In a similar vein to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, who emerged from their questionable depth under the Marvel heavy-hitters to both financial and fanboy fruition, ‘Suicide Squad’ arrives in all their neon-tinged glory to steer the DC brand back on the straight and narrow following the less-than-savoury reaction to ‘Batman V Superman’. In a time when comic book movies are being churned out in record numbers – most of which tend to take themselves a little too seriously – ‘Suicide Squad’ almost appears as some kind of saviour; here’s a film that knows its comic book roots are laced in the eccentric, so why not embrace that origin and run with it?
Set in the same universe as ‘Batman V Superman’ where the actions of the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight have clearly had a significant effect on the government’s outlook on national security, ‘Suicide Squad’ wastes no time (and I can’t stress how quickly writer/director David Ayer takes to get his story rolling) in introducing us to the hurriedly assembled Task Force X, a team of dangerous criminals who under the guidance(?) of government official Amanda Waller (a stone-cold Viola Davis) are enforced with the responsibility of executing a dangerous black ops mission in exchange for clemency. It’s a ridiculous premise but that’s pretty much the point, and the team itself is so gloriously demented that you really don’t care at the implausibility of it all.
Admittedly the film loses a few points for ultimately succumbing to traditional superhero film structure in its overblown finale, but everything leading up to that point is just so damn fun that you can forgive it for its shortcomings. Whilst Waller’s team are all equally dangerous in their own distinct way, Ayer has laid focus on a select few with Will Smith’s precise hitman Deadshot emerging as the unofficial squad leader; even though given the dangerous abilities of those around him he’s one of the lesser threats. Smith’s star hasn’t shone nearly as bright in recent years so his prime placement in an ensemble makes sense, and watching him here it’s evident he still has that movie star spark, but his character’s lack of a bright personality ultimately leads Smith to be severely overshadowed by, most prominently, a duo of Aussies who command your attention without even asking for it.
After years of being the undeserved batting ram for audiences seemingly unimpressed with his bland on-screen persona, Jai Courtney emerges from ‘Suicide Squad’ as one of its most exciting players. As the overly-Ocka Captain Boomerang, Courtney swigs beers mid-battle, swings boomerangs with deadly precision, and inexplicably holds a plush pink unicorn close to his person, all with an endearing mix of bogan and brute. And then there’s Margot Robbie. It’s been evident from the start of ‘Suicide Squad’s promotional campaign that Robbie’s portrayal of psychiatrist-turned-psycho Harley Quinn is one of the sole reasons to see this film, and not only does that turn out to be true, her delightfully demented performance could very much stand as THE only reason; with every crack in her mischievous smile and all the sexual confidence she hones in her strut, you can’t not watch her.
As much as Smith, Courtney and Robbie stand out though, their prominence should act as no disservice to the remaining Squad members – Jay Hernandez’s fire manipulator El Diablo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s reptilian-like Killer Croc and Karen Fukuhara’s swordswoman Katana – who all perform admirably under clear final cut edits. And in a film where the usual villains are presented to us as the “good guys”, who stands to be evil enough against them to maintain an adversary title? Sadly ‘Suicide Squad’ lets itself down in that department with the eventual big bad being a little too pedestrian and clichéd, and with Jared Leto’s criminal mastermind The Joker dominating every frame he appears in – which is sadly not nearly as many as you want it to be – you can’t help but wish the story was altered for his green-haired gangster to play a far more prominent role. Much has been said about Leto’s look – the over-use of tattoos, the grilled teeth etc – but in context it works flawlessly with his portrayal coming off more like an unhinged mobster. And the love story created between The Joker and Harley is referenced just enough to create something beautifully tragic which helps humanise the depressed duo, enough so that you can’t help but wish a film focusing solely on their back-story was on the DC slate.
Given the near-perfect marketing campaign ‘Suicide Squad’ has adopted, and the underwhelming response to ‘Batman V Superman’, there is a lot riding on the eventual outcome of this film, and perhaps that is what will act as its downfall; will it be able to live up to expectation? That’s far too much pressure for the manic little cousin in the DC family, and I will admit the film played out far differently than I was expecting, but I went along with it all and enjoyed myself immensely. If the style Tim Burton utilised for his original Batman outings was brought forth into 2016 and had a crazed one night stand with the best cuts of a Tarantino soundtrack, ‘Suicide Squad’ would be their irrational offspring – and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
My rating: 4/5
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevigne, Scott Eastwood
Classification: M (Fantasy Themes, Violence and Coarse Language)
Review by Peter Gray