Watching SUICIDE SQUAD won’t kill you, it’ll just hurt you really, really bad. Unfortunately I watched this through dodgy 3D glasses, but I don’t care enough to go back and see it properly in case I missed anything. Maybe I’ll give it another go on DVD, but the full effect of the visuals won’t help the shonky storytelling. This isn’t quite as crashingly awful as BATMAN V SUPERMAN, but I think that’s mostly because it shoots lower and has less far to fall.
Black ops maestro Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits a team of the worst super-criminals to undertake a suicide mission in exchange for reduced sentences. Super sniper Deadshot (Will Smith), The Joker’s (Jared Leto) unhinged girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Aussie career criminal Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the rest of this colourful squad are out of options, but they might as well have a little fun as they risk their lives for the government.
I hate Jared Leto’s take on The Joker. I’ve got no problem with the Clown Prince of Crime being tattooed or him having metal-capped teeth. I do have a problem with him having zero impact on the plot and Leto playing him as a dull mobster with about 50 different voices (from prohibition gangster to death metal singer and everything in between) and three facial expressions. Health Ledger was rabid and elemental, Jack Nicholson cold, detached and calculating. Leto is negative space wielding a machine gun. Thankfully, he’s only in the film for about 15 minutes. Most of the rest of the ensemble are under-served too with only Will Smith and Jay Hernandez making any real human impact as Deadshot and human flamethrower Diablo, the two squad members with tragic family backstories. Margot Robbie is about the best Harley Quinn you could get in terms of her look, but her performance pretty much just amounts to smiling at inappropriate moments and texting Mr J, and what her fanbase seem to overlook is that there is really nothing to her character (she’s an accessory and a plot device). Meanwhile Enchantress (Carla Delevigne) is sort-of interesting until she gets overwhelmed by pretty lights and dead, expositional dialogue.
We get it, you have a cool soundtrack, but you don’t need a song playing in the background of every single scene, blaring out anything important. You need breaks in the songs, peaks and troughs or else they have no impact at all. Remember how well cut the trailer’s usage of Bohemian Rhapsody was, timed to the action editing and dialogue? There’s none of that here. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY had another great compilation of songs, but they were here and there, you were given time to take stock and reflect on where the characters were in their arcs.
Plot-wise, Suicide Squad is all over the place. It takes entirely too long to establish what the Squad are supposed to be doing and the way scenes are edited makes it a little perplexing what order things are supposed to have occurred. The script is leaden, explaining who everyone is, why we should care and pummeling any nuance, metaphor or ambiguity into an obvious, samey sludge. Deadshot quickly realises “We’re the patsies”. Fine, that’s a sharp reading of the situation and the team’s expendable nature, but then immediately reemphasises “We’re some kind of suicide squad”. You just said that – you didn’t need to clarify! There’s loads of that, also if I see one more bad guy plotting bad things while eating steak I might scream.
I hope you weren’t banking on this being funny. This was meant to be different from the usual superhero fare, but aside from the one-liners in the trailers, it ends up just as po-faced and lacklustre as everything else DC/Warner Bros churn out. There’s no edge to it, and despite following a team of supposed bad guys it ends with the usual group fighting a big special effect (still not sure who or what the antagonist of this film was supposed to be) that lesser examples of the genre resort to when they’re out of ideas.
From the previously maverick David Ayer who brought us END OF WATCH and especially FURY, that is a crushing disappointment. You could try giving us more than 2 of 9 characters to care about for a start, then double up by providing a few moments more memorable than Will Smith helping his daughter with her geometry homework. If there is one emotion I never wanted, or expected, to feel after watching a film like Suicide Squad, it’s depression, but that’s what I’m left with. SSP