If you keep in mind the source material for latest comic book movie from Warner Bros. was initially intended for juvenile audiences in the late 1980s, Suicide Squad mostly fulfills its mission to entertain. If you believe such material could and should be more evolved by 2016, however, you will only be disappointed by this unbalanced attempt by DC Comics at making a super-powered ensemble movie for the “Willenium.”
The concept of a group of supervillains uniting under the promise of partial pardons for their misdeeds/threat of government execution held promise in the wake of the subpar misfire that was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and there are a lot of leftovers from that film to further establish the DC Comics movie universe. But by itself Suicide Squad is a busted supervillain salad which does not satisfy like a meal.
The plot gestates as a rag-tag group of incarcerated criminals go through a mashup of The Avengers, Magnificent Seven, Escape from New York and Ghostbusters after we are introduced to their respective backstories for the first 20 minutes of the film. We get (not chronologically, but in order of imposed importance) the half-man, half reptile Killer Croc (an unrecognizable Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Australian-for-bad-boy Boomerang (Jai Courtney, nearly eclipsed by his huge head), the sword-swinging she-samurai Katana (nearly-silent-yet-subtitled Karen Fukuhara), Hispanic fire-starter Diablo (Jay Hernandez, channeling his inner Eddie Guerrero) and unstable, femme-fatal-in-hot-pants Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie as a mentally ill Marilyn Monroe mashup), who are all recruited against their will by government black ops leader Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) after the girlfriend of one of her operatives (Joel Kinnaman’s stoic Rick Flag) loses control of her mystical powers and unleashes the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) on a bid for world conquest.
Those are already a lot of characters to keep track of for the two-hours plus time this dish is served, but make no mistake that the main entree of what was intended to be a full-course ensemble is the Fresh Prince of Gotham City, Captain Charisma, Mr. Intergalactic Black Star Power, “Welcome to Earf” himself, Scowlin’ Will Smith. The story is not-so-smartly centered around his antihero with a heart of gold who gets taken down by Batman (Ben Affleck’s second time as the Dark Knight) in a flashback explaining why the marksman-who-can’t-miss known as Deadshot wears a deflated volleyball on his head when killing other bad guys.
Throw in Jared Leto’s Hot Topic take on the Clown Prince of Crime as a day-glo version of the Joker alongside a misguided exploration of misunderstood characters doing the wrong thing for the right reason, garnish the references to the upcoming Justice League movie, blow lots of things up, and you pretty much have the film. It’s best served cold and goes down clunky.
On a summer blockbuster level this dish is derivative of much better, and smarter, action films mentioned above and leaves a bad aftertaste. Hernandez’s Diablo, who is broadly characterized as an emo Latino gang banger who does not want to use his ability to control fire until there is a half-hearted attempt to humanize him, spices up the mix only to have the other characters blend together like so-much melted cheese.
Robbie attempts to straddle the poles of being an independent character by undertaking both fan-favorite Harley Quinn and the backstory of her alter ego psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel, but she is only given identity in relation to her masculine counterpart, bizarrely portrayed by Leto’s attempt at dark comedy through this interpretation of the Joker. The reaction is about as welcome (and funny) as a bloated fart at a funeral, but the worst offender of all is Smith. His borderline racist (sorry, ebonic-empowered) characterization of a comic book character calls to mind his previous attempt in 2008’s underdeveloped Hancock and particularly undermines the strong female presence of Davis’ Waller, if not every other character he shares the screen with, throughout the film.
Much has been made of the music in the movie, and while it adequately moves the action sequences along it often feels like the executives at Warner Bros. just looked to see what songs they had under license and slapped them over the big booms rather than find something which actually fit the mood or exposition.
Suicide Squad is one garish goulash of a film. Still, if you just want to sneak a sip of a room-temperature beer and watch things blow up Suicide Squad does the job. There is a post-credits scene aping the much better Marvel movies to remind fans Batman and his real super friends will be arriving soon, but after digesting this mashed-up bowl of small potatoes Suicide Squad may make you go on a diet of superhero fare until something less chunky and more of a meal is available.
Written and Directed by David Ayer
MPAA rating: PG-13 for comic book violence and suggestive material
Celluloid Scoreboard: D+; bloated comic book fare which may give you a stomach ache. Only go see it for Batfleck as the rest of the film needs more prep.