SUICIDE SQUAD

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: David Ayer

Stars: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Carla Delevinge. Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Common, Scott Eastwood, Ike Barinholtz, David Harbour, Ezra Miller, Ben Affleck, Kevin Vance, Adam Beach, Karen Fukuhara, Corina Calderon.
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A motley collection of psychopathic killers are released from prison to form a special team and sent on a suicide mission. No, this is not the classic 1967 World War Two action film The Dirty Dozen, but rather Suicide Squad, a superhero powered variation on the theme for the 21st century. Or should that be more antihero than superhero?
Based on a graphic comic book of the same name, Suicide Squad has been written and directed by David Ayer (End Of Watch, Fury, etc) and fits comfortably into the gritty and dark universe that DC has been building around its main characters Batman and Superman. DC comics seem to be darker in tone than the offerings from their Marvel rivals, although they hit a creative high with Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But both Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman were rather flat and laboured and gloomy, and earned the wrath of fans. It was hoped that Suicide Squad would restore the fanboys’ faith in DC’s cinematic adaptations of the comic books. Suicide Squad lacks the subversive touches and broad humour that characterised the best of the recent Marvel offerings like Antman, Deadpool and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Suicide Squad is ultimately a flawed film that is likely to disappoint the fan boys as well.
Following the death of Superman at the end of Batman V Superman, ruthless intelligence agent Amanda Waller (a tough Viola Davis) pitches her proposal for a new black ops task force, comprised of the most dangerous incarcerated villains with special talents, who will be able to save the planet from future threats from terrorists or extraterrestrial beings.
The assembled team consists of Deadshot (Will Smith), a deadly hitman; sultry baseball bat wielding Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a former psychiatrist turned bad after falling in love with the Joker (Oscar winner Jared Leto, from Dallas Buyers Club, etc) in Arkham Asylum; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez, from Hostel, etc), who can control fire, but just don’t make him angry; Australian bank robber and larrikin Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, from Felony, etc); the reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); and Enchantress (Carla Delevinge), the former bookish professor June Moone who has been possessed by a 600 year old entity with magical powers. We are given the backstories for some of these characters, but others are given short shrift and only rudimentary treatment. And this group doesn’t mesh together as well as Marvel’s ensemble for The Avengers.
This motley crew is placed under the command of Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, from Run All Night, etc), the most decorated SEAL in military history, and his bodyguard the sword wielding Katana (newcomer Karen Fukuhara). They are all have a kill switch implanted in their necks to ensure their co-operation.
Their first mission takes them to the heart of Midway City, when the Enchantress goes rogue and begins building a mysterious superweapon that will destroy the earth. Of course this weapon resembles nothing more than the nebulous CGI rendered portal beloved of most comic book adaptations of late.
Ayer’s direction is muscular at times and he knows how to stage action. But at other times it seems as if he has lost control of the film and it chaotically lurches from one set piece to the next without any sense of coherence. Worse is the convoluted plotting and shifts in tone.
A stand out sequence is the fight between the Suicide Squad and an army of zombie soldiers. Thankfully Ayer doesn’t tone down the violence here, and he remains faithful to the anarchic and nihilistic qualities of the source material. He suffuses the film with a gaudy visual style that suits the film’s comic book origins and brings a kinetic energy of a couple of key action scenes. But elsewhere the pacing is somewhat awkward and clunky, and the dialogue is cliched and at time banal. However the film features a great soundtrack of pop hits from the likes of Queen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc.
Performances are a bit of a mixed bag here. Davis creates a tough, fearsome and formidable character here as Waller, and is likely to become the female equivalent of Nick Fury for this growing DC universe. Having worked together in last year’s Focus Smith and Robbie develop a good chemistry. Smith is good as the hard boiled hitman, but it is Robbie who walks away with the movie thanks her superb performance that seems attuned to the demands of the source material. She brings a mix of overt sexuality, child like innocence and ruthlessness to her performance. Courtney plays a stereotyped bogan Australian, but he is not the most convincing or likeable character. Akinnuoye-Agbaje is buried beneath layers of reptilian make-up. There are cameos from Ben Affleck as Batman, and a couple of the future members of the Justice League but they really have little to do but collect a pay cheque.
And Leto’s interpretation of the Joker here doesn’t quite work. He is certainly an unhinged and dangerous character but Leto gives him a more cartoonish quality at times. His take on the iconic villain though is nowhere near as memorable as Heath Ledger in Nolan’s The Dark Knight – even when not on screen his Joker’s presence was still felt. But not here – Leto goes missing for great chunks of the film and frankly he is not missed.

★★★

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