Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad (dir. David Ayer, 2016) – A secret government agency recruits an expendable team of supervillains to execute dangerous missions in exchange for clemency.

Verdict

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.

2/5

Review

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.

Suicide Squad
“Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash may still be out there fighting crime, but I would definitely feel safer with some psychopaths on our side.”

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.

Suicide Squad
“Come on baby, light my fire.”

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.

Suicide Squad
“Can we afford a Black Sabbath track here, if we scrap pants for Harley?”

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’.

Suicide Squad
Well, at least he nailed the laughter, right?

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.

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15 thoughts on “Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

  1. Yes, pieces missing feels right to me – I often felt like we weren’t told enough, asked to make huge leaps or else just left in the dark. Too many unknowns for one movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Jay! 🙂 Hope we’ll get to see some deleted scenes. I remember seeing some early behind-the-scenes footage, where Harley points a gun at the Joker – could be interesting!

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  2. Damn, Jade. I’ve been reading a lot of reviews this week, and they are heartbreaking. This had so so so much potential. The trailers have been amazing. I was hoping the Enchantress would be an amazing baddie…but it sounds like I will be disappointed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, none of that energy in the trailer came through in the film. The premise held so much potential for something really unique, so it is disappointing that the characters turned out this… ordinary. If you do get to seeing it… Well, you may at least enjoy the soundtrack! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I, too, am so over the end-of-the-world scenarios in comic book movies. It’s such an obvious attempt at grandiosity and high-stakes, yet Suicide Squad fails to grasp either. It made no sense in a movie where these characters have such deeply personal motivations (Deadshot wants to see his daughter, Harley wants to be with Mr. J, etc).

    Like Batman v Superman, this movie was just plain rushed. There were so many other movies that should’ve come before this to give us context. A solo Batman film, while still too soon, could’ve at least introduced the new Joker, Harley, Killer Croc. And The Flash movie could’ve shown us the extent of his rivalry with Captain Boomerang. Suicide Squad, instead, believes flashbacks will do, which they don’t, because they just move the film backwards until it resolves itself.

    I would say this movie’s greatest sin is it being not at all a David Ayer film, but given the troublesome behind-the-scenes drama, it seems he didn’t have control over his own movie. So sad to hear. Such a disappointment.

    Anyways, lovely review! You’ve got yourself another follower. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Adrian! 🙂 I absolutely agree and would love to see more focused films too, especially for a character as iconic as Harley Quinn. Batman fans have wanted to see her story on screen for such a long time – flashbacks just aren’t going to cut it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Justice League turns out equally rushed and choppy, given that only Wonder Woman would have had her solo debut by then.

      Such a shame about studio troubles. It is a wonder why they hire talented directors at all, if they are not going to let them handle the reins.

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