Is it Worth-A-Watch? Steer well clear. About the most sadistic thing about this film, supposedly about the world’s most mad bad and dangerous to know reprobates, is the fact that it was made.
As the market in superhero films has become so saturated and formulaic the promise of a film that casts the villains as protagonists is tantalising. Especially one that sets out with an incredible cast of seasoned and respected actors, including Jared Leto (Dallas Buyer’s Club, Mr Nobody), Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street) and Will Smith (Will Smith). But Suicide Squad succeeds only in snuffing out any prospect of something new or noteworthy. At its best Suicide Squad is a standard fare, ten a penny, superhero film. The film follows the cliché ‘mission to save the world from an amorphous supervillain with uncertain powers whilst battling the darker side of yourself’ plotline. There is nothing iconic in its villain, Enchantress, played by Cara Delavingne (model?), who from about the ten minute mark has no purpose other than serving plot function. She rips the world apart remorselessly, with a bamboozling litany of powers, and on the flimsiest of justifications. Nor is there anything original in its villains cast in the light.
Each character is set up as someone terrifying, dangerous and sociopathic in a catch all style eighties opening-credit-meet-the-gang-cutaways complete with try-hard graphics that would look more at home on the front of a My Chemical Romance C.D than a film about hardened killers. Before a wider roster of forgettable characters are dumped into the film in a bag, let loose to punch a guy, and then consumed into the rolling mass. Then, through a dizzyingly quick series of random plot developments, each of them is drenched of anything interesting, de-fanged, and made a ransomed soldier of the state – with so little option for conflict it’s incredible anything continues to happen.
Unfortunately, it does continue to happen, needlessly and without any clear structure for far too long. The plot devolves into a chaotic mess of players, being introduced and exited in thirty seconds as D.C try to create a rich tapestry of saleable characters at a thousand threads a second. It meanders and backtracks, characters simply turning up still alive with very little explanation after being left with no chance of survival, in order to provoke some sort of excitement in such a bland film. The plot seems to be a constant fight to purposefully cage the most interesting element of the film, to keep each of its sociopathic characters on the straight and narrow- behaving and acting with as much dignity, humility and humanity as the loftiest superhero.
Suicide Squad clunkily introduces backstories to later hamstring their characters if they promise to do anything against the PG13 rules or the simplistic childlike morality it explores. Will Smith’s Deadshot is deactivated by any reference to his daughter, a string played constantly and hollowly throughout. El Diablo, far from a ruthless villain, is a resolute pacifist and has to be coaxed to even fight to save the planet. And all of the interchangeable, half-baked protagonists are collared by an easily activatable hand grenade implanted in their necks. Even when they are inexplicably let loose, by a new rule in the mess of technology and magic, they’re quickly catapulted by some trump card back into their sheep pen from which they can showcase how bad they are by dispatching an army of faceless genocidal monsters hell-bent on destroying the world.
It’s difficult to even judge the performances in this film when the writing is so bad or, if like Jared Leto, your character has been relegated to an uninteresting side plot, shoe-horned in to assure you your spin off. Its even worse for Margot Robbie who has a character with so little substance she must feel her vast acting talents were welcome to be left at the door, so long as she brought the right behind for hot pants which seemed all the director was interested in displaying from his potentially complex major female characters. I have great sympathy for Viola Davis (Prisoners, Doubt) who has given such brilliant performances in films like The Help and in this film it would seem the Ayer forgot to give her a character. The hard arsed government, military security (it’s fairly unclear) woman Amanda Waller is consigned to her every line of dialogue being a clipped, cringeworthy retort. The worst of these was probably her opening line, a reply to ‘you sit there looking like the cat that ate the canary’, ‘I’ve eaten a lot of canaries.’ Frankly I would rather eat a whole aria of canaries than listen to the desperate attempts to make high impact, edgy conversation enders.
If you’ve ever played a third rate video game you may recognise the structure of Suicide Squad. Underdeveloped characters spring aimlessly from one big shoot out set piece to another, strung together by confused motivations expressed, with the subtlety of a baseball bat to the face, by an over talented and seemingly at a loss actor. However Suicide Squad sadistically allows you none of the enjoyment of playing each level, which at times feature such shoddy C.G.I and uninventive combat it’s difficult to even enjoy as a spectacle. The darkest thing about Suicide Squad is its colour filter, which once mixed with neon light gives it all the style and atmosphere of a Haddouken gig. Ironically for a film that’s style is so borrowed from angsty teenaged bands, the soundtrack is probably the best thing about it; a collection, of somewhat inharmonious but, well-selected songs including tracks from Queen and Action Bronson.
The director, David Ayer (Fury, End of Watch) has taken no risks with his filmmaking but his greatest failure is surely the screenplay. In addition to the shoddiness of the structure, the dialogue is painful throughout. It tries so hard to drive home their edginess without evidencing it for a moment, until it sounds like a twelve year old kid telling you how hard he is so you’ll buy him cigarettes. When you throw into this muddle the tragic attempts to recapture Deadpool in speedy post production, with tacked on risqué unicorn sex fetishes and zero self-awareness, then the film really starts to twist the knife. Once again D.C have produced a film that’s most compelling storyline is the one that lies so transparently below the surface; of a company desperately trying to make a please all, print-money Cinematic Universe at break neck speed. The spinning wheels of the industry run down artistic talents and splatter promising source material onto a mess on the wall whilst they try to hotwire to the bank in a beat-up Batmobile, built using incomplete blue prints from Marvel.