Director: David Ayer?
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, and Viola Davis
WB has had a real rough time of it getting a cinematic universe set up for their DC properties. The beginning of this year saw them take a massive beating on Batman v Superman. Then there was a massive exec shakeup and the rise of Geoff Johns to the head of this whole endeavor, giving people some hope. The extended edition of BvS has given the movie a bit of a new life, but it also made WB look even worse for hobbling the movie in such an arbitrary and nonsensical way. Could the last bastion of the pre Johns machine, Suicide Squad, be a good send off into a new era of hopefully well received cinema? Sadly, I can’t really tell you the bad reviews aren’t wrong this time. The guy who will defend BvS (especially the extended edition) does not see much to fight for within this movie.
When David Ayer was hired to tackle this movie, I thought it was kind of a stroke of genius. This was a property built on moral murkiness, focusing on villains and having cranial bombs play a focal part in the movie kinda signifies a more dirty kind of movie. Ayer is a man who has one function, and that is dirty. He always focuses on the nastier side of life and only has one movie in his filmography with actually decent protagonists (End of Watch). Shit, he made a movie in Sabotage that seemed like a dry run for this kind of movie (I liked it, fight me). I’ve liked everyone of his movies to various degrees and had some high hopes for this movie. Despite a crippling setback to my optimism when the Leto Joker pictures dropped (it was like losing faith in god, that’s how bad I felt that design was), I still had some hopes for it. It looked big and wild and swinging for the fences. But WB felt the need yet again to meddle into a comic movie, forcing reshoots to add more levity to the movie. And worst of all, reshoots handled by the guys who cut the trailers. One of the grossest pieces of corporate meddling ever. Shockingly, this did not help the movie out at all.
The entire premise of the Suicide Squad is to take a bunch of captured villains and force them to do highly dangerous missions for the US. Forced by sticking a bomb in their heads, and the bombs being placed by the cold as ice government agent Amanda Waller (Davis). Which is just a great premise in the books and could have led to some great stuff in the movie. But it never congeals into anything. There is no propulsion to this movie at all. It’s so choppy and lax and limp. It’s trying so hard to be cool and fun and hip, but it just looks like a loser poser the entire time. Which is mainly due to the reshoots of it all. It’s so obvious what scenes are reshoots and they do not mesh into the movie at all. The tonal disparity makes for such a weird experience, going from the seriousness that Ayer trades in to very subpar approximations of Marvel style humor.
None of this is helped by the fact that the actual plot of the movie is fucking gibberish nonsense, revolving around Enchantress and her brother opening a portal in the sky to do something. It’s just another in a long line of fucking blockbusters where the end game is stopping a vaguely defined villain from opening up a god damn colorful portal in the sky while they sit around and wait for the heroes to show up. It’s especially egregious in this movie, as it seems like Enchantress sits around this portal for an entire day. And the only progression the characters make in this movie is via helicopter crashes. Seriously, the plot is broken down into like 3 sections and they progress into each one with a blown up helicopter. It’s bizarre and downright irritating how many choppers blow up with no real issues. No one gets hurt or dies or anything. And the actual forming of the squad is apparently built to do dangerous missions, but they kinda make it seem like Waller did all of this to stop Enchantress despite it seeming like a betrayal. There is no clarity in this weirdly structured frankensteins monster of a movie.
What buoys this movie is some great performances. Anchoring the whole thing is Will Smith, giving his finest performance in a long while. His Deadshot is a bad man who is trying in his fucked up way to be a better man for his daughter. His cocky as hell and acts like he’s a selfish prick, but he is more noble than he seems. We got Margot Robbie as the most pitch perfect casting here as Harley Quinn. She gets all the damaged and psychotic tendencies of the role, bringing to life the fan favorite with all of the little characteristics we know and love. Viola Davis kills it as the pretty cold and damn near villainous Amanda Waller. She toes that line of believing all the bullshit she spews, never seeing anything wrong in the bad shit she does. Also good? Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, the most Ayer character in the entire thing. Being a latino villain, he is of course an ex gangbanger. But his backstory is really quite well done and his arc is pretty cool. He plays him well too, getting all the pain and regret across. He’s like a monk trying to atone for his ways. It’s great. Jai Courtney also manages to overcome his streak of hyper bland leading man roles to play the skeezy Captain Boomerang, getting some good laughs out of the role. He doesn’t get too much to do but he kills what he gets. Especially a weird little grace note about unicorns. But not everyone gets the good stuff.
Cara Develigne is the villain here for some damn reason. She is not a good actress. Like, at all. It seems like she’s convinced people she’s good because her eyebrows make it seem like she’s emoting, but it’s a smokescreen. She does nothing here and make zero impression despite some bizarre fucking outfitting. She’s also dancing for a good deal of the movie, which I just don’t really get. Joel Kinnaman plays the military in between, Rick Flagg. He does not convey military in anyway. He looks strung out all the time and is very whiny. Let’s not ignore that he signals reshoots, cause his hair length changes alot. I like Kinnaman but he does nothing here. And it’s cause he gets nothing. The most he gets is a love interest in Develigne, which is like having to act with his hands behind his back. Adewale really doesn’t get much to do besides have a cool character design as Killer Croc, but is played at such a weird black stereotype frequency that it’s kind of off putting. Karen Fukuhara is a non entity, in the movie for no other reason than someone needs to have a samurai sword for some reason. And Adam Beach is literally here to die to show the neck bombs. This isn’t a spoiler. It’s just obvious from how he shows up after everyone gets an intro besides him. He’s a nothing character, given a hilariously lame intro and dies like an asshole. It’s just so weird. You gotta think that he at least had an intro in the original cut. They gave the guy a poster for christ sake. There’s one performance here that falls in between good and bad. Someone I can’t really get a bead on. And its the one that alot of the marketing has focused on.
Jared Leto playing The Joker has been a piece of contention for the movie for a long time now. Those pictures of him tatted up with grills in his mouth have left many people questioning what the hell was happening. With constant news stories being written about what an obnoxious asshole Leto was during the filming of this movie, he had to be fucking great to satisfy in even the tiniest way. Well, the surprising thing is that he’s barely in the god damn movie. 5 minutes at most. He’s in it so little you barely get any sort of handle on. Like, it’s fine? There’s some weird choices being made, but it works at points. He has only one legitimately good scene, and it’s the one where Harley falls into the Ace Chemicals. Otherwise, nonexistent. They coulda done some cool stuff with him as the fly in the ointment for during the mission, but they just didn’t do that. They kinda do, but being such a muddled movie with no real spark, they don’t really do it well. And they just do the Harley/Joker relationship straight up instead of making them on the outs. That woulda added some interesting dynamics to the movie, but no. They go for it in such a straight forward and lazy way. If they decide to move forward with him in the Batfleck movie, hopefully they can do something with him to make it all worthwhile. Ideally, just do something to make him a phony and have the real Joker pop up.
The movie isn’t an outright abortion. It has it’s moments. Some of the action beats are fine and entertaining. Not the ending though, as it feels like a reshoot since it’s so indecipherable. The good actors elevate the material a good deal. The world building is pretty good, and the best part of the movie. Having Batman show up as a small role to catch some of the villains for Amanda Waller helps to make the world feel bigger. Even the Flash cameo is really fun. And the post credits scene makes me even more excited for the Justice League movie. Batman fighting Deadshot is great and helps the movie feel a little more alive than it does in other parts of the movie. I wish I liked this more. I really do. It’s muddled as hell with no drive at all to make the dumbness go down easier. Some of the action is fine but other action is lame. I wish I saw a more cohesive story, as what we got is really fucking lame. This is like a cinematic first draft. They fucked Ayer and this movie harder than they fucked Snyder with BvS. At least he didn’t have to deal with reshoot shit, just bad editing. The shame of it is they have some good puzzle pieces here, just in the wrong god damn places on an incomplete board. Hopefully the ship is righting with Johns taking over. Wonder Woman could be the first sign of a new era, one that plays the entire field and works well. This well isn’t completely poisoned. I wanna see some of these things moving forward. For now though, this isn’t very good. I’d suggest seeing this on an airplane or late night cable. You can watch it and not feel completely ripped off. But you’ll leave the movie feeling a bit empty.