Suicide Squad is the latest in DC’s attempt to Marvelize its cinematic universe in considerably darker shades. It’s noisy and messy. It’s filled with some top-notch performances and fascinating characters mixed with utterly forgettable ones. In a pic filled with villains, there’s weak ones and strong ones. Yes, it’s what we’ve come to anticipate in a series that continues to follow what Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice started.
David Ayers directs this tale of super villains who are charged with saving the world. This is an idea hatched by government official Amanda Waller (a typically solid Viola Davis) and the team she assembles is an unknown one unless you’re an avid comic book reader. It includes master marksman Deadshot (Will Smith), loony tunes temptress Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), flame thrower with a fiery temper El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Aussie Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), disfigured Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) and sword expert Katana (Karen Fukuhara).
We get back stories on them all – some more detailed and worthy of screen time than others. Will Smith gives a decent performance, even though his subplot of being a bad hit man who’s also a really dedicated dad (!) is as stale as it sounds. Still he acquits himself well, even if he’s done the dour anti-hero thing before in Hancock. The El Diablo story is helped by Hernandez’s work, even though his flashback info is a bit too serious for everything else happening here. Quite frankly, many of the others aren’t even worth mentioning.
The other that is? That would be Ms. Quinn, played with gusto and a Stockard Channing like Grease accent from Robbie. Her wise cracks land more often than not. She’s the highlight here and her road to villainy involves her romance with the granddaddy baddie of them all, The Joker (Jared Leto). Their story is one that works well, partly due to Leto hitting his mark in a role that’s obviously been well-played before. His screen time is limited (probably wisely) and I look with anticipation to seeing him again.
Where Squad fails majorly is with a dull main villain and that’s Enchantress (Carla Delevingne), an archeologist turned witchy woman with world domination on her mind. In a movie filled with bad guys, the one they’re chasing shouldn’t be a bore. She is and so is her soldier boyfriend – Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) – from her pre-spell life.
The action sequences are a mixed bag, especially when Ayers films them in such darkness that it’s hard to tell what’s happening. This is an issue that has pervaded other DC adaptations. We expect CG to look pretty decent in everything now and that holds true here, though nothing really stands out.
For the first half or so, Suicide Squad is a bit of depraved fun. A lot of that is Robbie’s doing with some credit to Smith. After about the halfway mark, the feeling sets in that we aren’t terribly invested in what’s occurring and that the Squad goals of taking down the witch seem inconsequential. Batman v Superman was a bit of a mess as well (its main villain issues – aka Jesse Eisenberg – were also there). Yet I somehow left that experience ready to see the Justice League formed. Here – I’m indifferent to Squad seconds. Now if Harley wants to join her main man to battle Superman, Batman, and the others – that’s cool.
**1/2 (out of four)