Worth A Look: 10%
Just Average: 20%
Pretty Crappy: 35%
1 review, 14 user ratings
by Brett Gallman
The opening logos for âSuicide Squadâ serve as an apt metaphor for the DC Cinematic Universe so far: each starts off bathed in bright, fluorescent hues before the color is literally drained from them, unwittingly reflecting what Zack Snyder and company have done to the terrific, four-color source material.âFunâ seems to have been a dirty, three-letter word when conceiving a universe thatâs so convinced of its own profundity that just about everyone involved seems to have forgotten that itâs okay if the audience doesnât feel bludgeoned upon exiting the theater. Enter David Ayerâcertainly not the first name that you associate with the word âfunââto craft something of a shock to the system with âSuicide Squad,â an irreverent take on a men-on-a-mission film that substitutes rogues for heroes, presumably to signal some sort of break from the quote-unquote superhero malaise.
"These are not squad goals."
In an ironic twist, however, this is the most comic-bookish of the DC bunch to dateâwhich is not to say itâs very good, mind you, but you can at least sense an attempt to capture something spirited through its colorful characters and its game cast. Itâs just too bad theyâre in search of a better movie than this shapeless, go-nowhere thing thatâs much too busy for its own good. Thereâs a whiff of DC trying to keep up with the Joneses in the rushed attempt to will its shared universe into existence, leaving some characters here to feel less like actual characters and more like defibrillators, existing only to jolt it all to life. (Yes, I am looking very much in the direction of Jared Letoâs Joker, who also feels like a barely sentient Hot Topic accessoryâyeah, maybe itâs cool to look at, but do you really need it?)
With so many charactersâsome important, some very disposableâitâs no wonder the first 20-25 minutes of âSuicide Squadâ is dedicated to tediously introducing them. And, in some cases, re-introducing them: after opening with a couple of scenes featuring the incarcerated Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) strolls into give the film some semblance of direction. Shortly after Supermanâs death it occurs to Waller that it might not be a bad idea to form a meta-human task force to deal with the ânext Superman,â who may or may not be a terrorist (nevermind the fact that the US was already distrustful of the actual Superman).
And so she spends what feels like an eternity rifling through file folders in a sequence that half-heartedly serves as the origin stories for the titular squad. Perhaps only a shade less lazy than the laughably bad e-mails that introduced the Justice League members in âDawn of Justice,â a series of montages properly introduce us to mercenary hitman Deadshot, the clinically insane Harley Quinn, goofball Aussie Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, remarkably tolerable), hotheaded pyromaniac-turned-remorseful recluse El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the beastly Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and the otherworldly Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). As this bit goes on and on, you can practically hear all the wheel-spinning drowning out Davisâs narrationâat a certain point, you begin to wonder if âSuicide Squadâ is going to be a movie or if itâs going to be content to just deliver the sort of backstory youâd find in an old arcade fighting game.
Once the film gets going, it---well, no, actually, it really never does at all. The fundamental problem with âSuicide Squadâ is that it somehow never feels like anything vital is ever happening. I donât know itâs even possible to take multiple time-worn tropes that thrive on immediacy (the whole thing is basically âThe Dirty Dozenâ by way of âEscape from New York,â right down to implanted chips that will immediately kill disobedient squad members) and render them dull as hell. The actual plot is just white noise and weirdly underplayed: early on in the film, Enchantress turns on Waller (who had been forcefully keeping her under lock and key), reunites with her brother, and vows to destroy humanity. In turn, Waller enlists the squad to enter Midway City and rescue a hush-hush high value target whose identity is so obvious that I canât believe the film plays it as a twist. Remarkably, no one seems to be all that concerned about doing anything about the apocalyptic portal threatening to swallow the earth until said target is abducted again.
None of it coheres to anything approaching a gripping story: for whatever reason, the filmmakers here have taken a lean, killer concept and bloated it to death. Letoâs Joker operates around the fringes, stopping the film dead in its tracks whenever he appears (or whenever Harley Quinn wistfully recalls their deranged courtship). Both Batman and another Justice League member make cameo appearances, and an obligatory mid-credits tease hints at the next entry for a universe thatâs starting to feel dead on arrival. Despite being so goddamn busy, âSuicide Squadâ never amounts to anythingâitâs all well and good to make the inspired choice to have Ayer helm this movie, but what good is it if the entire thing feels auto-piloted by a studio in panic mode?
Ultimately, thereâs an âif you canât beat âem, join âemâ vibe to the whole affair, especially when it climaxes with the squad facing off with faceless hordes and a generic CGI-augmented baddie as debris is hurled about in a âswirling trash pile,â as Deadshot puts it at one point. Is this not, you know, the same climax as nearly every other comic book movie, only done so half-heartedly that you donât even really care whatâs going on? Technically, itâs a two-pronged climax split over two locations, but Ayer only cuts away to the secondary locale once. Thereâs not even attempt to give it any sort of shape, let alone generate tension or suspenseâas is the case with much of the film, stuff just sort of happens while the cast stands around firing off one-liners.
âFormulaicâ is perhaps the last thing I expected from David Ayer helming a âSuicide Squadâ movie, yet here we are; whatâs more, itâs not so much replicating a formula so much as itâs just taking the expected ingredients and tossing them together in the hopes theyâll mix. Sure, there are quips meant to inject humor, but so few of them actually land. Yes, its palette bursts with bright primary colors, but theyâre in the service of a completely leaden story. There are needle-drops that feel directly inspired by âGuardians of the Galaxy,â yet most are so basic and irrelevant that they just add to the noise. Most distressingly, this is a terrific and (gasp!) fun cast of characters, but you only spend most of the time hoping the inevitable sequel does them more justice. It turns out that the logos serve as foreshadowing since âSuicide Squadâ feels like a pallid, lifeless shade of what it should be.
Iâd like to stop short of saying Deadshotâs âswirling trash pileâ line is destined to describe the film itself, but âSuicide Squadâ makes that very difficult. Whatâs most frustrating are the sparse great moments that sneak through. The closest the film ever comes to feeling like a real-deal Ayer film involves a short little break at a bar, where the Squad takes some time out to shoot the shit and ruminateâwhile it seems like this would be a drag in the middle of a romp, itâs actually one of the few times this movie feels alive (plus, itâs not like âSuicide Squadâ is much of a romp anywayâthat would imply a certain level of energy, something this film has little of).
This scene also highlights just how badly the film wastes an ensemble that deserves better than this. Smith is something of a de-facto lead as Deadshot, the hitman with a heart of gold who wants to parlay his gig here into a chance to see his daughter again. Itâs a very Will Smith sort of role: wry, poignant, quip-heavy, though itâs been a while since he was this effective. Not for nothing, but heâs also more of a hero than Superman ever was in âDawn of Justice,â as if we needed another reminder of just how screwy this DC Universe has been so far.
Surrounding him are characters who occasionally pop in from the background to remind us that they exist. Among the most notable is Hernandez as El Diablo, playing a stock stereotype of a Latino gangbanger who lost his family to one of his fits of rage; as uneasy and clichĂ© as that sounds, the script does carve out a redemptive arc for him that shows a vested interest in this character. Itâs too bad it doesnât extend to everyone (though with a cast this enormous, was there ever a chance of that?). For example, Killer Croc is basically a non-entityâall I know about him after seeing this movie is that he enjoys B.E.T. (to be fair, this eventually makes for one of the movieâs better gags, I guess).
Likewise, Jai Courtney has never been better as the twitchy, scatterbrained Captain Boomerang, but thereâs not much to him outside of those tics and affectationsâitâs a fun performance with no real center or gravity to it. For every step forwardâand believe me, making it look like Jai Courtney is capable of emoting is a big step forwardââSuicide Squadâ stumbles backwards for two steps, half-heartedly shrugs, and then trudges along. Other characters are literally tossed into the mix at the last second: just before heading off for the mission, the Squad is joined by Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Slipknot (Adam Beach), whose casual additions just speak to how little the film actually cares about most of these characters.
This is especially disappointing for Robbieâs Harley Quinn. Clearly the filmâs standout performance, itâs nothing short of magnetic: Robbieâs wild-eyed lunacy is irresistibly charming, and she channels it in such a gleeful, almost childlike way that Quinn feels truly dangerous. Better yet, it feels like sheâs having fun every step of the way, so much so that you start to believe sheâll be able to completely salvage âSuicide Squadâ on her own.
Ayer and company have different plans for her, though. If Iâm being honest, they kind of treat her like complete shit: not only does the camera constantly leer and gaze at her objectified body, but sheâs also reduced to some kind of plaything, left to the mercy of the filmâs misogynistic streak. An early scene has her climbing off of a stripping pole just long enough for the Joker to pimp her out, while another scene has her being cold-clocked by Batman as part of a punchline (the first of two instances where a woman being pummeled is played for laughs). The rest of the women donât fare much better: one is all but fridged as a damsel in distress, while Waller is vilified as conniving and suspicious in a way Marvel male counterpart Nick Fury isnât.
Resisting the urge to dismiss it all as problematic proves difficult: while Ayer hails from a background thatâs seen him explore grimy, seedy underbellies, it feels off when couched in this particular film. Despite its posturing as a cheeky superhero alternative, âSuicide Squadâ ultimately just proves to be a gross and misguided excuse to indulge in disreputable material and laugh it off. Ayerâs signature grit and grimeâwhich mostly manifests itself in absurd tattoos, gold teeth, and hacked-up violenceâis an odd, superficial polish here to give the false impression that this is anything but the same old stuff, only done with much less conviction.At best, it gives you a glimpse of what it might look like if a Gathering of the Juggalos staged a remake of âEscape from New York.â At worstâŠwell, do you really want to imagine anything worse than that?
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originally posted: 08/03/16 12:55:44