With Suicide Squad, it’s the audience that may die … of boredom.
By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
Super villains blessed with dazzling superhuman talents? Nope. Super cool, super lethal gizmos guaranteed to take down the opposition? Nah. Super suspense in a fresh, fun-packed comic book actioner? Negative. Don’t think of Suicide Squad as the villainous flipside to X-Men … instead, think Zzzzz-Men.
More mind-boggling than a wackadoo jailbird relying on a baseball bat to vanquish unearthly creatures, is the fact that this pallid film comes from the blistering talent of writer/director David Ayer. Given the excellence of his prior work (writer/director of Fury, End of Watch, screenwriter of Training Day), it appears that Ayer’s creative bedrock lies in military and police drama … and that this sidestep into the comic book action world finds him far from home.
Based on characters from DC Comics, an assortment of serious criminals find themselves temporarily freed from incarceration, sacrificed to take on a mission that’s beyond the capabilities of the U.S. military. The scheme is the brainchild of top dog intelligence officer Amanda Waller (a muffled Viola Davis), who believes she has nothing to lose by turning these miscreants into a critical force that might succeed in vanquishing a few demons from hell. And if these felons fail, oh well. At least the government won’t have to waste any more money keeping them alive behind bars.
If Suicide Squad had been executed with a strong script, winning characters and substantial wit, this concept might have worked. (Actually, the concept did work in 1982, when 48 Hrs. hit the box office with a bang.) Here, however, the disappointments pile on.
First, the felons themselves. Though Waller refers to the squad as “metahumans,” the gang consists of garden variety criminals who have singular talents. Will Smith’s Deadshot is a first-rate assassin. Margot Robbie’s nutball Harley Quinn — a onetime psychologist turned psycho at the hand of Jared Leto’s Joker – believes she’s invincible. And employs girlish flirting, a hooker outfit and the aforementioned baseball bat to slaughter all foes. If the script had some complexity, Robbie’s character could have been far more intriguing. Other squad members include a jewel thief named Boomerang who, no surprise, throws boomerangs with deadly accuracy; an expert female samurai named Katana; and Killer Croc, named because of a mysterious skin disease that affected the poor guy when he was a teenager. Lastly, given his impressive pyrokinetic abilities, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) is the one bona fide mutant.
To keep the gang in line, Waller assigns G.I. Joe-like military colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to supervise. Whether they like him or not (they don’t), the squad understands that if he dies, they die. And that if his life is in danger, they’ll have to rescue him. Oddly enough, even though he’s considered a brilliant soldier, Flag is often overpowered by one evil creature or another. This could be comedic … but it’s not.
As for Will Smith, it’s almost a matter of course that his characters wind up protecting a vulnerable child (After Earth, Hancock, I Am Legend, The Pursuit of Happyness, Independence Day). The loving defender angle doesn’t inform his character so much as repeat the formula. Here, his moony Achilles heel is his daughter, exploited as a sappy device in his big heroic moment.
And then there’s the green-haired smiley-face. Whether it’s the conception or the interpretation, Jared Leto’s Joker is utterly appalling. (And not in a good way.) A sacrilege to previous renditions created by Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and the brilliant Heath Ledger, this Joker comes off as if he were an unbalanced teen nerd, taking a break from his Xbox One to cozy up to a hot, older woman who’s completely out of his league. The miscast pairing of these two actors as looney-tunes lovebirds is the most unreal aspect of this comic book drama.
More problems to die for: The plot is murkier than the sewage that Killer Croc chooses to swim in. While it’s stressed that the squad must learn how to work together, there are no scenes of them trying to do so until the third act. The dialogue is stilted, the relationships are awkward, and other than a few funny lines, the attempts at humor are clumsy. While the first two all-out battles offer up a hefty barrage of explosive sights and sounds, nothing is dramatically at stake.
Turning to the bona fide supernatural villains, the story focuses on the Enchantress, whose eyes gleam behind a stringy hairdo that begs for a super villain’s Supercut. Her brother Incubus, supposedly the most lethal of them all, tries to look and sound frightening … but an actor can only do so much, considering he’s dressed like an oversized Tony the Tiger. When he wreaks magical havoc, it’s only fitting to expect him to express himself with a celebratory “Grrrrreat!”
Between the swirling detritus hovering over Gotham’s skyscrapers, the gyrating, gussied-up Enchantress (who finally gets herself to a Supercuts) letting loose with all manner of stentorian curses, the strange beasties flying hither and yon, and the steroidal Tony the Tiger — perhaps a relative of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man — the aggregate effect is reminiscent of 1984’s Ghostbusters. If only this film shared a similar entertainment value.
The movie’s unfortunate name invites all kinds of derision. But if it had been a stronger film, Suicide Squad … would have killed.
Rating on a scale of 5 Batmans out of hell: 2
Release date: August 5, 2016
Written and Directed by: David Ayer
Based on the characters from: DC Comics
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara
Running Time: 123 minutes
Here’s the trailer: