The Stale Ayer of DC
Suicide Squad is the third superhero film in the DC Cinematic Universe (DCU), written and directed David Ayer (Known for Fury, Training Day etc). It follows a government agency led by frightfully authoritative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis); deciding to recruit imprisoned super villains for high-risk, off the books, suicide black-ops missions in exchange for time off their sentences and the opportunity to do some good. Task Force X, AKA: The Suicide Squad is born. Following an incredibly rocky start to DC’s new film franchise empire with Batman vs Superman, there has been a massive wave of hype and hope for Suicide Squad’s potential for humour and action to explode on the screen. Its well-and-lesser-known complex characters in a crime action comedy-drama setting paved the way for a darker version of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Coming out of its 123 minute run with a few days for digestion, it can certainly be said that Suicide Squad is better than Batman vs Superman though that isn’t really saying a lot. At all.
Ooo, Best-est Fwends!
To start off on a cheery note, the character spotlight is mostly taken up by Will Smith and Margot Robbie with their characters Deadshot/Floyd Lawton and Harley Quinn/Harleen Quinzel and that’s arguably the best aspect of this film. Will Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot is basically as if Will Smith woke up one day, started pulling off the Uncle Phil look from Fresh Prince (of Bel Air) and decided to call himself Deadshot. It’s so unexpectedly fitting, Smith really hit his target (teehee) with this character. Robbie’s Harley Quinn was as if she was pulled directly from the comics and her birthplace, Batman The Animated Series, and amplified to adapt her hilariously psychotic personality to the big screen. It’s by far her best performance since The Wolf of Wall Street. What’s an incredible surprise, something I believed I would never even write in a review, is that Jai Courtney performed really well in this film! (*studio audience gasp*). Unlike all of his roles in recent memory, Courtney’s take on the aussie boomerang-slinging criminal, George Harkness/ Captain Boomerang provided some of the funniest moments. If it takes playing an pink unicorn-loving super villain from down under to make us think of Jai Courtney as a film’s highlight, then yes, someone please keep giving him these roles. Adding to the list of happy surprises, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is awesome. Literally the government anti-hero to keep the villains in line, Waller’s character & Davis’ performance really whispers to your core that this lady does not f@*k around. Her commanding presence and turn of events will make you believe she’s the bad guy pretending to be good. Fans everywhere will be hoping to see her again as a main villain when a sequel happens.
Don't mess with the mean lady.
With a couple of exceptions, all of the cast do well with what they’re given. One of the problems with Suicide Squad is that Deadshot, Harley Quinn and El Diablo/ Chato Santana (Jay Hernandez) are the only characters that get a decent showcase of back story and development. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc/Waylon Jones was a funny addition to the group dynamic but that’s all his scenes contributed: singular one-liners for the occasional “haha”. Katana/Tatsu Yamashiro (Karen Fukuhara) is given about 30 seconds of character exploration, including having a soul-sucking sword, the rest of the film does nothing (more soul-sucking sword, damn it!). In the matter of Cara Delevinge playing Enchantress/June Moone, the height of her efforts in acting appeared to be some cardboard romance development alongside trying to move around like the girl from The Ring. Then there’s Slipknot/Christopher Weiss (Adam Beach). Oh god, Slipknot. Not even being given an proper introduction like other characters, a criminal whose ability and reason for inclusion is to climb things with rope (no, I’m not joking), is almost like he was scraped from the barrel of disposable characters for the sake of emphasising the stakes of the plot, meaning you won’t be seeing much of him. The biggest let down regarding the cast is Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag. For those who weren’t keeping up with the casting updates a long time back, Tom Hardy was originally meant to play the role, who many believed could give a faithfully powerful and intimidating performance as a fearless leader that keeps the squad in line as the Rick Flag character is from the comics. However, a lackluster combination of script writing and Kinnaman’s performance is the Rick Flag version of a wet paper bag. You can tell he’s trying but compared to this character’s potential from other media, it’s like watching an American middle school hall monitor that threatens to send you to the principal’s office.
Why's Slipknot even in the promo shots? Seriously. C'mon.
Action-wise, there’s a bit of joy to be had. The first major battle scene featuring the squad was really enjoyable and will keep you on the edge of your seat, especially with what’s happening on the Deadshot side of things. Watching for the first time, you do get stuck into escapism mode: passing you back and forth between at least some half-decent fight scenes and a bit of before-and-after banter.
Deadshot in this scene: epic.
For those who have seen the trailers, the action will keep you in half as much enjoyment as you expected. It will only be half because of what’s happening with The Joker (Jared Leto) and the overall plot. Basically acting like a Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight, 2008), meth-addicted, mob boss version of The Joker, Leto gives a fresh live action portrayal of the clown prince of crime whose intensity and bipolar levels of creepy steals every scene he’s in. I say “every scene” carefully because he’s barely in any of them. Despite being in every promotion; poster, trailer out there for Suicide Squad, The Joker’s part of the film is like a side story/flashback-filled intro for the character’s part in this film universe instead of the sole, if not shared, antagonist role as advertised. One minor plot point aside, all events of the present timeline would have been the same if The Joker made no onscreen appearances, much like any scene with Batman (Ben Affleck) involved. Not only trailer scenes involving members of the Suicide Squad, but clips and trailer scenes involving the Joker, which appear to have connected him more to the main events of the film, have been cut entirely from the final cut. Critics and fans alike, myself included, can’t wait to see Leto-Joker in more films but his purpose in Suicide Squad borders on false advertising, compared to how it was promoted, for the sake of a bigger box office.
Harley & Joker: you won't be able to wait to see more of them.
Moving on to the villain and overall plot, a simple summary could be it being ill-fittingly half-arsed. Whatever the initial specific threat was for putting together the Suicide Squad is all swept to the side. The actual big baddie and mission for Task Force X is a result of when sh*t unexpectedly hits the fan after getting the crew assembled. Instead of a black-ops; covert or human threat that the Suicide Squad is usually known to deal with in comics and other media, the film has a run-of-the-mill, all-powerful, big beam in the sky take-over the world-ish antagonist. It feels boringly ridiculous to the point where it feels pointless for some of the squad to even be there. These characters are fighting world-destroying threats and the “heroes” include a crazy acrobat with a baseball bat and a lad with boomerangs, whose limits even show onscreen when fighting said threats. It makes it hard to believe that the fitting of the face-off between these heroes and villains even make sense. It's amazing what rushed, lazy script-writing does to a film when a competing studio is trying to play catch-up with Marvel.
At least Jai Courtney finally gets a career boost...
There’s an amount of amusement to be had but it seems like the mixed reviews for Batman vs Superman, demand for re-shoots and drive to establish ground for more films have affected David Ayer’s Suicide Squad in the worst possible way: the pressure to include more jokes and introduce new universe characters has resulted in a bit of an uneven mess with mis-advertised character plot points and poor editing that almost feels patronising, a cliché villain and a played out plot. It's as if we're viewing a film made by someone who lied on their CV and panicked the first day in the editing room. However; some of the action scenes are semi-enthralling enough to keep you “ooo-ing” & “aaaahh-ing”. Deadshot, Harley Quinn and The Joker are definitely the stand-out reasons as to why you should still see Suicide Squad to get your own opinion. Just make sure you turn your brain off for almost everything else after the first 20 minutes and maybe get your tickets/DVD'S/Blu-Rays on a half price deal.
If you’re still wishing for a version of Suicide Squad that’s lean, effective and still fun, watch Batman: Assault on Arkham. It’s stylish; funny, some gory violence, some sexual tension (It’s 15-rated), it actually relevantly involves The Joker and genuinely fulfills all of the other promises Ayer’s Suicide Squad failed to deliver on.