SUICIDE SQUAD [Review]: The Killing Joke.
Since I’m known at this point as some sort of DC Cinematic Universe apologist, many of you are likely expecting me to attack critics and Rotten Tomatoes once again. Well, expect the unexpected — in this review, not the movie itself — because I’m as conflicted about Suicide Squad as these reborn villains’ call of duty to help or die (from the push of a mobile phone app) just the same…
There’s not too much actually terrible with Suicide Squad, really, but– seeing how it has and never was more than a B-level comic book series –you probably shouldn’t have had high expectations for it in the first place. Seriously. Not even Amanda Waller (played by a brilliantly unwavered Viola Davis) had big hopes for her chiefly nincompoop Task Force X, a group of oddball incarcerated baddies sent on “suicide” missions that not even the U.S. Military can handle. Sadly, the film loses much of its stylish zeal and zany humor when these two groups join hands in solidarity.
Director David Ayer lets go of the film’s uber cool and particular tone after the first act; his action sequences often miss the whole point, too, not showcasing enough Special Weapons And Tactics that would give reason as to why in the hell the government gave the “OK” to use the Squad in the first place. Many filmgoers are going to compare Suicide Squad to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and justifiably so, seeing how both movies showcase the more comical side of the superhero comic book world, have a hip and quirky score, and both.. use Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky”. Eh?
HA.. HA.. HA..
No laughing matter, Jared Leto‘s Joker and Ben Affleck‘s Batman are fucking awesome. They have enough of a presence in the film to give Suicide Squad a feeling that this is part of something bigger, which, while making most geeks yearn for a new and highly inevitable Gotham confrontation, raises the stakes for the film’s two brightest stars, Margot Robbie‘s Harley Quinn and Will Smith‘s Deadshot. Both Robbie and Smith nail their portrayals as conflicted villains who still have some good in them, no matter how trigger-happy and psychotic their personas can be.
While we all knew from the teasers that Robbie’s Doctor Harleen Frances Quinzel would own this film (because she does, and showing her plethora of pin-up poses, baseball bats/mallets, “bang!” revolvers, and in other Harley clown costumes in perverse romantic flashbacks with her “Mistah J” is ever-so-satisfying), a perhaps more pleasant surprise was the performance of Smith. Seeing how a man who was once the biggest star in the world–and could command $30 million/per on the drop of a dime–it was easy to have reservations about him being a part of something so eclectically ensemble.
But here’s the issue. Even the enjoyable well-rounded Deadshot’s one shining moment under the watch of Waller goes wrong when he makes the more sinister choice, and Ayer fucks it all up… with stupid slow-mo. No need to be tactical, man. Show Floyd Lawton’s demons (the fact he can’t always be there for his daughter), and move on. Don’t drag it out. Some of the technical choices in this movie are highly questionable, like everything about the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne).
JUSTICE LEAGUE DORK
An otherwise important and ever-powerful supernatural character in the DC Universe, Delevigne’s “witch” is relegated to being such and only, and never makes for a compelling antagonist or love interest to Waller’s top ace, Rick Flagg (Robocop‘s Joel Kinnaman). There was initial appeal that one of Flagg’s hired guns–especially his own bed-mate–would be “the issue”, till the Enchantress’ utter mumbo-jumbo spellcasting comes off cheesier than a Constantine NBC Network villain-of-the-week climax. Crazily enough, I was never convinced throughout the whole film that Task Force X were the right peeps for this job (and a post credits sequence sorta supports that theory). They add more guns and hit-or-miss one-liners, to which most of the funniest lines were in the trailer, but we hardly see what any of them are made of.
Popular Flash Rogue Boomerang (Jai Courtney, a frighteningly basic Tom Hardy clone) and fan favorite Gotham villain, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) are almost useless. While Courtney’s Boomer is funny and has some cool moments in Squad‘s first 20-minutes, we never understand why he’s “hired” in the first place. His boomerang does get one cool GPS tracker moment, I guess. And other than a few stereotypical and borderline racist jokes spewing out of the jaw of Croc, he’s way too skinny, slithery and small for a villain as imposing as he in the comic. It would have been preferably “killer” to have him as a modified CGI character ala Mark Ruffalo Hulk. Maybe it wasn’t in the budget.
At least El Diablo, arguably the film’s least popular character from the Suicide Squad comic is.. ahem.. cool. Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights) plays the character pretty straight, a demonized ex-gangbanger-turned-murderous arsonist who doesn’t want to have anything to do with anything. Chato Santana’s (and not Lazarus Lane, “lol”) story is actually quite touching, but winds up predictable when he finds that moment of redemption. Still, his recluse persona plays well with the rest of his more boisterous comrades–until another recluse joins the frame to get her “30 Seconds To” tell her uninspiring origin tale (Karen Fukuhara‘s Katana).
Now, let’s go from one Hot Topic to the next… There’s no question that the tattooed bareskin showing, lipstick smearing, leather get-up wearing characters (and actors) in Suicide Squad are “hot”. They’re highly appealing to the skinnyjean teen and millenial cosplayian nerds of this rebellious new generation, in a world where being obsessed with a guy like Leto’s Joker is really not all that shocking or appalling. We must remember that these are more than movies and they are properties. Their goal is to sell as much shit as possible. The guy sitting directly in front of me, drowning in his beer of furious sorrow about the film, is also wearing a Harley Quinn t-shirt.
NO LAUGHING MATTER
That’s one of the things critics missed with their initial hate. Suicide Squad, while not a great movie is also not a terribly appealing one for the bearded-and-balding 40-year olds who type up these reviews from their mom’s basement. The bright neons, hard trap beats, and zero-fucks-given attitudes of the film appeal to a much different audience than Captain America: Civil War.
With that said, I can’t recommend this movie to people not obsessed with Harley Quinn, Jared Leto or the DC Cinematic Universe. If you hated Batman v. Superman, you’ll probably hate this even more. Suicide Squad has enough going for it for a satisfying night out at the theater, especially due to the admirable performances of Davis, Robbie, Smith, and Leto (and even a dope cameo from Common!), but isn’t risky enough to live up to the name — you know, unless an R-Rated “Ultimate Edition” of this decides to come out on Blu Ray too.
Warner Bros. Pictures’ Suicide Squad in theaters everywhere this Friday.