Main cast: Will Smith (Floyd Lawton/Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn), Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flag), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Jai Courtney (Digger Harkness/Captain Boomerang), Jay Hernandez (Chato Santana/El Diablo), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Waylon Jones/Killer Croc), Cara Delevingne (Dr June Moone/Enchantress), Karen Fukuhara (Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana), Adam Beach (Christopher Weiss/Slipknot), and Jared Leto (Joker)
Director: David Ayer
For a Dirty Dozen-style movie featuring villains playing the heroic roles, Suicide Squad is surprisingly conventional and formulaic. Note that I said “heroic” roles rather than “anti-heroic”: the so-called villains are so white-washed here, you’d think they are misunderstood kittens and unicorns who just happen to have a high body count in their CV. Perhaps this is to be expected, as the first two movies in the DC Universe didn’t make enough money or fan acclaim to keep the folks behind the movie happy, and, if the early box office data is anything to go by, the safe route is most likely the right thing to do. But even if you don’t believe the rumors that this movie was hastily retooled and reshot after the failure of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this movie shows obvious signs of it being cobbled and re-cobbled several times over. It’s not the most coherent thing around.
After the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Amanda Waller manages to get a new project greenlighted: putting together some of the nastiest villains in town as a front-line squad against “meta-humans” like Superman and friends. To make things easier, all of these villains are implanted with a chip that would kill them should Amanda tap on their image on an app. What happens when the phone battery runs out, you ask? Please, just like bullets, batteries in cell phones never run out in movies… unless the plot demands it, of course, which it doesn’t in this movie. One of those designated team members, the Enchantress, is actually an old spirit that used to be worshipped as a goddess in more primitive times; Amanda has her heart, which now functions as some kind of phylactery, with her, ready to stab it and kill that Enchantess in case she acts naughty. The Enchantress has possessed the body of archeologist Dr June Moone, who is the girlfriend of the soldier designated to lead the squad, Rick Flag. Rick loves June, of course, so he also has a vested interest in seeing everything goes well. In other words, Viola has made sure that everyone in the squad has a good reason to behave.
Anyway, there’s Deadshot, a marksman who never misses and who is currently feeling blue because, you know, he’s a hired killer and his daughter, despite having enjoyed the nice things his money can buy her, is like, “Ooh, my daddy did bad things, so I’d rather see him spend his life in jail!” If I were him, I’d make myself a new daughter, but hey, I guess I’m too villainous to be a member in this squad. Harley Quinn was a psychologist who used to have Joker as a patient until she fell in love with him and… went crazy, or so the movie tells me. I’m not sure why one would want a girl in hot pants running around shooting and hitting people with a baseball bat – I mean, how useful can she be, on paper? El Diablo can kill things with fire, which basically makes him Superman to this bunch of Batmen, so the movie has to make him go “Ooh, I don’t want to use my powers anymore because I have my angst stowed up my rear garage!” or the movie would only be 20 minutes long. But they naturally have him go all “OVER 9,000!!!” in the denouement for the deus ex machina powers-out-of-nowhere moment, because every movie needs a kaiju-style clash for a boss fight. There is also a crocodile-like cannibal, Killer Croc, who never really eats anybody here or rips anyone with his bare hands, because that would be really bad and we can’t have that from our nefarious villains. There are also a couple more, but there’s no need to track them too closely, as their roles are basically comic relief, spare muscle power, disposable extra and other trivial nonsense.
What happens in the plot is that the Enchantress, fed up of being treated like a freak show and military muscle, sneaks off to release her brother, the Incubus, who doesn’t start getting all sexy and seductive, but rather, he possesses some guy and starts blowing up things. The Enchantress then spends her time in this movie swaying and dancing in a knock-off of Princess Leia’s costume, surrounded by CGI laser tentacles and tendrils, until our Suicide Squad folks show up and pulverize her rear end in the dramatic climax. Oh, and for those people who believe that Jared Leto is the most talented thespian around because he acts like he’s on crack and sends used condoms to his cast members, Joker is practically a bit player here. He just wants Harley back, and his role is basically a prop to flesh out Harley’s character.
Speaking of Harley, they may as well called this movie Harley, Deadshot, and Some People, because Harley and Deadshot are the only ones that get any decent amount of characterization. Margot Robbie is excellent as that crazy lady, and she looks really good in that get-up too. I especially enjoy how her romance with Joker is basically 50 Shades of PG-13: in a nicely filmed sequence, it drives home the dynamics of the relationship, as least in the context of this franchise: Joker treats Harley pretty badly, but she holds all the power here, because, as he puts it, her desire for him is her surrender to him, and her surrender is her power over him.
And say what you want about Will Smith’s alleged Scientology links, the eye-rolling antics in public, and more, but he can always be counted on to bring on a big amount of likability and charm to his role. Despite Deadshot being another clichéd brooding hero with an anti-heroic past character, Mr Smith puts in some much needed heart and soul into this movie. Without him, the movie would be just one sequence of people posing and acting all stylish after another, so his presence is a welcome one indeed.
But the movie is pretty choppy, though. The first half is decent, as there is enough stylish flim-flam and explosions to distract me from the fact that the movie is essentially hollow and lacks substance. But by the time the second half drags in, it becomes apparent that the villains do not have any interesting plan in motion aside from the Enchantress swaying her ass in front of a CGI pool, and plot points are just dropped in out of nowhere. All of a sudden, our villains are all a “family”, despite the only significant interactions being those between Deadshot and Harley. El Diablo, as I’ve mentioned, could have torched everything, but when Amanda wants a helicopter and its passengers to be taken down, she orders Deadshot to do it – what, bullets are more efficient than just setting the whole thing on fire? Of course, that scene is designed to show me that Deadshot has a heart or something like that, but come on now. And the action sequences are choppy in this second half of the movie, suggesting to me that this part probably consists of hastily reshot scenes sloppily pasted together over whatever was in the original first cut, after the studio panicked over Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failing to bring in the profits. Then again, the script was confirmed by David Ayer, who played both screenwriter and director here, to be completed in six weeks, so how good can that first cut be anyway?
The Joker, by the way, has not enough screentime to make him anything more than a greasy thug who should eat a few more burgers.
On the bright side, the soundtrack is pretty cool.
At the end of the day, Suicide Squad is a moderately entertaining movie, but its formulaic approach turns it into a derivative flick with a tired, overused plot and ridiculous villains that are more ineffective than threatening. Its choppy, haphazard
story montage of action sequences doesn’t help. Still, the cast, especially Margot Robbie and Will Smith, acquit themselves pretty well despite lamentable materials they are given to work with. For all its problems, it’s the most interesting movie from the DC Universe franchise so far. So, I guess there may be hope for the future movies?