Sure, everybody loves heroes, but there’s a reason that the villains tend to be the more popular characters – villains have a chance to let loose, to be bad with gay abandon. Assemble a team of villains, then, and that’s pretty much assuring a hit, right? After all, making an anti-hero film with a higher age rating worked with Deadpool. However, for all its posturing, Suicide Squad is basically a run-of-the-mill superhero movie with a touch more attitude, and it faces many of the same highlights and lowlights as those films do.
Figuring that they are all expendable and therefore perfect for a suicide mission, United States intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to assemble a team of dangerous incarcerated supervillains for a top-secret assignment. The team, including Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), must learn to work together as they are armed with government weapons and given their instructions. Dubbed Task Force X, the criminals unite to battle a mysterious and powerful entity linked to one of their own. Meanwhile, the diabolical Joker (Jared Leto) launches an evil agenda of his own – to find and reclaim the woman he loves, no matter what the cost.
When Marvel’s Avengers was released, there was concern about balancing characters in the film – fortunately for them, they had had several films worth of character development to fall back on and so every hero was effectively on the same level. The same is not nearly true here – Will Smith is the main focus on the movie, with an emotional arc regarding his child that adds some unexpected depth to his performance. There are moments when he’ll make you laugh, and moments when he’ll make you feel – you’ll almost forget his star’s considerable decline.
It is a similar discussion with Robbie as fan favourite Harley Quinn – she turns in a good performance, boarding on the right side of over-the-top, and she is fun throughout the picture. By contrast, Davis’ restrained and steely Waller is a formidable character, and shady enough to cast doubt throughout. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is also a highlight, evolving throughout the picture in his attitude to the villains and undergoing an emotional journey that feels valid and true.
Other characters suffer – there was massive apprehension about Leto taking on the role of the Joker after Heath Ledger’s turn in The Dark Knight, and he sadly has too few scenes to make any real impression (aside from Harley’s backstory, he could’ve not been here and the film would likely be better). Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc) is buried behind layers of prosthetic and forced to growl his lines, and both Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) are so under-developed that you feel they are only here to pad out numbers. Still, at least they aren’t Cara Delevingne – thank goodness she only has a few scenes, because she simply isn’t an actress.
As is typical in modern hero movies, an ominous beam of light in the sky depicts the end of the world, and the baddies face the normal trials in beating it – meaningless henchmen to add some action scenes, culminating in a CGI-heavy showdown with the final baddy. It isn’t structured particularly well, cramming in flashbacks everywhere, but I rather liked the way it used them to give us some backstories – it’s just a shame some backstories (Killer Croc, for example) are a sentence that is not worth the effort.
Suicide Squad has a very comic book feel about it in its stylings, with some particularly nice visual effects in its first act – it is a shame, then, that it tends towards more traditional murky visuals towards the end. One noticeably good example of this is the end credits sequence, which offers some character-specific imagery – I know people like to flee, but it’s worth sticking around for (plus, if you do, you’ll be rewarded with a mid-credits scene).
I enjoyed Suicide Squad, but I think it should have been better than it is – it starts out by promising something more off-the-wall and different, and then lapses into the same old tried superhero formula. Good performances by some of its cast don’t really counterbalance the overcooked plot and the directing issues here – it is enjoyable to watch in the moment, but it lacks any real staying power. For what it is, though, it does a perfectly fine job.
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Jared Leto (The Joker), Will Smith (Deadshot), Cara Delevingne (Enchantress), Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller)
Running Time: 123 Mins
Image credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/CmRih_VtVAs/maxresdefault.jpg