I didn’t know much about the squad when I went to the screening, and had avoided all the trailers, so I was open to whatever. I just wanted to be entertained.
And I was, by some of it, the parts that didn’t induce eye rolls.
Background for Suicide Squad neophytes like me: a government official named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), head of a secret agency, comes up with a plan to recruit some crazy-ass villains with special powers to work for the US government, because what if the next metahuman from Krypton isn’t a superman but a superterrorist? We need a super army for defense!
The chosen criminals include: Deathshot (Will Smith), an assassin who never misses a shot; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a former therapist who fell for one of her patients and went nuts; Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a gangbanger who can throw flames from his hands; Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Aussie who can throw his country’s signature weapon with deadly precision; and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a guy with a serious skin problem who looks like a cross between The Thing and Godzilla.
There’s also Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a badass chick with a sword that traps souls, but she’s a bodyguard and not a criminal. Neither is Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), a very old witch who can teleport. The convicts must obey Waller’s orders or else get blown up by a bomb implanted in them. You know, employee incentives.
At times too many characters crowd the screen and the action gets too busy and the effects look like generic CGI. Most of the actors don’t have a chance to shine. Scott Eastwood practically does background work as a soldier.
The brightest spot is Robbie portraying the unhinged Quinn with glee. The actress, who seems to be in 53 movies this year, energizes every scene she’s in, but also gives a glimpse of the vulnerability beneath Quinn’s cuckoo exterior. She has brother-sister chemistry with Smith (the two worked together in Focus), and their breezy banter is fun. It almost—but not quite—makes up for the fact she has to walk around in hot pants that cover only two-thirds of her booty. Seriously?
Davis also stands out as the suit running the squad. She doesn’t need any weapons or gimmicks. Her power lies in her steely glare and low, steady voice. Everything about her says, “Don’t f*ck with me,” and the villains, as unstable as they are, know enough to be scared of Waller.
Less successful is Jared Leto as The Joker. While I could appreciate his trying to bring something unique to the iconic character, his interpretation doesn’t stick its landing. The Joker’s laugh is annoying. Having his smile tattooed on his hand serves no purpose. This Joker is neither intimidating nor formidable, and doesn’t come close to Heath Ledger’s still-resonant incarnation.
Delevingne is too lightweight an actress to play the powerful witch. She has no chemistry with Joel Kinnaman, who plays her love interest, Rick Flag, the soldier and field leader of the squad. Hernandez makes an impression, but it’s because his character is the lone holdout—Diablo really, really doesn’t want to use his firestarting powers or engage in violence anymore.
Director/writer David Ayer’s vision of the DC Universe is more palatable than Zack Snyder’s, and I applaud Suicide Squad for having a diverse cast, but in the end, it’s a slick, expensive, loud summer movie based on comic-book characters. Take that as you will.
Photo: Warner Bros.