There will be worse movies this year but there won't be a movie as frustratingly inconsistent as Suicide Squad. A good movie that should be great.
Here’s the thing; I so badly wanted to love Suicide Squad.
Initially described as Guardians of the Galaxy with villains, the movie had an intriguing premise from the get go. Add in writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) and a cast featuring Will Smith (Independence Day, I Am Legend), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Legend of Tarzan) and Jared Leto (Mr Nobody, Dallas Buyers Club), it always seemed like the movie would be a success. And I personally was unbelievably excited for the film.
So is Suicide Squad a success? Yes… but just about.
The film tells the story of the titular squad, a task force assembled by government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), to complete a dangerous mission at the bequest of the government. The team is made up of Deadshot (Smith), Harley Quinn (Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Slipknot (Adam Beach), and team leader Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman).
So herein lies one of the film’s problems; the squad members themselves are very hit or miss. Killer Croc, Katana and Slipknot are all terribly underdeveloped and have some awful dialogue to go with it. Usual charisma vacuum Jai Courtney is actually surprisingly entertaining as the Aussie nutter Captain Boomerang, but his role rarely extends beyond quips and some good physical comedic spots and so he feels unused and a little unnecessary to the squad. Rick Flag and El Diablo are developed much more but fill rather generic and lazy character types. Flag is the tough guy leader and plays it admirably, but falters at the more dramatic beats, and El Diablo is a rather typical latino gangster type, however Hernandez plays his part rather well and is used for some slightly restricted deeper and more thoughtful moments.
However the film has two stars and their names are Margot Robbie and Will Smith; undoubtedly they are the two best parts of the whole movie. Will Smith is back to his leading man-movie star best, this is the Will Smith-iest we have seen Will Smith in a long time and he has a lot of material to sink his teeth into. His comedic moments are great and he has some great action scenes too, but he also nails all of the more dramatic parts as well; his presence only serves to elevate the film’s quality. Robbie as well is fantastic. She slips effortlessly into the role and lights up the screen. Margot’s Quinn is funny, crazy, badass and electric, a perfect mix for such a diverse character. Viola Davis as their boss is also pretty great; she’s stern and staunch in character and performance, possibly being the most threatening and intimidating of all the bad guys of the film. Overall the chemistry of the squad is good. Whilst the individual performances and characterization may be slightly off, they work well together on the whole. But Smith and Robbie alone just about manage to make up for all the negatives within the squad.
The humour and the action is largely on point as well. Whilst the fights all seem to be against generic superhero movie faceless armies, the actual combat and choreography is very good, even if it’s not totally revolutionary. The comedy is mainly dished out to Smith, Courtney and Robbie and they all hit their beats well in a mostly tonally inconsistent movie.
But it comes with great annoyance and frustration that Jared Leto’s Joker, a hugely iconic character, serves no purpose to the story and is, even worse, a sub-par performance. Leto seems more Jim Carrey than insane psychopath. From his costume design and the way he’s written, down to his mannerisms and voice, the performance just misses the mark and the character feels forced. With the exception of a few scenes with Harley Quinn, the Joker is a real misfire here.
As I mentioned before, the tone is pretty all over the place, jumping from fun and entertaining to serious and dark in an instance. But this is to be expected given the reported studio concerns with the film. The messy story doesn’t really work or make any real sense either, and there’s no sense of scale to the main threat. The first act is a rush to set up the main players (with some unbelievably clunky exposition to go with it) and then they’re just thrown straight into the main mission with little development to it. It’s hard to care about the main story when we know such a small amount of coherent information about it, and we’re too tied in to the main characters to care for much else. The overly excessive use of flashbacks hurts the story too, it just feels so lazy on the storytelling part.
And then there’s the music… Dear God. The first part of the film just feels like a string of poorly executed music videos, it’s a bad attempt at what made Guardians of the Galaxy so endearing and entertaining. They even use a song from the Guardians soundtrack! The music is just totally off, a poor attempt to appeal to the millennials in the audience. They all feel so forced after the first few songs. As the squad begin to gear up and get ready you begin to feel pumped up for the film, only for “two trailer park girls go round the outside” lyrics to throw you off, possibly the worst use of an Eminem song ever. Overall it fills the scenes too much, just let the characters and visuals tell the story and leave them be, there’s no need to cram in a variety of crowd pleasing songs.
It’s a movie that lags and stumbles so much but just manages to get over the line. Frustration is a good way to describe this film. Whilst there is fun to be had and just about enough of the film works, a lot does not. Suicide Squad is good, but it just isn’t great.
Suicide Squad (2016), directed by David Ayer, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures, certificate 15.