After the underwhelming reviews that Warners received for the superhero slugfest that was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, a lot was riding on the heavily hyped third entry into the shared cinematic DC Universe if their attempts to emulate Marvel’s mainstream success were to win any credibility. And it finally arrives, 13 months after we saw the first rough footage, in a blaze of publicity amidst stories of cast excess, rumoured reshoots and some A-list actors playing little known B-list supervillains. Yep, we’re talking Suicide Squad, a ragtag crew of roguish bad people doing good things in order to commute their prison sentences and trying not to get killed while they do it.
Thus we have Hollywood heavyweight Will Smith playing the relatively obscure Deadshot, a master assassin onboarded onto the team for the possibility of some extended interaction with his estranged daughter, Jai Courtney as the equally unknown Captain Boomerang, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Bat-baddie Killer Croc, and more, under the Machiavellian machinations of Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, a senior civil servant reacting to a new world of tights, fights and flights heralded by the arrival of Superman. However, most intriguing of all, we finally see the silver screen debut of Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, she who has a somewhat toxic romantic relationship with legendary Dark Knight nemesis, The Joker, (Jared Leto). It’s upon those two that the film’s marketing machine is mainly sold as the aforementioned pressure means good word and better box office are increasingly essential if this silver screen universe is to continue to grow.
Sadly, it’s just not very good. In fact, it’s a bit of a mess, which is real shame as I went in wanting to like it and would be willing to forgive the odd mishap if the film was more than its parts. What’s most frustrating is that you can tell there is a good movie within fighting to get out, but one let down by dubious decisions and what feels like compromises in the editing room. Director / Scribe David Ayer, best known for the recent Fury and writer of the likes of Training Day (and a contributor to the first Fast and The Furious) has delivered a film which has some good moments, but the shame is the potential was there for so much more. For a start, he faces the uphill battle of introducing the rag-tag rascals for audiences accustomed to the slow-build approach Marvel adopted when cautiously introducing the Avengers before they finally assembled on screen. Ayer wisely opts for exposition then flashbacks outlining each Squad member’s incarceration as Waller proposes her plans; there’s no doubt there are elements of awesomeness in each of these (including some really cool cameos), but they come too thick and too fast.
The story would have been better served had we jumped forward a bit in the beginning then revealed each back story a la some Tarantino-style timey-wimeyness as the film progresses. There are hints of this, but it’s just not enough, instead following a much more linear storytelling style.
Ayer also makes the mistake of moving too fast on many occasions; the film boasts a stellar soundtrack of pop culture classics; however he uses them on screen much too quickly and we move from the likes of the Rolling Stones to the White Stripes etc. in quick succession as the director tries to marry the on-screen antics to the lyrical content, thus they fade in and out rather rapidly and the scenes have no room to breathe.
Then there’s the characterisation, perhaps best represented by Smith’s Deadshot. We’re frequently told he’s a cold-blooded badass but essentially all the way throughout he appears to do nothing but good deeds (his flashback excepted where he takes someone out, but it’s implied they’re also a bad guy as well anyway).
All are under the command of Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag, supposedly the white hat Special Ops agent who serves as field leader; interestingly his motivation is as morally compromised as the rest of the Squad when the exposition is over and the actual mission begins around half way through.
It all leads to a climax which somewhat resembles the ending of the original Ghostbusters all those years prior, with character designs of random supernatural zombies and special effects which recall that, and not in a good way. Are there redeeming elements? A few… Margot Robbie is very good indeed as Harley Quinn and basically the best thing about this film; her association with Mister J does drive the film forward at times, even though Leto’s Clown Prince of Crime really is little more than a glorified guest appearance and he probably collectively appears on screen for a total of ten minutes.
With a better writer, a solo outing for Ms. Quinn could be something very special indeed. However what we have here is a wasted opportunity. DC diehards will find elements to enjoy, but for Warner Bros, the quest goes on to capture that alchemy of super-scenes on the silver screen the casual film fan will fan in love with.
Written By- Paul Tiley