Critics may be lamenting Suicide Squad for its ‘sloppy’ directing, its’ ‘thin’ writing and its lacklustre finale, but I found the DC villains ensemble piece to be wholly entertaining, fun and, on occasion, moving.
After the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a top government official called Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) rounds up a group of villains to take down a mystical and magical threat. The team is comprised of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and a few more.
There are reports flying around that DC Films and Warner Bros rushed writer/director David Ayer into writing the ensemble piece in just six weeks. There are further reports that the studio then enforced extensive reshoots to lighten Ayer’s original sombre tone. Keeping all that in mind, it’s a miracle and a blessing that Suicide Squad works where it needs to work.
It is true that the first 20 minutes feels incredibly choppy as the film introduces its characters and its narrative numerous times, often repeating the same threads, but when the team is formed, we do get some magic.
The best aspect of Suicide Squad is the team. Deadshot is not only funny and enigmatic, he is also emotional and layered. Harley Quinn is crazy and beautiful and damaged. El Diablo is shockingly magnetic and provides some of the best moments in the feature. Even Boomerang, a corny character if ever you’ve seen one, is hilarious. Killer Croc is dynamite each and every single time. Rick Flag has an interesting connection to the story that we’ll ultimately skip over for spoiler reasons.
When the team is together it’s awfully fun and at times incredibly engrossing to watch. Having said that, the villain isn’t all that interesting, as is often the case with many of these superhero films. (I honestly don’t know why people are making an example of this film’s villain when you need only look at Iron Man 3, X-Men: Apocalypse and Thor: The Dark World for worse).
Ayer, a director who’s work I am a fan of, has moments of flair and brilliance in this ultimately good film. Again, having said that, there are moments that may have benefitted from a more tempered hand. Much of the action is simple shoot-‘em-up sequences and would have benefitted from more time at the storyboard. The action sequences involving Deadshot and Harley Quinn are genuinely enjoyable and unique because their fighting styles allow for bombastic moments whilst the rest are simply hack and slash. There is a singular moment involving Deadshot raining down on bad guys that is simply awesome.
So, everyone going into this film wanted to know one thing and one thing only: is Jared Leto’s Joker any good? Here’s the thing: I don’t know. Leto’s Clown Prince of Crime isn’t in the film long enough or substantially enough to judge the guy on. It’s very much like Spider-man in Captain America: Civil War. Spidey was great in the flick but anyone calling Tom Holland’s wall crawler the best there’s ever been simply doesn’t have a big enough sample size. The same can be said for Leto’s Joker. Having said that, Leto is perfectly fine as the Joker but keep in mind that this is a very different Joker than Ledger’s or Nicholson’s or even Romero’s.
Nevertheless, the best performances in the film come from Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Smith’s Deadshot and Davis’ Waller. Robbie is the quintessential Harley Quinn. She is sexy and powerful and crazy and unhooked and every moment she’s on camera she is affecting the mood. Smith brings his natural charisma to Floyd Lawton, the man who never misses, and I’m sure that without Smith, this film would not have worked. He’s comedic timing is brilliant, his leadership is tangible and his emotional beats hold weight. Davis, who is brilliant in everything, almost steals the show from Robbie and Smith with an evil, evil turn as Task Force X’s soulless puppet master. Even when she’s delivering exposition, Davis brings something to it.
The black mark against the whole film is the villain. The very specific choice the actress has taken to playing the nefarious character just didn’t work. It came of as hokey and a little to cartoony even for this very comic book-y movie. But, like much of this film, the good definitely outweighs the bad.
Overall, Suicide Squad will work for some narratively and won’t work for some narratively. It may be an unbalanced film but if you allow it to wash over you, it has the capacity to be fun.