Suicide Squad (2016) Review

SSDirector: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbage, Joel Kinnaman, Karen Fukuhara

Run time: 123 minutes

Spoilers below…

I wanted to like Suicide Squad, I really did. I haven’t had a great track record with the previous DC films, I hated Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman, but the Suicide Squad trailers gave me pause. They were vibrant, energetic and chaotic (in a good way) and the best thing? If the trailers were any indication, we were in for a rare DC treat, a film that was actually fun. Alas, it was not to be.

Suicide Squad was a hurried and disjointed mess. It was a film about a bunch of anti-heroes forced to work together by a manipulative woman who works in the shadows. There was so much potential and most of it was squandered. DC doesn’t really know how to introduce characters (remember the way Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg were introduced via an email attachment?) well, the introduction in Suicide Squad was marginally better. Their introductions were messy and what was with all that text? Suicide Squad tried very hard to go the Deadpool way but lacked the will. Where Deadpool was daring, Suicide Squad only teased those moments of badassery but failed to commit fully. The film, therefore, feels half-baked.

The music and editing are both awful. Don’t get me wrong, the choice of songs is great, their usage, not so much. More often than not they seemed to be randomly assigned to characters, so as long as you can appreciate the song and the visuals separately, you’re good. The editing, though, is what really brought down the film. It was so choppy and clunky, it was meant to look stylised and dynamic, it didn’t. It only succeeded in making an otherwise tolerable film, borderline insufferable. It jumped from one character to another with no apparent design or logic. The chaotic cuts might have worked well for the trailers but that doesn’t mean that they also work for the film.

DC casting choices are also nothing short of baffling, they cast actors who are great in other films and yet horrible in their films (case in point, Amy Adams) but for once, the casting choices seem to work in Suicide Squad. Not that they have much to do, even here there is a mess. DC doesn’t know how to equitably divide screen time so all characters are developed and grow and this inability plagues Suicide Squad. They have a group of competent (and some very good) actors on their roster and most of them feel underutilized. It’s not entirely their fault; the script just doesn’t give them a lot to do. Slingshot, the token Native American was killed, mere minutes after being introduced. Katana, played by Karen Fukuhara, didn’t have much to do, which was sad, because she seemed so badass in the trailers. Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang was actually likeable, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo was also engaging as the reluctant anti-hero.

Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress was plain weird, I initially liked the way June Moone turned into the witch but pretty much everything after that was painful to watch. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why her body kept moving, almost as if she was doing some strange dance. It was distracting and made it impossible to take her seriously. Also, they should have stuck to her initial look, her ‘powered-up’ avatar just looked bad with that weird disk thing on her head. We were supposed to care about her relationship with Rick Flagg but it was so rushed and just had no time to grow organically. The audience was basically told that they spent time together and then they fell in love, that’s not how you get emotionally involved. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg was also frustrating, for all his high-handedness to Deadshot, they were more similar than he cared to admit, they were both killers, only their paymasters were different. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller was also great and every bit as despicable as she is in the comics.

Much has been said about Jared Leto’s Joker, ranging from his ‘method’ acting to the strange things he did on set while he was in his ‘Joker’ frame of mind. All I can say is that it was an utter waste. His performance as the Crown Prince of Crime was lackluster and failed to inspire anything. It was hard to see why Dr. Harleen Quinzel would fall for him or how he inspired terror in those he dealt with. There was something very cumbersome about his performance.

This film actually belongs to Will Smith and Margot Robbie. They were superb in the film and fit their roles perfectly. Especially, Robbie’s Harley Quinn was spot-on. She was irreverent, unapologetic and absolutely nuts and you could see the fun Robbie was having with the role. And yet she also infused the character with vulnerabilities, made her more human, someone you could relate to (kind of). However, she was the most fun and engaging when she was with the group, her scenes with Joker, in contrast, seemed stilted and added nothing to the broader plot.

The Joker-Harley relationship is extremely abusive and while I was relieved that they didn’t play the relationship quite the way it turns out in the comics, it was still toxic and that should have been addressed. The film actually presents the Joker in a sympathetic light, as someone who loves Harley Quinn, but doesn’t hesitate to abandon her at the bottom of a lake after she screams that she can’t swim. And while she did have some agency, it was negated when Joker chose to torture her, knowing full well that given the choice she would have helped him of her own accord. The relationship in the film is even more troubling because of the mixed signals the film gives out.

Smith’s Deadshot was a similar story, he made his character someone you wanted to root for. Smith played Deadshot with his customary wit and charm and elevated the character’s personality. He also probably had the best dialogues of the entire lot. Smith and Robbie also had amazing chemistry (far better than Robbie and Leto’s)

The strongest aspect of the film was the ensemble cast, the scenes where the group spent time together were among the best in the film and actually made the film fun and watchable. The group played off each other really well and they were entertaining. It would have been far better if they had focused more on the actual Squad. Case in point, there were moments between Harley and Deadshot that spoke of friendship and solidarity and it was done well. We needed more moments like that in the film. We could have done without Leto’s Joker entirely, he added nothing and only served to slow down the narrative and bogged it down.

Suicide Squad is worth one watch at least. It is so much better than Batman vs Superman, there were moments in the film that were actually funny and engaging, great moments between the different characters. Sadly, it was bogged down with bad editing and bad writing. The trailers for Suicide Squad were uniformly amazing and set the expectations very high. If your primary motive for watching the film are the trailers, you should skip the film because you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. The film had so much potential and it was all squandered. So far DC isn’t inspiring any confidence in their Cinematic Universe and if they don’t start fixing whatever it is that’s broken, they’re only going to make things worse for themselves.

P.S – Fervently hoping that Joker doesn’t show up in the Harley Quinn film, instead, let’s have Katana show up or even Poison Ivy..

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