Writer/Director: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Cara Delevingne, Scott Eastwood, David Harbour, Ike Barinholtz, Adam Beach
Imagine all of the craziest villains in the DC universe coming together for their own film. Suicide Squad takes the deadliest bad guys and unleashes them back out into the city. What could go wrong? In the wake of Superman’s death, government official Amanda Waller (Davis) puts forth Task Force X which would recruit DC’s finest and release them from the asylums and jails in order to take down any metahuman or non-human entity that could wreak havoc on Midtown City. No, I’m not talking about the Penguin or Catwoman. The Joker (Leto) comes into play when his girlfriend and former doctor Harley Quinn (Robbie) is one of the ones released. One of the many introductory scenes involves their backstory and the crazy antics of their relationship. Will Smith’s Deadshot was a powerful hitman, and like his name suggests, never misses a target. El Diablo (Hernandez) is a tattooed gangster with the ability to produce fire out of thin air. Rounding out the troop of baddies is sewer-dweller Killer Croc (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Captain Boomerang (Courtney), and Slipknot (Beach). Even though Waller is the head honcho of this operation, Rick Flagg (Kinnaman) is the field soldier who keeps them in line. His girlfriend June Moone (Delevingne) suffers from being possessed by the Enchantress.
There are a plethora of characters to try to keep track of, so if you’re a bit confused, I don’t blame you. Unfortunately, the script by David Ayer isn’t going to make it any better. This film continues on with the DC Cinematic Universe and takes place shortly after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The end credit sequence acts as a direct lead into 2017’s Justice League. There’s a lot riding on this film as expectations come high due to the tepid response from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. DC’s attempt at having a Marvel-style universe has not been working out. Like many introductory comic book movies, it takes a long time with the exposition and character set-up before the eventual story and motivations come into play. Like you may have gleaned, it also suffers from introducing too many characters that we don’t end up caring about and easily could have been cut. I understand the pressure to appease fans by following the original source material, but when has a comic book film accurately followed each panel from start to finish?
It can be a bit messy and inconsistent at times. The exposition section has a herky jerky feel as the audience is pulled in a variety directions each with their own graphics, bios, and theme song to accompany it. The use of those colorful texts and the heavy classic rock/rap soundtrack is used for the first hour but then it disappears. There’s so much music crammed in that hour that it’s jarring to have it turn off and switch to the film’s score by Steven Price. Once this is out of the way and the gang is all re-assembled, they’re off in a war like battle walking around the streets killing zombie-like henchmen from the film’s forgettable villains. I won’t mention who they are here as I don’t want to spoil it. Another inconsistency is its attempt at humor or lack thereof. One of the biggest take aways from the trailer is that it would have this sick and twisted or self-aware approach like Marvel’s Deadpool. There were rumors that reshoots were done to enhance this. While there are some humorous quips along the way, there are just as many one-liners, looks, and stares that are meant to be funny but don’t land.
You may think that I’ve just described a trainwreck, but I do believe David Ayer’s film has some good things going for it. It’s clear that the cast did their research and worked really hard at creating some very unique characters when the script doesn’t quite give it to them. Will Smith easily could have made Deadshot your standard over the top Smith character that we’ve seen countless times before. Instead, he keeps it calm and controlled. The less is more approach is not usually associated with Smith, but I think we’re seeing him turn his career around. Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) is the standout of the film and has many scene-stealing moments. Harley Quinn is a very erratic character, and Robbie keeps her as nutters as possible. Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder) is another standout as the no holds barred Amanda Waller. That should come as no surprise to anyone that’s been following her career. The only weak link is Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns) who is slowly making her transition from model to actress. I don’t think she’s strong enough yet to carry off what is being asked of her in this film.
There has been so much hype over Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker. I’ll admit that it’s a daunting task to take on such an iconic role after memorable iterations before from Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson. He does an admirable job of making his Joker different. There’s an odd sexual energy he brings to the Joker, which explains the lure and pull he has over Harley Quinn. The main problem with the Leto’s Joker is that I never felt like I got a complete picture of the character due to his extremely minimal screen time. He’s only in a handful of scenes and completely disappears for a large section of the film.
Director David Ayer is hit or miss with his films. 2012’s End of Watch has been his best picture to date as it traced the daily routine of two cops in the worst parts of Los Angeles. His war film Fury with Brad Pitt was a decent story of brotherhood, but 2014’s Sabotage was a disaster. Even though all of his movies have a different scope, he brings out a high-octane, pedal to the medal approach to it. It’s this intensity that always looms over his movies. He shapes Suicide Squad like a war story with the action sequences taking priority over dialogue and story building. Like many current comic book movies, many of the heavy battles are frantic and shot very close up. Ayer finds a bit more balance than Zach Snyder did with Batman v Superman. He does give his characters and the audience some down time. There are some unexpected twists along the way when you realize the fate of certain characters in connection to the title of the film.
There are glaring issues at hand, and no one will question that. It was an ambitious project and a very different approach to a comic book movie. Ayer still needs to work on focus and figuring out what truly is important. There are some lasting images and concepts that have stuck with me. There is potential here and I wouldn’t mind seeing some of these characters again. For the most part, Ayer’s cast is spot on even if they are not fully used to their potential, sorry Jai Courtney. It’s very evident that everyone involved is having one hell of a good time. That desire kept me interested even when the story and technical aspects were lacking. I don’t know if we’ll see another Suicide Squad movie, but I can see these villains popping up later in the universe.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It’s an improvement for the DC Cinematic Universe, but that’s not saying much.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS