a little too on the nose. Maybe that’s what they were going for, I mean he has the word “damaged” tattooed on his forehead right?
If you’re a big comic book movie fan there’s no harm in checking out Suicide Squad while it’s out in theaters. It’s all over the place in just about every aspect of the movie. I wouldn’t call it terrible though. To sum it up, there are good, not so good and messy things about Suicide Squad. If you’re on the fence, you can safely wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray. You won’t be missing all that much and by then the inevitable, cash-grabbing “Ultimate Edition” will be available.