On the surface, David Ayer’s anti-hero picture appears as a much-needed boost of energy and enthusiasm into the DC Cinematic Universe. Far from the gloom and heavy themes of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad aims to be more alternative, bombastic, colorful and fun. But does it achieve such levels of stylish levity? Yes and no.
If you’re not familiar with the premise or characters of Suicide Squad, this picture spends plenty of time giving introductions; perhaps too much time. Shadowy government figure Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) hatches a scheme to use villains as secret agents to do their covert bidding. The villains will cooperate for time off their sentences and receive an explosion to the neck via injected nanites if they disobey. It sounds needlessly dangerous and overly expensive, but the government seems cool with it after a little display of the villains’ powers that for some reason raises no ethical concerns.
Her roster includes a long list of varying villains, from crack shots to deranged killers to super powered weirdoes. Deadshot (Will Smith) is a single father struggling to maintain custody of his kid while taking on expert assassination jobs for the money. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is a psychiatrist turned giggling psychopath after the Joker messed with her mind. El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) is a former gangster with fire abilities that voluntarily turned himself in for being too dangerous.
And also there’s Killer Kroc, Captain Boomerang, Enchantress, Rick Flag, Katana and Slipknot. Whoops, did I skip past those last few without explaining their backstory and character? Don’t worry; the movie makes this same mistake as well. It spends so much time building up these characters only to randomly and quickly plop down a few more, leaving me questioning why such setup was even needed.
Suicide Squad was written and directed by David Ayer who I found to be a great choice given his experience on Fury and End of Watch with making movies about evil characters we have to follow. Tasked with bringing together a collection of lesser-known DC Comics villains, my hopes for Ayer were high and slightly dashed. While dealing with a strong cast that works surprisingly well, the whole villain angle doesn’t feel fully utilized. The characters have to commit a petty crime every now and then, reiterating that they’re bad as if to remind us that they’re the villains. Yes, I know this is a group of evil people. Did the movie forget that as well?
It doesn’t help that the plot offers little for them to do. In typical superhero movie fashion, there’s a “swirling ring of trash in the sky” that they have to stop. There’s a horde of magical zombies that our protagonists can shoot, slice and dice by the dozen. And the main baddie has magical powers that are more standard than impressive, wielded by an unintentionally hilarious Cara Delevingne that shimmies with magic smoke and a goofy costume.
The strongest feature of the picture is by far the cast. Smith has that always-likable charm, Robbie has bubbly enthusiasm and Viola Davis is perfect as a no-nonsense woman who doesn’t take any crap from the team she has assembled. Even Jai Courtney of all actors has some surprisingly decent charisma for a man who mostly takes vanilla action roles.
Read more to hear about Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker: