Thursday, August 4, 2016

Suicide Squad

Maybe DC should shy away from its major heroes and concentrate on the fringes of the DCU. I don't know that you should call a $175 million theatrical release with an excessive marketing campaign a B-movie but that's exactly what Suicide Squad is. Writer/director David Ayer delivers an unapologetically trashy B-movie that, despite its faults, is fun.

Sure, the script spends far too long awkwardly introducing the various super-villains thrown together by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) for her super-secret black ops squad. And yes, the final act suffers from a villain more interested in putting on a giant light show than presenting a coherent threat. However, somewhere in-between these problematic areas Ayer provides room for his cast of malcontents to shine.

Make no mistake, this is Margot Robbie's film. Unfortunately this means the movie is full of more of Jared Leto's Joker than I'd like (sorry, still struggling with Mr. J. as a hip-hop gangster). On the plus-side Robbie in infectious while bringing several of the character's trademark qualities to the big screen.

Sure, I would have preferred a more classic interpretation of Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series, but the movie does introduce her backstory of the Joker brainwashing the poor psychologist (while expanding on it to include a vat of acid in a goofy scene more befitting a music video). Thankfully, the actress' charm helps cover-up at least some of the film's more obvious blemishes. Robbie isn't the only one having fun. Although he's still largely playing himself, Will Smith is actually quite good as the assassin Deadshot. While the movie does struggle with several serious and emotional beats, Smith doesn't have any issues with either the action (where has this Will Smith been the past decade?) or the hitman's softer side concerning his daughter (Shailyn Pierre-Dixon).

Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Cara Delevingne all steal moments as El Diablo, Killer Croc, and the Enchantress. Hell, I even liked Jai Courtney (the guy who killed Die Hard) who is well-cast as the equally-unlikable Captain Boomerang. Katana (Karen Fukuhara) seems to be a late addition as the only team member that doesn't get a full-blown flashback backstory (Harley, by comparison, gets at least three). I had a mixed reaction to both Ben Affleck (who, like the Joker, is shoehorned in a bit too much) and for Joel Kinnaman as Task Force X's team leader Rick Flag (more for his character's motivations in the film than the actor's performance).

While keeping several classic elements of the Suicide Squad comics the movie certainly plays like one of the more recent iterations. When concentrating on character, humor, and action the film works better than I expected. Where Suicide Squad gets into trouble is with its story and choice of ill-defined villain. The Squad are good together, and I'll give Ayer credit for spending the time to bring the misfits together into something resembling a team (an example of team building I have little faith Zack Snyder will bother to duplicate in Justice League), but the threat they are sent to stop could have been handled far better.

Make no mistake, Suicide Squad is a mess of a movie. Ayer struggles juggling this many balls in the air while focusing too much on Deadshot and Harley specifically to the detriment of the other characters. The film's plot needs some work and the movie lacks a satisfying conclusion. Yet despite all of this Ayer does manage to create an interesting train wreck that is fun to watch. It fits into DC's grim movie universe without forcing major changes on any one character (such as transforming Superman into a killer who doesn't really care that much about saving people). Suicide Squad is never boring and rarely groan-worthy (something I can't say about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) and balances its gritty themes and characters with some much needed humor.

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