Suicide Squad (dir. David Ayer, 2016) – A secret government agency recruits an expendable team of supervillains to execute dangerous missions in exchange for clemency.
An unfulfilled promise of the world’s worst heroes takes the ‘fun’ out of ‘funeral’ as a vivid palette fails to hide how bland Suicide Squad is.
In the wake of Batman V Superman, national security calls for new defenses against rogue meta-humans. Intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) places her bet on super-villains and forms her own Expendables, in her bid to fight fire with fire.
Colonel Rick Flag (Joe Kinnaman) is placed in reluctant charge, backed by a sword-wielding and criminally underused Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Both guard the ragtag team in uneasy mistrust. Fair game, considering that a covert task force of murderers and assassins sounds like an exceptionally bad idea. Good thing that the worst of the worst is actually, well… pretty all right.
Heading the Suicide Squad is charismatic assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), who wants nothing more than a better life for his daughter. When Waller hands him a stockpile of loaded guns, the marksman proves his moral fibre by firing at a shooting range instead of the prison guards.
As conflicted about his villainy is former thug El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). Having lost his family to his pyromania, the fire-starter has chosen to lay low and distance himself from any chance of violence. He assumes an intense demeanour on the sidelines, awaiting a powerful redemption arc.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has none of that guilt and all of the madness. Straight out of Arkham, it is never clear why the unstable personality would make a good addition to the team. After all, she chews more bubblegum than she does kick ass. Having said that, Suicide Squad would be so horribly drab without her quips.
Add the dreary Australian bank robber Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnyoye-Adbaje) to the mix, because… they kill? Oh, and Slipknot (Adam Beach) makes the party in good time too, though no one really gets to know who he is either.
While still taking their time to assemble the Justice League, DC takes a less inviting approach to the Suicide Squad. Their anticipated debut is over in under 20 minutes of weary exposition. A montage of stripped-down introductions fails a brilliant cast, proffering just the skeletal remains of their origins. Something tells us that the fleshed out back stories may have been left on the cutting room floor.
A varied selection of pop classics hopes to distract us from that vexing possibility. From Sympathy for the Devil for Waller to You Don’t Own Me for Quinn, they each get their own obvious theme song, which must be where most of the budget went.
But no amount of rock n’ roll could have added the ‘fun’ in ‘funeral’. Jokes fall flat, while the bold idea of bringing together the Worst Heroes Ever ends up a disappointing oversell. At one point, Quinn deadpans after killing some villains and smashing a shop window, “We’re bad guys, it’s what we do.” But wait, isn’t that what the good guys do? Just ask Batman.
What we get in the antagonistic department is equally risk-averse. The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) makes for the world’s dullest threat – please stop – as she vows to eradicate mankind for forgetting the true Gods of Earth. All it takes to kill her? Quash her heart. Is it adequate to warrant the release of Arkham’s worst criminals? I am leaning towards no.
The Joker (Jared Leto) may have made for a better and darker adversary, given that Bruce Wayne never could take him down for long. Then again, this is a very different Mr J we are getting.
Inevitably in the presence of Quinn, his motivations lie in their twisted romance rather than any societal ideals. Far from his iconic incarnations as clown or anarchist, the new Joker lacks depth. He is an abusive partner, a fashion criminal and nothing more. Still, Harley pines for him and spends half the time screaming for her Puddin’.
Their condensed “love” story gives Harl little reason as to why she chooses to play victim. Neither can we relate to her desire to see the least interesting Joker to date with silly tattoos to boot. Not that he gets much time for his becoming at all. His brief insert scenes amount to less than a perfunctory cameo, leaving us but a surface glimpse of his psychopathy.
And that is the trouble with this film. We get the constant feeling that there are some important missing pieces we are not getting. Sequences appear truncated and ideas, half-formed. The result is a choppy and incoherent mess, far from the usual standards of director David Ayer.
Looking at his solid track record including Training Day and End of Watch, it would not be entirely absurd to consider other factors at play. As rumours suggest, studio meddling may very well have been the biggest, unseen villain of the deficient Suicide Squad.