Here we are on August 4th, the official release date of the DC comics, Action/Adventure summer blockbuster film “Suicide Squad”, Written and Directed by David Ayer (End Of Watch and Fury). Suicide Squad is about a secret government agency who fear they might be ill-equipped to deal with any future threat to the world. In a last-ditch effort contingency plan, U.S intelligence officer, Amanda Weller (played by Viola Davis of TV’s, How To Get Away With Murder) enlists the help of imprisoned supervillians who are being held at an undisclosed location. Their task, carry out a dangerous black ops missions requiring them to stop an entity known as “The Enchantress” (Cara Delevingne) before she assembles her army. The film also stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye- Agbaje and Jared Leto. My last experience with DC was the train wreck that was “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice”, needless to say that whole universe went down a rung in my estimations. With that said, ever since I saw the first trailer for Suicide Squad I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release so I thought I’d go and check out the very first screening.
If memory serves me correct, the whole idea of bringing superheros together on the big screen originally came about in Joss Whedon’s 2012 film, “The Avengers”. Since then, we’ve seen a number of characters making appearances in films of various comic book adaptions. It’s been done in “Iron Man”, “Captain America”, “Superman” and that’s just to name a few, most recently the cluster *expletive*, Batman vs Superman. With most of those individual Avengers characters having their own franchises, I can’t help but wonder why they bother crossing them over into each others films again and again, especially when they already have The Avengers… I mean where do you draw the line? Any who, I still enjoy those films for exactly what they are, a couple of hours of entertainment, nothing more, nothing less. So at the helm of Suicide Squad we have David Ayer, a fantastic Writer and Director whose spent a career mostly in the Crime/Drama genre, bar the screenplays for superb war films, “U-571” and “Fury”. If I’m honest, a fresh set of ears and eye could be what’s required in a genre that’s growing laborious with each and every new (but not new) release. Ayer handles the material and its delivery like a pro, on top of that, let’s just take a second to acknowledge how great it is to see this bunch of misfits and iconic characters finally together in one film.
Suicide Squad is really nicely shot. There’s a lot of variety in the camera work and a majority of the editing plays superbly to the storytelling. The original trailer showcased what type of soundtrack we were in for but it’s surprisingly more extensive than you might have thought. There’s the recognizable sound of Creedence Clear Water Revival and Queen, as well as “You Don’t Own Me”, originally performed by Lesley Gore. Also in the mix are modern artists like Eminem, Skrillex and some Lil’ Wayne with Wiz Khalifa. I think the style of soundtrack works given the tone and genre but I suppose it can be a little guilty at times of coming off more like a plug for MTV than anything else. Suicide Squad is all about its action, it’s what you paid for isn’t it? The film takes a little while to amp up but there’s plenty of enjoyable scenes along the way that help build the character development. There’s some early first act action, albeit in fits and starts, showcasing the abilities of each of our anti-heroes. The weapons look great but unfortunately there’s no real use for any of the high-caliber military gear because the squad each have their own signature go-to, involving something in their arsenal. Most of the visual effects were pretty solid and it goes without saying that a film of this nature relies heavily on its vfx. The buildings and general landscape design (wherever not on location) all looked quite good as well.
Now let’s talk about the squad because these characters are the reason you’re going to go and see this film. I didn’t do much research in terms of the characters and the respective casting decisions. I thought I’d avoid the inevitable mass of keyboard warriors giving their spiel on why they think a certain actor/actress is the worst choice for said character. I, like most kids, went through a bit of a comic book phase when I was younger but I’ve never been a keen fan, so I was happy to head into this one with no pre-conceived notions about what to expect. Will Smith was cast as “Deadshot”. I’ve always enjoyed Smith’s work, particularly in “Enemy Of The State” and “I Am Legend”. Deadshot is probably the most grounded of the supervillains, he’s built a reputation on being the best hitman and he’s got an impeccable shot. The outfit looks good and Smith supplies us with good banter among the misfits. Australian, Jai Courtney (Terminator Genisys and Jack Reacher) plays “Boomerang”, an infamous thief from Australia whose found his new playground in the US. I’ve always thought Courtney got an unfair wrap much like Sam Worthington when he started out (even now I suppose). Sure, Jai’s done some poor films (yes I’m looking at you “A Good Day To Die Hard” and “I, Frankenstein”) but who hasn’t. I was really glad to see him do a fine job here. His character’s got a little bit of heart and Courtney’s comedic timing is good too. Then there’s “Killer Croc”, a man/monster mutation (played by Agbaje). Other than the fantastic makeup job (kudos) I can’t say much about this handsome looking fella’ because he didn’t really have an arc.
Moving onto “Diablo” (played by Jay Hernandez of “Hostel”), an Hispanic man with a temper, a temper that manifests itself in the form of fire, something which landed him in trouble in the past. Hernandez is really good here and I loved the tattoo and makeup job on his face and body. I haven’t seen him in anything recently so it was nice to watch him getting a bit more screen time among these heavyweights, plus Diablo’s back story had real relevance. Bringing me to the last member of the squad, the infamous Harley Quinn (played by the stunning Margot Robbie). Those of you who know even a little bit about the DC world know about the dangerous and psychotic, pig tailed bombshell, Harley Quinn. Quinn was once a psychiatrist at the Arkham Asylum where the Joker was a patient. Some of the twosome’s history is covered in the opening and middle acts of the film. The costume and makeup department nailed Quinn’s look perfectly and Robbie does a really wonderful job of bringing the character to life for the big screen. Her sense of timing is clever and her mannerisms very spirited, I was hoping she’d have a little more dialogue than she did but it was great watching her regardless. Her beau, The Joker (played by a vivacious Jared Leto), comes into the narrative trying to reunite with his demented girl after he gets wind of her release (from a guard who visits a certain club he owns at least I think he owns). Leto’s performance is feverish but also reserved in all the right places, to help maintain the suspense. Fans (and I use that term loosely) were calling for his head when he was first announced in the role and much like the late great Heath Ledger did (albeit in a different style), Leto let his acting do the talking and boy does it talk, he completely nails it. Don’t attempt to compare Jared’s take on the infamous clown with Heath’s because they came at it with a very different approach (but both were great). The tattoos, hair and makeup, most notably the teeth, all bring this unbalanced individual to life.
Soldier, Rick Flag (played by Joel Kinnaman of “RoboCop” and “The Killing) is the man tasked with leading the covert mission and keeping the Suicide Squad in line, which proves to be more difficult than first thought. His character’s an intriguing one and more pieces of his puzzle (one crucial one) are revealed to the audience as the film progresses. Ever since I saw The Killing I’ve been a fan of Kinnaman, although I do prefer seeing him play primarily good characters. He’s the surprise packet for me here and I thought he actually gave the best performance in the film. He played his emotional scenes really well and his dry dialogue delivery was entertaining. Both Leto and Robbie are right up there and very good but unfortunately they don’t share a great deal of screen time, which may disappoint some viewers. Ayer’s narrative doesn’t accomplish anything new or different as far as the genre goes but he presents the story in an entertaining fashion. It’s quickly established who these mad characters are and what they’re capable of. From there it’s all about the action and those looking for anything more in terms of substance, best look elsewhere.
A lack of originality is always going to be the main issue for anything that’s based in the comic book world. Both Marvel and The DC universe are often guilty of the exact things that see other genres like Horror constantly getting a bad name but they just seem to escape criticism (well not by this reviewer). The whole “kids at the cabin in the woods” trope you see in Horror, isn’t usually a key factor in whether I like a film or not but I’ll always still acknowledge the lack of creativity. So that’s exactly what I do when I see “the world is coming to an end” over and over again, in whatever the latest superhero film is and this time it’s Suicide Squad. The plot lines here are essentially the same as in Whedon’s, “Avengers”, only this time around the individual personalities are far more entertaining. With that being said, it didn’t take me long to realize something was missing from Suicide Squad and that was a complete lack of people populating the city. Given the massive budget, you’d think upon realizing the landscape looked bare someone would have said, “Hey guys do we maybe want to dress the streets with some extras or at the least, CGI people?”. To be fair, there was one scene which indicated part of the city was in evacuation mode but still, we don’t even see any people beforehand. Even though I enjoyed most of the visual effects, during the final showdown it all felt a bit distracting. The Enchantress’s figure and design felt more like something out of a Tim Burton film, gothic esq and the effects went a bit haywire.
The articulation of Cara Delevingne’s dialogue during her portrayal of The Enchantress, felt off. The tone they went for (which would have been altered in post production) took me out of the film a bit. In addition to that, it wasn’t all that clear why she was doing the things she was, or what she was even trying to accomplish. I gathered she, along with her spiritual brother, were trying to assemble an army to take over (and or destroy) the world because that’s usually evil plan 101, move numero uno, a prerequisite if you will. Short of that I don’t know what else was going on, she seemed to be embracing the pretty lights and generating strength from some sort of power source. There’s another key aspect to Delevingne’s character but I don’t want to spoil the details. There’s a convenient setup that involves Rick Flag utilizing her powers as a tool to use to the government’s advantage. The sequence that eventually sets things in motion seemed rather lame. All it ends up doing is shifting blame onto Flag for his involvement, which holds no real weight in why certain events play out the way they do anyway. A little more time could have been spent either ironing out the finer points of the story or changing the villain altogether.
After the Suicide Squad screening I had a bit of a look around at some of the other critics reviews (most of which were non-favorable) and can’t really understand what they expected from an extravagant, Action/Adventure summer blockbuster. The promotion was perhaps a little over the top and therefore you can’t help but have high expectations going in but it doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable (unless that film is Batman vs Superman, yes I’m going to take a swipe at that film every time I get the chance). Ayer is a fantastic Writer/Director and this he’s assembled the true epitome of an ensemble cast. It’s a well shot film and the soundtrack is an energetic one. If its action and special effects you seek, you shall receive. The introductions of each anti-hero are quite colorful and entertaining, emphasized even more so by the tight editing. All of the cast are damn good but for me the best performance was Joel Kinnaman’s, however, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Robbie and Margot do their thing as well. The film clearly follows common trends and on occasion it’s guilty of a lack of attention to detail as far as making the most of its environments surroundings.The CG and effects go a little overboard in the final act and The Enchantress isn’t as dynamic of a villain as I’d hoped for. Combine those couple of issues with a few weak plot points and you’ve still got a far superior comic book film than “Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice”, or for that matter any of its counterparts lining your video store shelves. I was entertained for 120 minutes and that’s about what I expected, What do you expect?
My rating for Suicide Squad is 7/10