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Suicide Squad (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad


Starring Will Smith, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, Karen Fukuhara, Aidan Devine, David Harbour, Ben Affleck and Ezra Miller.

Screenplay by David Ayer.

Directed by David Ayer.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.  123 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Suicide Squad is the state of the art in modern superhero movies.  I mean that in all of the best of ways and all of the worst of ways at once.

This is what a world of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Batman v. Superman has brought us to: confusing, noisy, spectacularly art-designed extravaganzas where special effects which are much more important than storyline, and there are way too many of the mostly rather generic characters (with the exception of one breakout role that easily steals the show – more about that later).

It is full of stunning, hard-hitting action, and yet it is over two hours straight of unmitigated mayhem.  Hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammo are spent, millions of shards of glass are shattered, untold amount of damage rains down upon Gotham City.

Even its purposefully provocative title seems to be trying for an extreme reaction.

All things being equal, Suicide Squad is a better film than Batman v. Superman.  Though Zack Snyder is involved here (in a production capacity), luckily Suicide Squad does not get quite overwhelmed by the morosely black moods of that film and Man of Steel.  Though, honestly, Suicide Squad could definitely lighten up big time, too…, but at least it doesn’t take itself quite so deadly seriously.

Director David Ayer (Training Day, End of Watch) has never been known for his light touch, but this movie moves a lot faster and with more of a sense of purpose than the recent DC comic films.  It does have a good stash of jokes to keep things moving.  Even if not all of the gags work, at least they are trying to be less depressing that most recent DC films.  (DC’s TV division, on the other hand, seems to have cracked the code of making these characters effortlessly entertaining.)

In theory, Suicide Squad should be fascinating.  It is a superhero film populated by super villains.  Let’s face it: Batman is a pretty dull hero.  He has always been propped up by his flamboyantly decadent bad guys.  When you move those bad guys to center stage, that should be a good thing, right?

Add in cameos by Batman (punching a woman in the face!) and the Flash, stir well and hope for the best.

Granted, this is not exactly an all-star squad of Batman’s nemeses: of the classic names – Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, even Bane – only the Joker is here.

Jared Leto’s Joker is so over-the-top method intensely insane that he somehow doesn’t really register much at all – it is an actor’s exercise in search of a character.  Leto has got the insane giggle down, the sense of malice not so much.  In fact, in the pantheon of Jokers, he not only falls below Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson’s takes on the role, but he can’t even outdo Cesar Romero.  Also – despite the fact that the role is heavily hyped – the character is just a glorified cameo in Suicide Squad.  The Joker disappears frequently, for long periods of time, and honestly he is not all that much missed.

So who actually is here?

Well, the basic premise of Suicide Squad is simple enough.  Taking place in Gotham City, soon after the action of Batman v. Superman, crazed government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) comes up with a plan.  She decides to create a top secret task force that gathers together the worst of Gotham City’s criminals who are already in prison and blackmail them into fighting crime.

Nope, can’t see how that could go wrong.

The group is made up of these miscreants: Deadshot, a hit man with a soft spot for his 11-year-old daughter (Will Smith); Harley Quinn, the gorgeous, sexually rapacious and crazed better half of the Joker (Margot Robbie); Captain Boomerang, an Aussie thief who… yes… uses a boomerang (Jai Courtney); a pyromaniac named El Diablo (Jay Hernandez); Slipknot, a bad guy whose super-power I frankly forget (Adam Beach); Killer Croc, a mutant half-man-half-crocodile (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); Katana, a female ninja with a magic sword (Karen Fukuhara); and June Moon (model Cara Delevingne), an archeologist who has been possessed by an ancient witch.

That ancient witch turns out to be a double agent.  (Who imagined this squad would not work out?)  She reawakens her ancient brother, who starts to lay waste to Gotham City.

Cue the mayhem.  The special effects come fast and hard, though sometimes the scenes of the baddies squad walking across the destroyed Gotham seems weirdly reminiscent of the cheesy old movie Escape From New York.

The villains are mostly a pretty generic, motley group.  Will Smith has some nice moments as Deadshot, but his character is hard to embrace.  The only one of the villains who really distinguishes themselves is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn; a sexy, funny, crazed performance that gets most of the big laughs in the movie.  Her character is the only one here that is easily worthy of her own film.

Another plus is that Suicide Squad has a terrific retro soundtrack – not the only way that it echoes Marvel’s similarly “meh” Guardians of the Galaxy – although the musical choices are occasionally too self-consciously “on-the-nose” to feel fresh.  (Really, do we have to be introduced to Viola Davis’ government baddie to the strains of “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones?)

Walking out, unless you are a huge fan of this world, Suicide Squad just feels like a huge sensory overload.  If you’re into that, great, you’ll probably enjoy Suicide Squad.  For the rest of us, watching Suicide Squad is sort of like being punched in the stomach.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: August 5, 2016.


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