Suicide Squad

Posted by Joel Copling on August 4, 2016

The premise has promise. The government must, for a change in pace, rely on a group of super-villains to save the day. "Suicide Squad" did not only need that premise to work, but it did only need to expand upon it, offering some sort of context to these characters or the situation in which they find themselves that might lead them to fight for the good side. As such, writer/director David Ayer can only offer what amounts to a 123-minute trailer that introduces a couple of the key players, then reintroduces them, then gives each of them a theatrical entrance, then pits all of them against a generic threat set underneath yet another gigantic beam of light in the middle of a metropolis. This film is a disaster of forward momentum and even of simple plotting. A lot of commotion may happen, but nothing of substance does for its entire duration.

It also meticulously removes all signs of personality from these characters. Deadshot (Will Smith) might have a heart of gold, largely for his daughter, but his defining characteristic is his sharpshooting skill, showcased in a scene scored to Kanye West that's supposed to carry high energy but is really just a quick-cut montage of the hitman shooting targets with various guns and failing to miss them. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) might be the object of the Joker's (Jared Leto) psychosexual domination, but her role here is almost entirely inconsequential beyond the occasional, disruptive flashback. There are others, too, played by the likes of Jay Hernandez (whose pyrokinetic Diablo spends all but two moments in the film refusing to use his powers), Jai Courtney (whose boomerang-wielding Captain Boomerang is completely useless), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (whose Killer Croc mostly just lurks in a corner and growls), and Adam Beach (whose Slipknot serves no purpose but to be introduced and promptly disposed of).

These are not characters so much as props of Ayer's listless quasi-narrative, which has government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) introducing the key players by way of an onscreen guide to their wrongdoings and brief interludes that provide expository information: Deadshot has some business to attend with a certain caped crusader of Gotham City, Harley Quinn was once the Joker's doctor before being seduced to psychopathy, Diablo accidentally killed his family, and so forth. These are the kind of character histories one might receive on a trading cardWaller's instructions to the group (into whose necks she and Special Ops soldier Rick Flag, played by Joel Kinnaman, have injected small explosives) are to destroy 3,000-year-old witch Enchantress (Cara Delevingne, who is off-the-charts awful here) before she and her minions (who include a fiery, antlered demon and an army of sentient black pustules) take over the world or some stupid nonsense along those lines.

There is nothing substantial at stake here. Enchantress's plan is never fully established beyond global domination, and the task force in which the team is placed (nicknamed the title by Deadshot) is sent forth in a manner that mirrors a mission in a video game. The performances are almost uniformly terrible, with the possible exception of Smith, the only truly charismatic presence. Robbie gives a performance that amounts to a questionable New Yorker accent by a bad cosplayer trying too hard, and Leto's embarrassing take on the Joker reminds far too heavily of Jim Carrey's work as Ace Ventura. Perhaps the only bright spot in the production is Roman Vasyanov's atmospheric photography, but even that is dulled by a hideous 3-D treatment and the explosion of generic CGI in the busy climax. "Suicide Squad" is a disaster.

Film Information

Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flag), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Jared Leto (The Joker), Jay Hernandez (Diablo), Jai Courtney (Boomerang), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc), Cara Delevingne (June Moone/Enchantress), Ike Barinholtz (Griggs), Karen Fukuhara (Kitana), Adam Beach (Slipknot), Scott Eastwood (Lt. GQ Edwards).

Directed and written by David Ayer.

Rated PG-13 (violence/action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content, language).

123 minutes.

Released on August 5, 2016.