Film Review: Suicide Squad (Warner Bros. / DC)

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(From L to R) Margot Robbie, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joel Kinnaman, Will Smith, Jai Courtney, Karen Fukuhara

 

suicide-squad-posterThe anticipation for Suicide Squad, writer/director David Ayer‘s (Fury, End of Watch) adaptation of DC comics’ popular title centering on a group of villains tasked with saving the world, has been high ever since footage leaked at last year’s Comic Con in San Diego. The trailer above, which was released earlier this year, ratcheted that excitement even further. It truly is one of the most awe-inspiring and cool trailers ever produced. Coming on the heels of Deadpool, it seemed as if Warner Bros. had gotten right in the curve of audiences’ desires for superhero films to go a bit “rogue,” so to speak.

So now the screenings have happened and the critics, well most of these ass clowns at least, are being dismissive of the final result. They were equally dismissive of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film that is not only truly great, it’s still in the running for the best film of the year (the recently released “Ultimate Edition” only emphasizes this more with BvS:DoJ being an out-and-out masterpiece in this form). Just a bit of warning, there are spoilers regarding BvS below.

Not that Suicide Squad doesn’t have its issues (it has more than a few, quite frankly), but, if I’m judging the nation’s critics by the slugs that were at the Chicago screening, these folks just don’t seem to like to have a good time. And Suicide Squad is, if nothing else, a great time at the movies.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

Things start out exceptionally, in line with the tone of the trailer. We’re introduced to each member of the “Squad.” Deadshot (Will Smith, doing a good job of tamping down his usual Smith-isms, for the most part) is a hired assassin with one weak spot, his daughter; Harley Quinn (a scene stealing Margot Robbie) is the psychiatrist turned bad by the Joker (a fascinatingly bizarre Jared Leto); Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney); Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), human firestarter Diablo (Jay Hernandez in a career making performance), Slipknot (Adam Beach in a role that is little more than a cameo and who doesn’t really even register); and June Moone/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne).

The “good” guys consist of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, who is actually more of a bad ‘guy’ than any of the villains); Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), the leader of the group and Moone’s boyfriend; and Katana, the sword-wielding badass (Karen Fukuhara). For good measure there’s also Batman (Ben Affleck) in a few scenes and, extraordinarily briefly, The Flash (Ezra Miller).

Jared Leto as the Joker in Suicide Squad

Jared Leto as the Joker in Suicide Squad

Waller posits that, now that Superman is dead, someone needs to be available to protect the Earth in the likely event that aliens or other supernatural beings attack us. Each member is outfitted with an implant in their neck that equals the blast of a hand grenade. So escape is kind of out of the question, though, of course, someone thinks that they can do it (after all, what good is the threat of blowing someone’s head off if it never happens?) Flag tries his best to get this ragtag bunch in line with his team of Navy SEALs (Deadshot thinks Flag should study up on basketball coach Phil Jackson for pointers, “Triangle, bitch.”), but they all have their own way of doing things.

Of course they eventually coalesce into something approximating a unified team. Especially since the threat they’re facing is set on wiping out the entire planet. There’s a side plot involving the Joker attempting to save Quinn which adds another wrinkle to the group’s attempts to stop Enchantress, who has gone way rogue and summoned the spirit of her brother to enlist in the world’s end. These mega-villains, as they are, aren’t all that interesting nor threatening. I’m not exactly sure why the villains in superhero films are so overwhelmingly dull (a rare exception being Marvel’s Loki or DC’s Joker), but it would be nice if someone stepped up the villain game going forward.

Will Smith as Deadshot in Suicide Squad

Will Smith as Deadshot in Suicide Squad

The plot is threadbare and, at times, a little confused in execution. The razzle dazzle of the beginning and splashed all over the trailer is dampened considerably once the team has staved off an attack by Enchantress’ first wave of the walking, block-ish dead. That moment is actually one of Smith’s best as Deadshot manages to be a true hero in a desperate moment. But things get a bit bogged down as the team keeps fighting off the witch’s minions and, unsurprisingly, one another. And, despite a final fight that gives Diablo his true moment in the sun, the stakes don’t feel all that high. I mean, a character literally describes the “calamity” that Enchantress has created as a “floating ring of trash in the sky.” It’s not exactly all that scary.

But the bright moments are there. The central group of characters are a lot of fun and the actors obviously had a blast with the roles. Robbie, Hernandez and Leto particularly stand out, elevating the genre film to interesting heights. Ike Barinholtz, as a sleazy and corrupt prison guard, also livens things up. Smith has a few choice moments, Davis is straight up scary, and Affleck boosts the scenes he’s in.

But, even though there’s a lot to enjoy, the feeling lingers that this could have been AMAZING if the kinks had been worked out more. There should have been more WOW and POP than there was. For what it’s worth, Suicide Squad is one of the few enjoyable movies to be released this summer (truly saying something when most of the films released since Captain America: Civil War have ranged from ‘meh’ to awful). Go out and have a fun time, because Suicide Squad is, if nothing else, a whole lot of fun. Just don’t expect it to be as mind-blowing awesome as you had hoped.

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Suicide Squad

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