- Movie Rating -

Suicide Squad (2016)

| August 12, 2016

It may be just the nature of the premise itself, but Suicide Squad feels oddly scummy.  There’s a pall of filth and grime that seems to permeate this movie not just from the production design but from the characters themselves.  Watching the movie you feel like you’re hanging out with a bunch of prison lifers who own their bad behavior but have reached a point at which they’ve become reflective about it.  They crack wise and then they mope about what they’ve done.  All the while you kind of feel the urge to toss these characters a bar of soap.

And yet while Suicide Squad is difficult to like, at the same time it is difficult to hate.  There is so much wrong with it that its problems fall on you like a ton of bricks but you can’t deny that it’s given more dramatic and comedic weight then it probably deserves.  It has a plot that is messy and disorganized almost to the point of giving you a raging headache but the actors in the foreground are so committed to their roles that you feel the urge to give it a pass on effort alone.

The movie exists in the same universe as the godawful Man of Steel and Batman v Superman and takes place not long after the latter.  It is far more entertaining than either of those two if not any better constructed.  After the torpid reception given BS earlier this year, the filmmakers have decided to keep things a little less heavy-handed and follow the pattern of Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy by working it as a comedy.  In some respects it works, but in trying to be serious and a comedy it suffers from a massive identity crisis.  For everything the movie gets right, there are two things it gets wrong.

The story flips the script on the usual superhero epic by having the villains at center stage.  The Suicide Squad is populated by the most despicable, and yet colorful, band of scumbags that the DCU has ever produced: Harley Quinn, Deadshot, El Diablo, Captain Boomerang, Katana and Killer Croc.  All are confined to various maximum security prisons for crimes that really should have put them on death row.  Deadshot (Will Smith) is a hitman who has a powerful weapon and charges a million a shot.   El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) is a meta human who can blaze fire from his fingertips.  Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) is an Aussie killer.  Katana (Karen Fukuhara) is a master swordswoman.  Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) appears to be a mutated crocodile on two legs.  And Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is a daffy blonde so homicidal that her confinement has her locked in a cell fit for Hannibal Lector.

They’re all assembled by a shadowy government agent named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who, for some reason, needs these idiots to wipe out a mystical being named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) who can travel through time and manipulate metal and all kinds of cool stuff.  So, why then does she have need for a hitman, a crocodile and a blonde with a baseball bat?  The members of The Justice League exist in this universe; they were established earlier this year in BS so why does she need these guys?  That’s at the top of my list of grievances.

And yet, while it is often an incoherent mess, one feels a sense that someone was trying.  You never sense that anyone got lazy.  In fact, one might argue that the movie is trying too hard.  Everyone is given a history that the movie pauses to deal with.  All the back stories are kind of bland and ordinary (Deadshot wants a better life for his daughter: Diablo mourns the loss of his family -blah blah blah).  The only character with a remotely interesting history is Harley Quinn, who was once a psychiatrist who developed an unhealthy obsession with Joker until he mangled her fragile mind and they became a couple in crime.  It’s not really a tragedy – she loves it.

Margo Robbie is the delight here.  As Harley Quinn she captures the character’s homicidal spirit and the full-bore obsession with her beloved “Puddin’.”   Harley was always meant to be ultimate Joker fangirl, a dim-bulbed maniac who hung onto his every homicidal whim.  She offers that in her performance and that’s why I’m so disappointed that her wit and enthusiasm isn’t matched by Jared Leto.  He’s really the weak link here.  I’m not sure what direction he was given but his Joker feels more like a psycho gangbanger than The Clown Prince of Crime.  His Joker, decked out in tattoos and capped teeth, feels out of place here.  Previous incarnations from Caesar Romero to Jack Nicholson, to Mark Hamill to Heath Ledger gave the character the flair of a comedian with a sick sense of humor.  Joker likes the chaos he’s unspooling, but here the character is a mystery.  The crazy is present but where are the jokes?  Where’s the glee that the character possesses.  This guy feels like he’d rather cut you then make you laugh.  That’s a misstep.

So too is the fact that this is a rather unpleasant movie.  As I said, there’s a scummy quality to Suicide Squad that felt unsettling.  This is a physically dark and grimy movie, dark in places where it is hard to see what is going on from moment to moment and grimy in it’s general tone.  I’m realizing now that this is becoming a constant in the DCU.  Where Marvel wants to make movies for kids and teens, Warner Bros wants to make superhero movies that are geared for adults.  That’s an admirable goal, but why make them so unpleasant and mean?  Not to mention incoherent.

I spent probably an hour trying to sort out this movie’s tangled knots so that I could uncover the few things that I liked about it but this is a frustrating experience.  You find yourself appreciating parts of it, but hating most of it.  You can at least take relief in the fact that it isn’t as dead serious as Batman v Superman or Man of Steel.  It has entertaining moments.  For the DCU it’s a step forward, a step that should have been a giant leap.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2016) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized