Suicide Squad

'Suicide Squad' movie poster

Release: Friday, August 5, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: David Ayer

Directed by: David Ayer

Sigh.

Suicide Squad is neither a disaster nor a revelation. It’s just really, really uneventful and in that way, crushingly disappointing.

Let me grab a calculator and get back to you, because the math really doesn’t add up. I don’t quite know how you commit the cardinal sin of moviemaking with this cast, these characters, and this competent a director. When considering the myriad ways in which this utterly routine action adventure manages to bore and underwhelm, the difference between what we might have imagined and what we ultimately get kind of becomes this scintillating mystery. What the hell happened here? What could this have actually been? (In fairness, it could have been worse.) Would Suicide Squad have been better off with a less restrictive MPAA rating?

It’s been some time since so much potential has been squandered this efficiently. This callously. Not since this 2013 debacle have I left a theater feeling so utterly deflated and unmotivated to stand in line for another event picture anytime soon. The main culprit is an exceptionally shoddy story, one seemingly cobbled together by crayon-wielding first graders. It’s shocking Ayer turns out to be that first grader. He kicks things off with brief introductions to the cadre of miscreants before randomly launching into a perfunctory doomsday plot involving Midway City and some bullshit concerning Cara Delevingne-shaped meta-humans drenched in bad CGI. From the word ‘go’ the production reeks of unpreparedness, disorganization, even chaos.

Hashtag awkward. Hashtag clumsy. Hashtag done-with-this-summer-of-movies.

In the beginning everyone’s hanging out at the famed Belle Reve Penitentiary, doing hard time for various crimes. The first two we immediately recognize to be our ringleaders: Will Smith‘s Floyd Lawton, a.k.a. Deadshot, is seen getting his punching bag on (in preparation for that big action scene later!) and Margot Robbie‘s gleefully unhinged Harley Quinn, formerly known as psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel, inhabits her super-secure steel cage like a PG-13-friendly Hannibal Lecter. We meet the others as well but for insultingly brief periods, time enough I guess to prove the film’s disinterest in the ‘Squad’ part of its title. There’s the pyrokinetic ex-gangster Chato Santano, a.k.a. El Diablo  (Jay Hernandez); a boomerang-wielding guy named . . . Boomerang (Jai Courtney); a surly man with a scaly skin condition who dwells in city sewers, appropriately called Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). They’re joined also by a mercenary named Slipknot (Adam Beach) and Japanese warrior Katana (Karen Fukuhara).

Our little ruffians are kept under the thumb of intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), an antihero of a different breed with her considerable lack of compassion and morally-dubious methods of wielding governmental power. She’s a high-ranking official who will do whatever it takes to prevent World War Three from breaking out. Or something like that. Anyway, she’s a pretty bad egg whose motives become increasingly suspect, a trend that neatly paralleled my own suspicions. Waller enlists the help of Colonel Rick Flagg (Joel Kinneman) to keep all her disposable, criminal pee-ons in line. When Flagg reads them the riot act that’s our cue to get ready for action. Hooray — it’s the Suicide Squad and now shit is going down!

Only, nothing does. With writing that lacks inspiration or a strong reference point — or any point, period — getting excited becomes an unreasonable challenge. The bleakness of the world in which this non-drama occurs bleeds over into the experience itself, but bleakness is less of an issue. I say let this thing be dour — this isn’t Marvel. But along with that bleakness comes the joylessness. With joylessness, a sense of aimlessness. Few of the members of Suicide Squad are stoked about undertaking a mission that will very likely get them killed, and if random gunfire doesn’t do it a frustrated Waller will if they so happen to fail or step out of line. That psychology may ring true to the comics but the cast wear their broken hearts on their sleeves a bit too much while, ironically, no one outside of Robbie’s freewheeling Harley and Jared Leto’s not-half-bad Joker seem to have that same muscle invested in any of this.

As the movie shuffles begrudgingly onward, alarming amounts of material fail to materialize, leaving Ayer’s efforts to introduce this infamously savage group to the world-at-large to disintegrate like used toilet paper. Unconvincing sob stories are stapled on to a few characters who lurk in the background behind Deadshot and Harley Quinn, but this isn’t enough to justify an excess of shots designed to show why this idea should work. (Here’s a radical 21st Century concept: show, don’t tell.) All those precious moments going to waste watching the film’s most interesting character (by far) out-act her colleagues might have been better spent doing something else. Something other than trying to convince us that the movie knows what it is doing with such damaged cargo.

With all of that in mind, damages really come down to a (granted, rather large) misjudgment of plot substance, and a lack of personality to give us a reason to get over that issue. The DCEU’s Guardians of the Galaxy this is not. Even still, there are some really great performances to take away, namely those of the volatile core of Robbie, Smith, Davis and Leto. The former seem to be heating up since their days working on Focus, while the latter have some fun tossing a shitload of ham around. Davis overshoots her goal of becoming the film’s Surprisingly Evil Element while Leto lets out his inner psycho in a turn that recalls vintage Jack Nicholson while wisely skimping on Heath Ledger inflections.

The Suicide Squad Joker is actually really good. He’s a nasty son of a bitch and his twisted romantic subplot with Harley Quinn is the most compelling. Too bad Leto’s commitment is virtually all for naught. As has been widely reported, many of his scenes were cut. Leto’s response to a question concerning his lack of screen time late in the film is especially damning. Even he wants to know what the Joker was doing for so long without visual confirmation of his scheming ways. His absence is microcosmic of a larger problem. I’m not sure anyone, not even the studio, rumored to have played a hand in production delays and re-shoots, knew what kind of gem they were holding in their hands.

Suicide Squad is not a bad film but it is frustratingly mediocre and that’s enough to drive me crazy.

Jared Leto as the new Joker in 'Suicide Squad'

Recommendation: Suicide Squad suffers from a lack of plot mechanization. What is the purpose? Why are we here? Why can’t the story be about something more interesting? For the longest time, the story never seems to be going anywhere. The pacing is choppier than damn it and not much of David Ayer’s directorial touch can be found here (ya know, other than the hordes of heavily armed, well-built people parading around a war-zone). I don’t really know what to say, other than this film basically sums up the year we have had so far when it comes to big event pictures. Mostly disappointment. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 123 mins.

Quoted: “Love your perfume! What is that, Stench of Death?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.variety.com 

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37 thoughts on “Suicide Squad

  1. Super duper mate. Do you listen to podcasts? The Next Picture Show podcast (a good listen) tore a strip off of this a few days back – the reaction has, to be kind, been lukewarm to this movie.

    • I don’t listen to many but I listen to the occasional podcast here and there. I’ll keep an ear out for that one you mention. The rap that Suicide Squad has earned now is going to make it seem like the worst movie ever, and it really isn’t. I think it’s supremely underwhelming, and in that way crushingly disappointing.

  2. I don’t watch television or trailers so I had almost zero exposure to this movie’s PR campaign, and while I can’t really disagree with you on most parts, especially the story and the editing, this is easily the most fun I have had with one of these films. I do think it suffered badly from the re-shoots and also the rating, but it is nowhere near as bad as some folk are making it out. I think I scored it higher than you, but I can’t say that I didn’t feel frustrated at the end either.

    • I love that you got enjoyment out of it man, I know your relationship with superhero films isn’t great (and I can’t blame you or anyone who doesn’t much go for these things, they’re typically loud, formulaic machines and unfortunately that was one of my main gripes with SS. With characters this unique you shouldn’t be able to create a boring story but somehow that was accomplished here.) There’s certainly some sensational articles going up about it, calling it the worst thing ever and such, and that’s kind of ridiculous. Lest we forget Ghostrider, Green Lantern, Daredevil. . .

      • Heh thanks mate, I seem to be one of the very few who did!!

        I think it has been very harshly treated, though WB only have themselves to blame. I missed it but apparently the PR campaign was huge, which I think is one reason for such bad reviews, though far from the only reason. There is a lot wrong with it but damnit, I laughed a lot and had a ton of fun!

        “With characters this unique you shouldn’t be able to create a boring story but somehow that was accomplished here”

        Very very true. I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed with the final result, especially that third act (and those faceless enemies, wtf?), but yeah, the most fun I’ve had with one of these movies for sure.

        That being said, I still need to watch Nolan’s films. I know, I know, I haven’t even seen my fellow late Aussie’s best performance. I really need to fix that!!

  3. Such mixed reviews on this! I am sorry it was so disappointing. I was not overly interested in this until I saw the last trailer, then I was like hmmmm, then I saw that trailer in cinema and decided it might be worth a trip out. With the reviews that have come back though, I am thinking I might just wait for a home release. Great review Tom!

    • I hate to be joining the Negative Nancy’s of the world but yeah, objectively this movie is not very good, it has the markings of a turbulent relationship between director and studio (though I’m not sure if it was like that, the lack of creativity here just makes me think there was a lot of interference). There are parts to like but not very many.

      I need to check out your Jason Bourne review!

  4. My favorite line is divided between two paragraphs: “Hooray — it’s the Suicide Squad and now shit is going down!

    Only, nothing does.”

    Summed up the movie perfectly. Well done sir!

    • 😉 Thanks. There’s just something about the way the movie starts out and then reaches that point where they meet Flagg where I just knew the rest of the story wasn’t going to play out very well. When introductions are made in the first five – 10 minutes I was like, well. Now that that’s out of the way, what’s next? Turns out, not a whole lot.

  5. Enjoyed reading that Tom. You actually have me looking forward to this more than I had been (I’m off to watch it in an hour or two). Still…I think I’ll keep expectations low and there’s a chance I’ll be surprised.

    • If a 50-50 split rating and a pretty disheartened tone gets you more interested to see something, that in turn makes me even more interested to read your thoughts! 😉 Suicide Squad is a movie that promises a ton but delivers very little. I think it’s pretty obnoxious. I like David Ayer and will probably continue to like him but it seems the superhero machine has swallowed up yet another director and spat him back out with no thanks included

      • Haha I had low expectations and still fuckin’ HATED it! I’d watch an Ayer film again though, based on his earlier stuff. Fury was really good (and underrated), and I quite liked End of Watch too.

  6. Nice review, and you’re right to say this one is totally lacking inspiration. When I think back to that initial teaser trailer last summer, I want to cry. This movie was so disappointing. And die-hard DC fans are THE WORST…they can’t seem to fathom the disappointment from “critics”…Yes, I enjoyed the movie to a degree, but I can wholeheartedly say it’s kind of shit.

    • Oh I wanted to like this one so much and was debating giving it a 5 instead but just too much goes wrong. The story is so so weak and the big bad was cringe-inducingly awful. I’d gladly sit through Fantastic Four now because there’s no way what goes on in that movie is as bad as the stupid “Sister/Brother” drama here. Still, some things to take away from this: Margot Robbie continues to do no wrong and I liked Will Smith and Viola Davis here a lot as well

    • Crap! I knew I was forgetting a tag here!! 😉 yeah this movie is a pretty big whoopsie. I’m disappointed in the end result. I’ll still happily sit through another, though. Maybe.

  7. LOL, 2016 has been such a bust for live action blockbusters.

    I respect the efforts of the cast, and perhaps 2017 can be DC’s year, but I think that WB and DC are 0 for 2 so far. I’d be remiss in saying that I didn’t have some fun with some elements, but I came away with this thinking that BvS’ highs, outside of Robbie, are higher than Suicide Squad’s. I think this is an easier watch, but not necessarily a better one.

    • There are certainly some good parts to enjoy. And I actually really took to Jared Leto’s Joker even if he was, ehem…criminally…..underused. There was a lot of excitement that kicked things off but I feel somewhere towards the middle of the film things really started to fall apart and the whole Big Bad plot was utterly terrible. One of the worst I’ve seen actually. I didn’t see anything that cheesy in any DC installment so far.

    • That’s unfortunately a pretty appropriate term, although the film does have some point to it. It’s DC’s way of trotting out some obscure characters on a shiny platform for the world to see. I just wished the movie did something of value with them bc this was pretty uneventful. I think this is the word I’d ultimately use to describe what happens here

  8. I really want this to be good. I have my fingers crossed. Haven’t read many positive perspectives on this. 2016 has been the year of the failed reboot/sequel for the most part and this summer has been especially boring for me because of it.

    • It should be noted that there are a few critics out there who have praised this thing to high heavens. It seems the response to it is sharply divided. I could have guessed that when this was first being touted as the world’s next greatest plaything. Wasn’t anticiatping such weak writing though. You should really enjoy it for the characters, but that story is unfortunately lacking. At least it was for me.

  9. I’ll get around to this on disc or a rental I guess. I keep on moaning about lousy screenwriting on my blog and from your review this looks like another example. What are they teaching in filmschool these days? How to link CGI setpieces instead of creating character arcs and drama? I’ve seen so many stupid films of late. Its a game of dodge the plotholes most of the time. I hate to say it but the studios need to stop pandering to the geeks. Its not working.

    • I recall you going in depth about the subject and I believe it was on a Star Trek review (?) maybe your own? (Great review by the way, I agreed with much of it.) And I don’t mind every now and again seeing something brainless, formulaic, cheesy etc etc but it seriously seems to be happening with each major event release this year. I don’t know what it is about 2016. All the bad ideas are conglomerating in this one time period haha. The CGI in this film is woefully done I have to admit. Really unfortunate and spoils what could have been a good ending. But let’s face it, there are a lot more problems than just the poor CGI here

    • Well there are definitely parts about it to like, but I felt personally it was way more miss than hit. The story is virtually nonexistent

        • Yeah, that was a major problem I had too. For all the hype the Joker sure doesn’t make much of an appearance. I liked Leto in the role though. I might be on an island with that opinion 😉

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