Release Date: August 5, 2016
Directed by: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood and Cara Delevingne
Suicide Squad marks the third film in the inter-connected DC Extended Universe films from Warner Brothers. It is an odd choice for a franchise that has yet to firmly establish their world and what exactly a superhero is or where they stand. Many fans had hoped that Suicide Squad would be the film that would finally get the DC movies on an even playing field (or at least show that they can compete) with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The trailers hinted at a film experience that would act as an antithesis to the drudgery of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, giving audiences some of what the other film sorely lacked: color, humor, and personality. In a way, it succeeded, but not enough to right DC's tipping ship.
The plot of the film, or what can be pieced together from it, is that Amanda Waller (a vague government official played by Viola Davi) wants to put together a task force of "metahumans" to fight for the government. These individuals would be recruited from among the most dangerous and deranged inmates at Belle Reve Prison and led by Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). One of these operatives, the mystical god-like Enchantress who possesses the body of archeologist Dr. June Moore (Cara Delevingne), turns on Waller and attacks Midway City alongside her brother. The two magically powered baddies set about creating a weapon to destroy the world, giving the U.S. Government the incentive it needs to deploy Waller's new toys. If they succeed, they get time off their sentences. Fail, and no one will miss them. Try to run, and there heads get blown off by miniaturized bombs implanted in their necks.
The movie is fraught with fight scenes and flashbacks, awkward exposition, and rife with posing, posturing, and poor attempts at character development. The soundtrack gets the audience in the mood in some scenes and then hits a little too on the nose in others (You Don't Own Me when we meet Harley Quinn, Seven Nation Army when we get all seven of the villains together for the first time, etc.). Oh, also the Joker is there.
I'm not going to beat around the bush here: I didn't hate this movie. I found it entertaining at times. I won't be buying the Blu-ray, but I probably wouldn't change the channel if it came on FX. Maybe. That being said, it's a stupid movie. It's disjointed, poorly edited, and doesn't give us a lot of reason to care about any of these characters. Making flawed villainous monsters somehow likable is not an easy task, but it's been done before.
The movie tries too hard. Robbie's Harley Quinn at times comes off as someone playing crazy instead of actually being crazy. Boomerang's weird pink unicorn fetish appears childish and random for randomness sake. One of the better scenes occurs in an abandoned bar before the final confrontation, where the characters drink and reflect on their awful lives and expound about who they really are and what matters to them. The movie needed more moments like this, fuller moments where the villains are given a chance to shine not as bad guys, but as characters themselves.
The strongest part of the film is easily the casting, and even that is hit or miss at times. Will Smith and Margot Robbie's characters easily get the most screentime, being the biggest names and biggest draws as Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Smith in particular steals the show. Kinnaman as Flag is forced to play the straight man to the group of thugs, and does a fairly stand-out job being the normal trying to keep the crazies in line. Jay Hernandez's El Diablo is one of the few characters that has a true character arc, and Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang seems to only be there for comic relief. One of the bigger disappointments is how little we see Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje's Killer Croc. His design is a fantastic use of make-up and costuming that creates an impressive beastial appearance, and outside of a couple of well-timed lines, we rarely get to hear from him. Weaker or odd performances come from the remaining cast. Viola Davis is trying her hardest to be the tough-as-nails Walker, a woman who gets what she wants and does what she wants, but she never feels convincing. She spends the movie stone-faced and inexpressive, and rarely comes off as truly threatening. Karen Fukuhara is a fine Katana, but we rarely get anything from her except some impressive fight scenes and a quick back-story excerpt courtesy of Flag. Delevingne's Enchantress, when dressed in the filthy rags of a jungle witch crawling creepily along the ground, is fun to watch. But once she starts enacting her master plan, the CGI of her body swaying awkwardly in motion is off-putting and jarring in a way that takes you out of the movie. By the end, she just comes off as silly.
Finally, there's Jared Leto's Joker. Leto's laugh is actually the best part of the character - it's perfectly creepy. Other than that, he's downright awful. The Joker here is unpleasant to watch or listen to. When you consider the great actors that are often mentioned as pinnacle Joker performers (Ledger, Nicholson, Hamill), they each represented a despicable, reprehensible, and utterly psychotic character that was a lot of fun to watch. Scary, creepy, even funny: they were true villains because they were both threatening and entertaining. Leto's Joker is actually just... gross. He's unpleasant to watch, and creepy in an off-putting way, the kind where you keep staring because you're not sure what you're looking at, but you're relieved when it's off the screen. In a movie filled with badasses and wanna-be badasses, the Joker stands out a bit second-rate. He shows up periodically in order to save Harley Quinn, but his inclusion is a distraction more than anything. It adds nothing to the overall storyline.
Suicide Squad is a mess. It's a lot like listening to one of those really old portable CD players that kept skipping if they got knocked around a little. It's tonally challenged, edited into a confusing mess, lacks any true cohesive internal logic or plot, and does little to advance the franchises that Warner Brothers is so desperately trying to create. The worst part is the wasted potential. I walked out thinking of all the little things that could have been done to create a much superior storyline. But I couldn't bring myself to hate it. It doesn't deserve hate, but it's not a classic by any means. It's not a bad movie: it's a dumb one. If you need to check it out in theaters then be my guest, but it's a film that would probably do better with Redbox or Amazon streaming. For a far better film version of what Suicide Squad could have been, I highly recommend checking out the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham.