The saviour or suicide of the DCEU?
Suicide Squad (2016) is a DC comic-book action movie written and directed by David Ayer (Fury, End of Watch). It stars Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quin, two of the DCEU’S villains who are captured and recruited into the sinister Amanda Waller’s (Viola Davis) ‘Task Force X’. Alongside other villains such as Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), they must band together in order to combat a mysterious supernatural threat.
There’s a lot of expectations going into Suicide Squad. After the response to BvS was mixed at best (and apocalyptic at worst) and DC began to back-peddle on their ‘dark and gritty’ aesthetic, Squad needed to be a smash hit home run of energy and humour to finally thrust the DCEU into the place Warner Bros. wants it to be. Sadly, this film is not a home run. In fact it barely makes second base.
To say the final product presented here is a mess is a sore understatement. Clearly pulled in multiple directions by a panicking studio and a sidelined director, Suicide Squad is a mishmash of screeching tonal shifts, bizarre edits and enough cut scenes to make a whole other movie (according to Jared Leto). While the first act does an acceptable job in establishing the characters and the premise, the moment the squad sets off on their mission and the second act begins, it all goes to hell faster than Zack Snyder’s twitter after Batman v Superman. Plot holes, leaps in logic and choppy editing become the hallmark, as all the reshoots and studio pressure crushes whatever talent David Ayer possesses under genuinely poor filmmaking and storytelling. This all culminates in a climax derivative of every single superhero third act in recent memory as the film devolves into an even more convoluted mess. And then, mercifully, it ends. Considering David Ayer’s talent as both a director and a writer, this is a massive disappointment. The man that wrote Training Day and directed recent hits such as Fury and End of Watch surely has a level of skill and prowess that made him an attractive choice for WB to direct Suicide Squad. Its just a shame none of that translated to the final product.
While the plotting and execution may be a genuine shit-show, there is still the cast that does their damnedest to elevate the film to a bearable level. The real star here (both literally and critically) is Will Smith’s turn as the assassin Deadshot. The man has the charisma of ten men, and benefits from being one of the few characters in the film that is given any sort of development. Plus no one can spout a one liner like the Fresh Prince. The other standout is, as expected, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. While her arch with abusive lover Joker (Jared Leto with about 10 minutes screentime) was likely hindered by editing, Robbie still makes the character as entertaining as possible, and her obvious chemistry with Smith goes a long way in giving her some pathos to work with. The other performance that’s worth noting is Viola Davis’ turn as Amanda Waller. She may suffer from some pretty terrible and inconsistent writing, but Davis still manages to command all the respect and authority her character requires.
As for the rest of the Suicide Squad, I’m going to take the movie’s lead and briefly glance over them. Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang was actually very charismatic (miracles do happen), Jay Hernandez’s Diablo is given an interesting backstory but not much else, Joel Kinnanman’s Rick Flag is awfully bland, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje does an impressive job acting under a kilo of makeup as Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara’s Katana could be cut she does so little, and finally Adam Beach’s Slipknot needs a better agent because he barely gets three lines in the entire film. And the villain! My god. I don’t know what Cara Delevingne was thinking with her performance as the Enchantress but I think the fact there has been early Razzie buzz is a bad indicator. Not only does her plan make no sense, she spends most of her time on screen blank faced and hula dancing with an invisible hoop. Its genuinely terrible and in an overall disappointing movie may be the biggest sore spot. And the Joker? Well, the movie doesn’t care about him so why should I?
If WB hoped for Suicide Squad to finally be the one to get the DCEU galloping, they backed the wrong horse. Shoddy storytelling, too many conflicting directions and a villain that’s best left in a bargain bin horror flick, the only redeeming quality on display here is its lead cast. Far more suicide than saviour for the DCEU.
General Audiences: Meh
Film Buffs: Not Recommended
True Believers (DC): Meh
Winner of 2016 Batsie Award for Plague.