Ladies steal the show in the chaos that is 'Suicide Squad'
Much like this November's elections, the America depicted in the latest installment in the DC Universe - “Suicide Squad” - shows people having to choose between the lesser of two evils.
In this world that's populated by monsters, Krytonian aliens, billionaires that moonlight as vigilante crime fighters and metahumans, tensions are understandably high. Granted, so far all of Superman's intentions (as well as those of Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash) have been good, but if they – or someone else – were to go rogue? Who exactly would be able to stop them?
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, Jai Courtney as Boomerang, and Will Smith as Deadshot in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure ‘Suicide Squad,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC)
To answer that question and (hopefully) provide a solution, A.R.G.U.S. Director Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) concocts a plan to harness the powers of the world's craziest and/or deadliest criminals to serve as a team of the worst to deal with the worst – without fear of losing one of the good ones.
Waller “recruits” super assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), psychologist turned psychopath Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), human blowtorch Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a monster of evolution run amok Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), master thief Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the other guy – Slipknot (Adam Beach).
Keeping the team in line is Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), his right-hand Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and the allure of whittling time off of their prison sentences by doing good deeds. Oh yeah, they also have tiny bombs implanted in them that can be detonated if they get out of line.
The team's first assignment is to stop the mysterious – and elderly – Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) from unleashing her power on the world. Complicating matters is the fact that Enchantress has taken over the body of Flag's girlfriend, June Moore. Further complications are thrown in to the mix in the form of The Joker (Jared Leto), who is desperately trying to free Quinn from the team to bring her home.
If you can't tell by that “brief” synopsis, “Suicide Squad” has an awful lot going on. And that's where the problem comes. Because we haven't yet seen any of these characters in this version of the DC Universe, introductions are necessary.
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure ‘Suicide Squad,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC)
Having such a deep roster makes knowing anything more than surface details a virtual impossibility. However, director David Ayer didn't let a little thing like time constraints stop him from trying. Unfortunately, that led to a lot of characters you develop little understanding of over the two hours. In fact, if you were to go in knowing nothing about any of them you'd leave knowing a little about Deadshot and Harley and nothing about any of the others.
This insistence on giving each character a tiny window of time to shine led to a very disjointed story, complete with flashbacks, dreams and hallucinations that made the movie feel more like a series of loosely-connected vignettes rather than a single, cohesive story.
There was action aplenty throughout, but it wasn't anything to write home about. You'd think with metahuman psychos going to battle with otherworldly entities, the battles would be phenomenal … they weren't. In fact, these all powerful beasts were pretty ordinary.
There were, however, a handful of things that really worked here, and they all have to do with the cast.
Davis is outstanding as Waller. Waller is a flawed character in that she has the right goals in mind, but she's willing to do some really awful things to accomplish them. She's hard as nails, unsympathetic and you don't really know if you should trust her. Davis brought all of those qualities to life and knocked the role out of the park.
Close behind was Robbie's portrayal of Harley Quinn. You either love or hate Quinn, who is easily one of DC's most polarizing characters. If done right, she could be an exceptional addition to the universe, but if done wrong it could be very, very bad and last for a very long time, given Harley's popularity and marketability (insert cash register noises here). Robbie brought charm, humor and charisma to a role that needed it. Her scenes with Leto's Joker makes me want to see more of this toxic relationship … even if I think this is the weakest Joker to date.
Common as Monster T, Jared Leto as The Joker and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure ‘Suicide Squad,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2016 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC)
The final individual standout is Hernandez as Diablo. Hernandez brought a human element to a character struggling to find his own humanity. Strong performance of a character I'm not familiar with, but want to see more of down the road.
The other thing I liked was that despite this being set in a universe where a Batman and a Joker exist, they were at best ancillary characters. Ben Affleck's Batman returns and is little more than a prop (thankfully, based on what I saw earlier this year), while Joker is basically just a shiny toy to lure Harley back toward the darkness. I didn't like much of what I saw from Leto in the role, minus some intriguing scenes with Robbie, but given it was little more than a cameo, I'm on board to see where he takes it.
“Suicide Squad” isn't nearly the train wreck that early reviews made it out to be and it's leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but that's not to say it's a good movie either.
It has moments of brilliance that are sandwiched between long patches of theatrical chaos. With a few tweaks, I think it could actually be a very good movie. This is one case where a Director's Cut might actually make the difference.
“Suicide Squad” is closer to being really good than it is to being really bad, but in its current state it's pretty average. It does, however, make me want to see more of several characters seeing the big screen for the first time, which is more than I can say for the Batfleck fiasco.
★★1/2 of ★★★★★