Writer: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jay Hernandez, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jared Leto, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, Ike Barinholtz
Running time: 123mins
What’s the story: After the events of Batman v Superman, shadowy government agent Amanda Waller recruits the most dangerous prisoners languishing in the toughest prisons in exchange for time off their sentences. Charged with defending the world against any “meta-human” threat, it’s not long before their first high-risk mission arrives.
What’s the verdict: Poor ol’ Suicide Squad. Originally it was merely DC’s response to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and a cheeky way to introduce a slew of new characters into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU to those in the geek-know).
But, it arrives having to atone for the disappointment of Batman v Superman and single-handedly rescue DC’s summer fortunes. While being saddled with stories of artistic clashes between director David Ayer and the studio, and the rumour that this is a mash-up of Ayer’s vision and DC’s alternate mainstream cut.
While the reports of in-fighting may be inflated guff, there is no question Suicide Squad is a mess, crammed with plot but with structure so skimpy you could put it in Harley Quinn’s shorts and still have ample room for her toned derriere.
Reshoots notwithstanding, it was clearly too late to learn lessons from Zack Snyder’s Batman/Superman misfire. Too many characters? Check. Too little characterisation? Yep. Too much story to chew on? Indeed. Murky, messily shot action scenes? ‘Fraid so. A jukebox’s worth of literal song choices to inject energy and paper over plot cracks? Affirmative. Distinct lack of Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool style fun? Hell yes.
Apparently shot from a PowerPoint slide presentation rather than a script, the opening 20-odd minutes has Viola Davis’ Waller laboriously run through individual members of the Squad, each afforded a brief micro-movie that is the equivalent of saying, “Then this happened. Then this happened. Then this happened.”
While their characters wildly morph from scene – they’re bad/good! Crazy/sane! Corrupt/moral! – the cast’s commitment to the enterprise cannot be faulted. Will Smith delivers a large slab of charisma as Deadshot. Robbie almost succeeds in making the Joker-obsessed Harley Quinn more than a fanboy’s wet dream, although her ultimate fantasy is so conservative it could have come from Donald Trump. Joel Kinnaman as the Squad’s “normal” caretaker Rick Flag valiantly attempts to ground the wilder aspects of the movie.
Even Cara Delevingne, out of her depth as powerful ancient witch Enchantress, gives her best but the movie’s dramatic weight should never have been placed on those narrow shoulders.
However, David Ayer, a director vaunted for delivering blistering action scenes in cop drama End of Watch and Brad Pitt’s tank movie Fury, delivers the spectacle right? Wrong. While traces of his previous movies can be seen in the Squad’s skirmish with a zombie army (yes, zombies are here too) and an assault on a high-rise is reminiscent of The Raid, nothing stands out from the typical big-budget mayhem we’ve come to expect.
Actual deja-vu sets in with the CGI-laden denouement, oddly reminiscent of the climax in the original Ghostbusters minus wit and sass.
Ultimately it falls to Jared Leto’s The Joker to become the wild card that saves the day. Sorry to say then Leto’s killing joke falls flat, the script giving him tics and giggles and nothing else, Heath Ledger’s Agent of Chaos casting a heavy shadow. Suicide Squad should have teased him for a future adventure Batman Begins style.
So, as with Batman v Superman, is there anything positive? Cameos from Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader and Ezra Miller’s The Flash are good world building. Jai Courtney scores laughs as Captain Boomerang (character: he’s Aussie, he’s good with a boomerang). And we’ll always have those trailers that promised so much.
But again, as with BvS, it falls to a certain Wonder Woman to save the day. We’ll find out next June (as of writing this) if she’s up to it.