REVIEW: Suicide Squad (2016)

Theatrical Release Poster - Warner Bros. Pictures

Theatrical Release Poster – Warner Bros. Pictures

The following is a review of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

The DC Cinematic Universe needs a hit right now. Man of Steel was polarizing. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was critically panned and that film needed an extended cut to fix some of the many problems there are with the film. Now, Warner Bros. and DC have released a film about bad guys teaming up to do ‘good.’ It may be a bit of a risk, but they are going for a Guardians of the Galaxy-like surprise hit.

Suicide Squad, the third film in the cinematic universe, is very different from the first two films. It isn’t a solo film and, while it does feature cameos from certain superheroes, it isn’t a superhero movie, strictly speaking. Suicide Squad is about imprisoned villains that team up to do something good for the U.S. government on a covert mission to save the world.

On the team, you have: Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie) – the Joker’s girlfriend. Deadshot (played by Will Smith) – an amazing marksman. Captain Boomerang (played by Jai Courtney) – who, well, he just throws boomerangs. El Diablo (played by Jay Hernandez) – a murderer who has the power to manipulate fire.

Killer Croc (played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – a human crocodile. Slipknot (played by Adam Beach) – who can climb anything (that’s what they say in the film). And finally, Katana (played by Karen Fukuhara) – who wields a ‘soultaking’ katana. This team, led by military-man Rick Flagg (played by Joel Kinnaman), is assigned to take down a ‘witch’ (played by Cara Delevingne) before she ends the world.

There are some pretty important things that work really well in this film, so let’s start with the positives. This is the most ‘fun’ film in the cinematic universe so far, as it actually has real fun with some of the characters. Suicide Squad also starts to build a more complete universe. There are some very cool cameos here, and one of the character introductions reveals a key piece of information regarding the Robin-suit from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Most of the performances are also really solid, and the main characters work well together. This is probably the best performance I’ve seen from Jai Courtney in a major franchise film. Jay Hernandez is a highlight, and Ike Barinholtz’s character worked for me too. Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Viola Davis (who plays the ruthless Amanda Waller) are all great here, and I thought that Smith stole every scene he was in. Smith’s performance is easily the best thing about this film.

And that brings me to my negatives. It really saddens me to write this, but one of my favorite actors and musicians working today doesn’t need to be in Suicide Squad, and adds nothing of real weight to the film. I am, of course, talking about Jared Leto’s Joker. Although the character has been a key character in the trailers (with one of the trailers, they clearly wanted you to think he was the main antagonist in the film), he really doesn’t do a lot in the film. But it almost felt like Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman just with the Joker: we don’t see enough of ‘Mr. J’ to properly critique Leto’s version of the character.

Now, let’s talk about music. I don’t normally like to compare a film I am reviewing to films from ‘rival’ studios, but the marketing has made it pretty clear: Warner Bros. wants Suicide Squad to work on the same level as Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy did. Suicide Squad has a lot of popular music, but Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t just work because it had a great pop soundtrack.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, the soundtrack is a part of the story of the film, and the musical choices add to every scene in one way or another. But while the list of songs in Suicide Squad is pretty great, it doesn’t come close to working as well as it did in Guardians of the Galaxy. The immoderate use of music in the first half of Suicide Squad took me out of the movie. It didn’t feel right.

Here it comes: Suicide Squad is, at times, a confusing and illogical mess. Somehow the filmmakers fail to properly introduce both Slipknot and Katana in the opening twenty minutes that repeatedly emphasize both who Quinn and Deadshot are (some cool scenes with those two in the beginning), and what the squad is all about. It has bad moments with really bad CGI (compared to other superhero films), editing issues, and the film even breaks its own rules.

It’s also got one of the absolute worst villains I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie. I don’t think it’s Delevingne’s fault, necessarily. Everything about the character, her goons and her brother is just so bland. The character design of the villain isn’t that exciting, and her brother looks awful. It also just makes no sense that these are the people that are recruited to defend Midway City. Why can’t other heroes stop the threat, and, really, what can a guy who throws boomerangs and an insane woman with a baseball bat be expected to do to stop this villain?

I saw this film with someone who ended up enjoying it quite a bit, and I get why you would like parts of the film. The characters are exciting, and if the mini-music videos don’t take you out of the film then you may end up pretty satisfied with it. But even though I really want to see some of these characters again, I have to say that Suicide Squad doesn’t work well. I think there was a good film here at some point, but I am very disappointed with the final product, which reeks of studio interference.

5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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