Review: Suicide Squad
PLOT: With Superman dead and a possibly meta-human threat on the way, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a team of imprisoned supervillians to do her bidding, with the promise that each will have some of their sentence commuted.
REVIEW: SUICIDE SQUAD comes along at an important time for the DC Cinematic Universe. With Marvel movies dominating the box office, and BATMAN V SUPERMAN having laid an egg with critics and a large chunk of the audience (although the Blu-Ray director’s cut is changing some minds) the heat is on David Ayer’s atypical superhero film to deliver the goods. After having won audiences over with an inspired ad campaign, SUICIDE SQUAD is nonetheless opening to largely negative reviews. In this case, the early knee-jerk critical reaction seems unfair, with this being a perfectly serviceable and occasionally inspired comic book film - albeit not one without some serious flaws.
It’s easy to see why the early critics may have been puzzled by the film as despite some rumored last minute tinkering, the finished movie doesn’t really resemble the manic trailers and is more in line with the noirish vibe of BvS. In fact, much of SUICIDE SQUAD seems as schizophrenic as some of the characters, with jokey on-screen graphics during the character intros trying way too hard to ape DEADPOOL’s satiric approach, while the non-stop song score seems too closely patterned after GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, a film which - despite the studio’s best efforts - this does not otherwise resemble.
It’s too bad these gimmicks were shoe-horned in as much of SUICIDE SQUAD works just fine on its own. For one thing, the casting is spot-on, with Margot Robbie instantly iconic as Harley Quinn, a breakout heroine that could easily launch a franchise of her own. Sporting a Bronx accent and a garish (but sexy) style, her Quinn doesn’t look or sound like any other big-screen heroine we’ve ever seen. Her performance is every bit as daring as say Johnny Depp’s original take on Jack Sparrow in the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Iconoclastic, she absolutely dominates the film, giving Quinn both a bad-ass edge and an intriguing sense of vulnerability that’s only hinted at here but could be explored by follow-up films.
Will Smith also seems ideally cast as the group’s true anti-hero, the murderous but ultimately noble Deadshot. Jacked-up more than he’s ever been, Smith seems to relish playing a real tough guy, although perhaps in a concession to his fan-base he’s never allowed to be really bad, with him being a doting dad at heart and the most unambiguously heroic of the gang when stuff starts to happen.
In fact, this “stuff” is where SUICIDE SQUAD comes up short, with the big threat here being Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress, who’s taken over Rick Flagg’s (Joel Kinnaman) mortal girlfriend and now wants to enslave mankind. It’s all very ho-hum and leads to a lot of familiar comic-book level carnage. It’s a shame Jared Leto’s Joker winds-up being such a non-factor as despite all the hype, he only has a few scenes and doesn’t really convey any real threat, with him mostly mooning over Harley and being wholly superfluous to the plot. You could have cut Leto out of this movie entirely and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Of the cast, the only real sense of menace comes from Viola Davis as the cold-blooded Amanda Waller, who seems tougher than any of the baddies here and is a strong against-type part for the actress. Of the non-marquee players, Jay Hernandez has the most to work with as the tortured Diablo, arguably the most powerful meta-human of them all, yet one who's reluctant to use his gifts thanks to a tragic past.
Despite this being his first superhero tent-pole movie, Ayer seems well-up to the task, even if some of the action scenes feel quite familiar. Disappointingly, the Steven Price score never really gets the chance to register in the way his efforts for GRAVITY and Ayer’s own FURY did. Cast-members like Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (as Killer Croc) and Jai Courtney’s much-hyped Boomerang also never really come into their own due to limited screen-time, while Joel Kinnaman is too low-key and naturalistic as Rick Flagg to compete with Robbie, Smith or Davis (one wonders what the originally cast Tom Hardy would have done with the part).
Despite these and other issues, SUICIDE SQUAD is nonetheless a very effective popcorn movie, with the disciplined 120 minute running time a sharp contrast to the superhero epics that run over a half-hour longer. Most significantly, SUICIDE SQUAD, like BvS feels like a legitimate film and even if it occasionally misses the mark, one can’t fault the filmmakers for not being ambitious. It’s occasionally messy, but it’s also quite dynamic at parts and Robbie’s heroine is one of the most exciting to hit the big-screen in years.
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