Suicide Squad review: Ignore all the negativity, Joker and Harley save it
Director - David Ayer
Cast - Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevingne, Viola Davis
Rating - 3/5
I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.-Wreck-it Ralph
All it took was one scene. One scene transformed Suicide Squad. It wasn’t necessarily the best scene – in fact, in any other movie, it would barely merit a second glance. But for Suicide Squad it was a godsend. It came nestled in the heart of the film - following an hour or so of jarring, time-hopping, clumsy storytelling – and preceding another hour of more of the same. Not only was it the first time our characters resembled real, relatable human beings, it also proved, however briefly and despite what we’d seen so far, that Suicide Squad has a heart.
I can’t stress how much this movie needed this scene, just like Avengers: Age of Ultron needed that one in which they stopped the movie to visit Hawkeye’s wife and kids. Suicide Squad had been, for at least the first act, a mess - with clunky editing, incomplete scenes and unfunny jokes. But for five minutes, it took a break. It sent our characters, all dressed in their ridiculous costumes, drenched in water and blood, to a bar. No explosions, no fistfights, no Joker - just the quietest member of the Squad, El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), telling a story. It’s the scene that cements the gruffly sentimental relationship between these characters and saves it from being the second-biggest disappointment of the year.
It’s the story of a wild bunch of supervillains who’re brought together to save the world by government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who believes the only way to fight enemies in a post-Superman world is with more metahumans (superpowered people, basically). She enlists Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a celebrated military man to lead them into battle against a mystical enemy.
It’s no secret that Suicide Squad - the film that has been burdened with immense expectations for months now – has been utterly massacred by critics - some have called it worse than the movie it was supposed to make up for: Batman v Superman. But I can safely tell you that Suicide Squad is hardly the disaster BvS was. Mind you, it’s still a deeply incoherent movie – a movie that could never realistically live up to the otherworldly expectations those excellent trailers had cursed it with. But it’s no Batman v Superman.
Speaking of those fantastic trailers, you should probably know that there’s barely a scene in the movie that you haven’t already seen at least a shot from. But this is a good thing as well, because it proves that those infamous reshoots Suicide Squad went through weren’t as significant as had been reported because they’ve been showing us basically everything from the film for over a year now. It’s another matter, however, that what they had wasn’t too great to begin with.
After this movie, there isn’t going to be any beating about the bush - no coy, half-answers or evasive shrugs. DC is copying Marvel. There are faceless hordes of enemies, a giant portal in the sky, mother boxes (DC’s version of Infinity Stones) - and even, for the first time ever in a DC film, a stinger after the end credits tying their movie universe together. It would take an especially dim Arkham Asylum inmate (Professor Pyg, perhaps) to deny it.
Suicide Squad is such a frustrating picture. There are scenes and moments where it shines, but they’re so infrequent that the rest of the film - which is mostly a tired, clichéd rehash of hundreds of superhero movies we’ve seen already - trumps all the quirks director David Ayer brings to it. And it is, despite all the sound and fury (wink, wink), a David Ayer film. There’s a reason El Diablo is given the most emotionally resonant arc of all characters – it’s Ayer’s love for all things Los Angeles gangster.
But I’ve saved the best for last. The biggest strength of this film is that it loves these characters, despite the fact that it leaves them stranded in such an unoriginal movie. It reaffirms the belief that Ben Affleck is onto something with his Batman, who, in a couple of quick scenes here, comes this close to being like Kevin Conroy’s Dark Knight from the animated series and Arkham games, answering the prayers of all us fans.
And finally, Joker. Without offering any comparisons, I can tell you this: It is unlikely you will come out unaffected by Jared Leto’s performance. It’s familiar yet radical, tragic yet deranged. Watching him made me want to cleanse myself. It felt like I was committing a terrible crime. His story with Harley Quinn is the movie’s biggest asset – it took me back to the days when I first discovered Batman and his twisted world – the world Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created in Batman: The Animated Series.
Suicide Squad is exactly that: A live-action, feature-length version of an episode of Batman: The Animated Series in which Batman and Joker are side characters. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s enough.