Suicide Squad (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie 

So I decided to finally watch Suicide Squad the other day. It’s honking critic reviews and widespread criticisms of averageness from just about anyone who’d seen it had put me off going to the cinema during its release or even watching upon its arrival to blu-ray. Being in the midst of a comic book movie watching splurge however, freshly coming off the back of both the Wonder Woman and Spider-Man releases, I decided to take the plunge and give it a bash. Before I delve deeper, I’ll start off by saying that shock horror! It’s not a classic, nor is it in the class of the aforementioned films. Having said that though, it’s not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would either.

If you’ve not watched the film yet or perhaps haven’t even heard of the premise behind the name Suicide Squad then I’ll briefly summarise. They’re essentially a group of anti-heroes in captivity that are forced to work together in a series of missions with their impending death at the hands of an explosive implanted into their heads supplying them with a strong motivation to work together.

The unofficial leader in this iteration is Deadshot (Will Smith), a master marksman as the name implies with a chequered hitman past. Then you’ve got Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the bat shit crazy, sidekick and love interest of Mr. J; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a man with trust issues that likes to rob banks and throw a boomerang about; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a introspective Hispanic chap with the nifty ability to wield fire; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a brooding, ferocious loner who’s appearance resembles a reptile (hence the name) and finally Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a samurai wielding, ninja like superheroine. There’s also Slipknot, but he dies so early that he’s an irrelevance.

Now that’s out the way, I’ll get onto the actual film itself. I didn’t really care for the story here. It was pretty uninspiring, not the most engaging, lacked a proper villain or threat of any kind and it took far too long to introduce the characters. I’d say the opening thirty or forty minutes or so was dedicated to sequentially introducing each of the Suicide Squad members, which is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, with it essentially being an origin film, chocked full of new characters, it was a necessary evil. I get that and I actually quite enjoyed the little short story, montages that played for each of them. It did do a reasonable job of showing what each was about. They were too damn long though and the story definitely suffered as a result.

And whilst we’re talking about the story, what the hell was that villain all about? The Enchantress? Sorry, nah. She did nothing and I mean nothing throughout the entire film. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and Griggs (Ike Barinholtz) were more impactful in that regard. The former as the leader of the secret government agency tasked with keeping the group in check and the latter a sadistic guard.

It was basically a prolonged introduction followed by a series of interconnected action sequences that seemed to play out across ten blocks worth of the city. To makes matters worse, they criminally underused the Joker character. I’m actually scratching my head in bemusement as to why he was even in it. His character had no rhyme or reason for being near the film, no place in the plot, made even less impact than the terrible Enchantress, seemed to serve solely as a twisted romantic side thread and plot device to delve back into Harley Quinn’s story. I wasn’t even that impressed by Leto’s portrayal either. He’s a cracking, extremely talented actor, but it did nothing for me. It’s a tough act following on from Heath Ledger though and he had little to work off, at least in those scenes that made the final cut, so I’ll try not to be too harsh.

Margot Robbie however was incredible. She’s had a fantastic few years and seems tailor made for the role. Despite being given one liners that would make Arnie cringe, she still managed to overcome it with the standout performance. There was the perfect balance of a sultry, seductress and charming craziness, with genuine funny moments flung in for good measure. I can understand why DC are looking to cash in on thag particular hype train.

Another performance that impressed was Will Smith’s. He managed to come across as a anti-hero badass for the most part, but also brought real humanity to the character. They tried this with a couple of the others too, in particular El Diablo, but Deadshot’s backstory with his daughter and the whole struggle to maintain their relationship was the best developed out with those previously mentioned Harley Quinn flashbacks. That was another disappointing aspect of the film for me. Barring Deadshot and Quinn, there wasn’t much focus on the other members. Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang barely got a mention following the opening ‘reels’ and Katana got one line about her dead husbands soul being trapped in the sword.

This is one area that I feel DC really need to improve upon. It goes back to what I was saying earlier. There were far too many new characters being introduced that really should have been given standalone films prior to this being released. That would’ve freed up more running time for a better plot.

It’s funny because reading this back, it honestly comes across like I hated this film, but I genuinely didn’t. It’s not THAT bad a film. It’s a good bit of fun, harmless, escapism with some interesting (and not so) personalities brought together. The action for the most part was excellent, the soundtrack worked well, was extremely enjoyable and visually it was a complete delight on the eyes. Special shoutout to Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag who was another positive. I’m enjoying his involvement in House of Cards just now and was pleased to see him giving a good account of himself here. That said, the forced romantic sub-plot with him and June Moone (the woman possessed with the Enchantress) at best lacked chemistry, wasn’t very believable and at worst was completely unnecessary.

So my final thoughts on this then. Would I recommend it to anybody else yet to see it? Hmm… depends on whether you can get a good quality video on YouTube with most of Harley Quinn’s scenes or not. No seriously, kidding aside, it’s worth a watch despite the onslaught of negativity that’s plagued it. It’s a deeply flawed film, but there’s still enough positives buried within to recommend giving it at least one viewing.

Rating: 2.5/5

 

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