Before I saw this summer’s long-awaited and nauseatingly-hyped antihero ensemble movie Suicide Squad, I was having a difficult time processing all of the venom with which the Internet had become flush over it. I’m going to preface my review by stating that although I may be in the minority, I enjoyed the film overall. That certainly does not mean the movie was without its flaws, because there was plenty that the audience at large, myself included, did not like about it. Here I will paint an honest picture of the Suicide Squad – the good, the bad and the ugly will all be analyzed in this review.
The team of antiheroes, including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Slipknot (Adam Beach), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) are recruited by a top-secret government agency led by Amanda Waller (the ever fierce Viola Davis) to eliminate The Enchantress, the supernatural alter ego of June Moone (Cara Delevigne). This villain, a millennia-old witch who was awaken by Moone is wholly underwhelming, and her mission to conquer the world has been done to death. However, this not-so-merry band of criminals, fighting for reduced prison sentences for their former crimes, needs to battle something, and the focus is primarily on them anyway.
Complaints about the lack of character development in the film have abounded, but with a crowded ensemble film such as this, extended exposition and backstory would have been impossible. Furthermore, Waller makes it abundantly clear early on in the film just how expendable these people are, mainly because they’re all criminals. Realistically, the audience is not supposed to care about them in any profound way. Depending on your level of geekdom, you may already know the backstories of many of the characters anyway.
Regardless of their on-screen development, some of the characters were the most enjoyable part of the movie, while others were nothing more than dead weight. Margot Robbie was phenomenal as Harley Quinn. Robbie was delightfully crazy, but also displayed an unexpected vulnerability – there’s a human being somewhere beneath the get-up and the unhinged self-talk. On the flipside, she did seem to struggle at times to hold in her natural Australian accent, but I’m not complaining, because it’s awesome. Will Smith stars as Deadshot, a snarky gun-for-hire who never misses a shot, and I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I enjoyed Smith so much on screen. He is responsible for much of the movie’s comedy, which was penciled into Suicide Squad to add some light to the doom and gloom of the current DC cinematic universe. Unfortunately, the comedy is mostly front-loaded, as the jokes flag during the second half of the film. Killer Croc is wantonly boring, and his utility as part of the crew is resigned to one particular task towards the finale. Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), the soldier who leads the crew, is as unwilling as he is overdramatic, and is mostly tasked with babysitting the miscreants to make sure they don’t step out of line.
Perhaps the character that has brought about the biggest point of contention surrounding the movie is none other than The Joker, who is given new life by Jared Leto. If you’ve seen Leto’s cinematic work, you know that he’s a method actor and gets deeply into his roles. From the first still photo of the character that was realeased, the Internet collectively griped about the look, particularly about the admittedly silly tattoos that covered his shirtless body. However, what’s important is how Leto pulls off the character, and for the short time that he appeared in the movie, his take was fresh, and still deeply frightening. From the empty, yet thoroughly-crazed facial expressions, to the gravel in his voice, to the well-practiced cackle, he nails it. The Joker is not the main villain in this film and for that reason, it needs to be understood why he has so little screen time. He is concentrated mostly on rescuing his lover Harley, and is seen for only a handful of minutes. Leto is reportedly not happy about how many of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, but hopefully those cuts will see the light of day on the Blu-Ray release, and even more than that, perhaps he will reappear in a larger role as the new DC universe continues to develop.
The movie as a whole is quite disjointed, with flashbacks and cutaways being haphazardly thrown together. It honestly doesn’t flow well, but I was entertained enough throughout to not let it distract me beyond return. The attempt to pepper in plenty of jokes to imitate Marvel movies seemed to be forgotten as the film progressed and the DC-style darkness once again took over. However, a few truly enjoyable characters, a bit of comedy relief, and a couple minutes of Batman (Batfleck shows up!) made Suicide Squad worthwhile for me, and I hope this is just the shaky beginning of DC’s rebirth on the silver screen.