Warner Brothers delivers its anti-superhero superhero film with Suicide Squad from writer-director David Ayer. From all appearances and marketing, it gives the impression it is intended to be a course correction film of sorts, ironing out the missteps from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In many ways it succeeds in shining a hint of optimism upon the DC cinematic universe while it remains guilty of the morose world building and bleak nature of its predecessor. The film benefits greatly from brilliant casting and some welcomed chemistry between many of its cast. Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn are primarily responsible for most of the fun Suicide Squad has to offer. They bring a great deal of depth and humor to their roles, far more than the dialog and script mechanics would suggest. Viola Davis is the best non-villain villain yet giving her character a ruthless, cold edge that fits the darker elements that the DC cinematic universe seems to be aiming towards. Jay Hernandez is the biggest surprise as El Diable while Jared Leto tries very hard to steal the film from everyone else as The Joker. The story behind the Squad’s first mission is rather weak with wire thin plot contrivances to connect it to the overall origin stories. First impressions may lead nay-sayers to blame the script while deeper examinations may contribute the films flaws to forced editing and a strong aura of heavy studio influence. In the end, the cast and characters help the film be far more successful than the story itself. It’s a step in the right direction but not a huge step.
Suicide Squad opens with brief back-stories for both Deadshot and Harley Quinn before the tune “Symphony of the Devil” introduces Amanda Waller. She describes the world after the appearance of Superman and now the new world after his disappearance. She wants to be prepared to fight any meta humans with a group of meta humans of her own. Without any “heroes” under her thumb, she turns to those imprisoned in recent months – those she describes as the worst of the worst. She gathers Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Boomerang, El Diablo, The Enchantress, Killer Croc and Slipnot as the first inductees to the Suicide Squad. Led by Rick Flagg and his strong arm Katana, they prepare to go to war for Waller. On the edges of the plot, circles The Joker looking to free the love of his life Harley Quinn so they can be reunited. A villain is introduced who wants to punish the human race for some sketchy reason by creating a big blue beam into the sky to destroy the world. Yeah, that old chestnut.
The story behind Suicide Squad does the film – and the DC cinematic universe – a great disservice by not providing anything unique or consequential for the Squad to go up against. It also doesn’t seem to know exactly what to do with the characters themselves within the story. It not only repeats tropes from other super hero films of late, it repeats its own tropes multiple times during its two hour plus runtime. It feels the need to introduce its characters multiple times – although this feels like an editing problem – and it uses plot points over and over. For example, no less than three helicopters directly involved in the plot crash (at separate points in the story) as the Squad attempt to arrive and leave the central confrontation. It’s kind of ridiculous. It also struggles to define its main characters consistently and executes a clumsily paced plot. It also brings in elements, such as The Joker and Deadshot’s daughter, on whims and mis-constructed motivations. Based on its story alone, Suicide Squad is a confusing head-scratcher.
Yet, the film is not a total disaster despite these detrimental decisions. The characters are extraordinarily fun to watch much to the credit of the cast. Suicide Squad may have Jai Courtney’s best performance to date as it seems he is having a great deal of fun. His character, Digger Harkness known as Boomerang, is poorly constructed and nothing more than a rote supporting character, yet Courtney gives the character far more charisma than should be present. Thankfully. Lesser known character El Diablo quickly becomes the film’s best role. Jay Hernandez gives El Diablo a wealth of pathos and internal conflict that makes his scenes some of the best moments in the film. His turmoil and motivations are far more fleshed out than the rest of the supporting cast. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaju is buried under the Killer Croc’s make-up effects but, damn, it does look good – far better than a man-crocodile may sound. Cara Delevigne does what she can with the one-note The Enchantress. She has some interesting moment, but her character, especially as June Moon, is too dour for the “fun” that others bring their roles. Adam Beach gets very little to work with as Slipnot. Oh, well.
Two interesting casting choices represent opposite approaches to executing their traits, motivations and actions. On one side Suicide Squad presents Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and on the other Jared Leto as The Joker. Given the high profile nature of the characters and its history along with the heavy marketing of his inclusion in the film, The Joker will be what most audience member will look forward to seeing and remain discussing after the film is over. Yet, Davis’ Waller is the far better role and performance. Leto brings to the screen a new version of the crown prince of crime, one that must compete with the iconic version of the villain by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. To his credit, Leto commits to the take he has chosen for the controversial role. Playing him more of a bonkers gangster, his Joker is no less dangerous and leave a strong and lasting impression. For some, it will be a positive impression; for others, it will be a disaster. In context of Suicide Squad, playing opposite of Harley Quinn, it works for the most part even if his inclusion feels in play only because the film makers could – or, perhaps, to set him up for future installments. Ironically, Amanda Waller as played by Davis is far colder and ruthless than The Joker. While she is intended to be the “good guy” in the realm of DC heroes, she is a villainous as The Joker by the ending reel.
The film belongs to Will Smith as Floyd Lawton (Deadshot) and Margot Robbie as Harleen Quinzel (Harley Quinn). They both bring their existing or rising enigmatic personalities to their roles and have great charisma together and with others in the film. Smith has a great scene with Jay Hernandez as he invokes El Diablo to use his powers. Robbie works well against Leto’s Joker even if the interactions often undermine the character’s best qualities. She’s great at giving Quinn that unhinged comical presence that elevates the film whenever she’s on screen. Smith brings a warm charm to Deadshot making him an assassin with a heart of gold. The end result is a little to heroic for the villainous character but benefits Suicide Squad in the context of the film and its story. On the oppositie spectrum, Joel Kinnaman brings a confusing overly complex drama to Rick Flagg who needs to be far more bad-ass than Kinnaman is able to embody into the role. His best scenes are when his basically the straight man for either Smith or Robbie.
A meandering script and an inconsistent tone and script make Suicide Squad a difficult film to champion. Yet, the cast is terrific with Will Smith and Margot Robbie providing stand out performances. Viola Davis and Jay Hernandez are extraordinary making their characters exceed expectation. Jared Leto’s Joker is unique. Many will despise his interpretation which may be unfortunate for the film. It will be curious to see how his Joker feels as time goes by. The benefits greatly from its great cast regardless, making it far more fun than the sum of its parts. Wildly uneven and tonally confused, the story fails the concept but, yet, it manages to be a tad better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It manages to weave in elements of the overall DC cinematic universe with glimpses of Batman and other heroes as well as referencing past events in a very “comic book” manner. While still not the glowing succeed Warner Brothers needs to establish its own superhero franchise, it does manager to keep hope alive providing glimpses at what DC can promise in the future. Suicide Squad squanders its source material relying on its cast to triumph.
Suicide Squad (3 / 5)