Suicide Squad review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
In the glut of superhero movies for 2016, Suicide Squad appeared to be the wild card. With a diverse cast, relative unknown characters for the uninitiated of comic books and a Dirty Dozen vibe, it certainly has all the elements to be a standout. Which is why it’s a major disappointment that it falls right back in step with the same old superhero movie problems.
Initially, I was ecstatic for such a project given that it was being written/directed by David Ayer. If you look at his resume of Training Day, End of Watch and Fury, you can see that he specializes in making movies about evil and nasty people that we question as do-gooders. He’s a strong choice to adapt DC Comics’ band of villains forced by the government into completing secret missions. He could make these villains truly stand out as bad guys. It’s just too bad he’s stuck in a PG-13 picture where he can’t make the characters as despicable, violent or psychotic as they should be.
If the characters can’t be nasty, they are at least likable. Deadshot (Will Smith) is the heart of the movie as a dad trying to reform his ways of killing people for money. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is a pure villain that cheerfully delights in her sprees of crime and murder. Diablo (Jay Hernandez) is the reluctant pyro villain that is through with using his powers. There are more villains introduced in the team, but those are the only ones that matter or given proper introductions. Of course, the true villain is Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the government figure who assembles the Suicide Squad. Thanks to Davis’ powerful performance and the character’s cold determination in protecting the country, she should have been the central antagonist.
Instead, we’re left with a rather bland and forgettable villain of Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). Originally recruited to be the head of Suicide Squad, she escapes her magical cage and begins creating her doomsday machine to rule the world. Her magical machine shoots blue lasers, she assembles an army of tar zombies to defend herself and her brother appears as a rejected monster design from Thor. You know, standard superhero setup.
But something as unique as Suicide Squad shouldn’t reserve itself to such a tired comic book scenario. Waller intends to use the squad as a means of secret protection, but sends them out on their first mission to stop an apocalyptic sorcerer that’s taken over a city. This defeats the purpose of her “if they get caught we throw them under the bus” rule as there are no local authorities to catch them and the FBI escorts the squad through the entire mission. This, too, defeats the purpose of having bombs inside their necks to keep them in line. Waller can control all the explosives from remote - so why does she need Rick Flag to be in the field keeping an eye on them as well?
Wondering about where the Joker (Jared Leto) is in all this? He’s wedged into a subplot that has little to no affect on the central story. He’s such a tag-along to this movie that his arc is dropped by the second act. A few simple snips and he could be removed from this picture easily. It’s such a shame that Leto put so much work into this performance that was unique and original, but never given a chance to develop past mere snippets of scenes.
For as much as the movie stumbles and trips over its characterizations, writing and editing, there is some salvageable content here. The cast is the best feature. Will Smith is as likable as always, but also more subtle in that he never breaks out into overstepping his role. Margot Robbie has a perky charm to the character of Harley as she is always fun to watch. The most surprising cast member is Jai Courtney who proves that he has more charisma outside of his more simplistic action roles. Aside from Joel Kinnaman and Cara Delevingne, this is a strong cast. I even liked some of Ayer’s style in telling the backstory of the squad and his visual flair with making more of a street Dirty Dozen.
I wanted to like Suicide Squad so badly because of this, but its shortcomings are just too steep to ignore. The clunky editing, the overstuffing of characters, the terrible music choices, the blah action scenes and the most tired of plots plunge this picture down into the murky depths it aims to escape from. It’s a frustrating mess where the bad guys are not quite bad enough and the movie’s tagline “Worst Heroes Ever” couldn’t be more fitting for the wrong reasons.