Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Jared Leto, Will Smith, Jai Courtney, Margot Robbie, Cara Delevingne
Release Date: August 5th, 2016
“In a world of flying men and monsters, remedy this is the only way to protect our country.” Such is the philosophy behind Amanda Waller’s decision to recruit criminals to fight national security threats in the new comic book adaptation Suicide Squad. Played by Viola Davis, dosage Waller is a tough-as-nails government official who wants to fight fire with fire (figuratively and literally, sildenafil in one case). After Superman’s reported demise (as depicted in Batman v. Superman) she brings together this psychotic squad to face off against meta-humans and monsters that won’t be destroyed through more traditional means.
In its opening moments, the feature oftentimes plays out like a music video introducing some of the main characters with distinct songs playing in the background for each character. The free-spirited Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), for instance, is introduced with the appropriately-chosen song You Don’t Own Me. Deadshot (Will Smith), Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Dr. June Moore/the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) are also introduced as members of Waller’s potential squad.
Waller’s plan eventually implodes leading to a vengeful spirit coming back to life and causing destruction in Midway City.
Because this feature had the unenviable task of introducing so many important characters from DC comics, director/writer David Ayer was faced with a daunting task here. Unlike The Avengers (2012) — which featured characters that had already been introduced in stand-alone pictures, this film had to both introduce its main characters and bring them together very quickly.
The results from the character introductions are mostly successful, especially for Deadshot and Quinn. Both of those characters get their own nice back stories with Quinn’s back story also introducing the Joker (Jared Leto), an important character who is unfortunately given short shrift here. Also, Diablo gets a short but important back story that feels a bit rushed.
There’s much to be admired in the performances of both Robbie and Smith, who manage to create empathetic characters who are also psychotic killers. Robbie, who previously starred in The Wolf of Wall Street and The Legend of Tarzan, is the stand-out as she embodies a sadistic and endlessly eccentric character that will be hard to forget. Smith’s character, a cutthroat assassin who clearly adores his daughter, is the more recognizable one here and it helps that this Oscar-nominated actor is well-known for his paternal roles. Deadshot may be a killer but his instincts as an assassin are in constant competition with his capabilities as a father who wants his daughter to be proud of him.
The feature’s great weakness though is in its choice of antagonists. With so many interesting protagonists (villains who are on the good side of this story) cut loose on society, one would’ve hoped that the monster that they face off against would be half as engaging. Instead, the villain is a spirit who takes over the body of a scientist and brings her dead brother’s spirit back to life in order to destroy society.
The plot about an intelligent woman being inhabited by an ancient evil spirit feels similar to the story from the original Ghostbusters (1984) and the new reboot.
Additionally, Ayer’s work behind the scenes feels a bit discombobulated at times. Especially in the early scenes, there doesn’t seem to be an overriding structure to the proceedings. Instead, the plot bounces from scene to scene with no overarching momentum.
Suicide Squad doesn’t live up to the hype that has been built up about this film but that being said, there are enough solid qualities that fans should be able to enjoy it. Robbie and Smith are the biggest winners here and one hopes that their characters will be front and center in later movies. Ayer’s production is messy to be sure but that seems to work with the characters involved here. These are flawed and unpredictable characters but in the end, they get the job done. So does the film.
It does what it needed to do is setting up the squad and taking them on an adventure together. One hopes that later films will build on this solid start.
Review by: John Hanlon