“Suicide Squad” Review (*½)

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Margot Robbie stars as Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad.”

“Suicide Squad,” Warner Brothers’ latest attempt at furthering the DC Extended Universe, is the most profoundly disappointing film of 2016. Ever since we saw the first image of Jared Leto’s neon gangster Joker, we’ve been, at the very least, curious. Like many, I thought it was a strange choice but held out hope—hope that felt justified as soon as that amazing first trailer dropped. It seemed like Warner Brothers was willing to take creative risks and do something we haven’t yet seen in the rapidly expanding superhero space. Unfortunately what we ended up with is a convoluted, underwritten mess that, like too many blockbusters these days, basically boils down to giant CGI blobs fighting each other.

David Ayer wrote and directed the film and was either given too much freedom by the studio or not enough. The film is choppy and poorly constructed. There’s even some weirdly obvious editing mistakes. There is definitely some striking imagery throughout that I’m sure made better storyboards than actual scenes.

The problems with “Suicide Squad” are glaringly and frustratingly obvious. We’re thrown into film immediately as Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) reads off a list of supposed super villains and we watch as their half-assed origin stories flash across the screen (all of which would make better films on their own). We see glimpses of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and how she became crazy. We learn that Deadshot (Will Smith) is a for-hire assassin who would do anything for his daughter. We’re introduced to Dr. June Moon, played by Cara Delevingne, who has been possessed by a witch because she… fell in a cave? I think? The point is that none of these characters get one single moment to show us who they are. Instead we’re simply told that they’re the worst of the worst, which makes it nearly impossible to care about any one of them.

Viola Davis plays Amanda Waller in “Suicide Squad.”
The film’s antagonist, which was largely kept under wraps, is probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen in film. This villain has about as much character motivation as the twister in “Twister.” Not only that, but it really just makes less and less sense the more you look back on it. However, the most baffling thing in this already baffling movie is Jared Leto’s Joker. The Joker is so all over the place and so incredibly undefined that I really can’t even say if it was a good performance or not. His sole purpose in the film is to help define Harley Quinn (which is a slap in the face to both characters and the beloved source material). The Joker’s look is interesting, though. I’ve come around to the style of this version of the character. I just wish he was in a better movie… or at least had a reason to be in this one.
The standouts of the cast are Viola Davis, Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Davis is brutally villainous and the only character to have even an ounce of shading. Smith is as entertaining as ever as Deadshot, but he’s just playing Will Smith. Robbie’s Harley Quinn is inconsistent but fun. Robbie is magnetic and did the best she could with what she had. For a team of super villains, I would have liked for them to have been even a tiny bit menacing. Ayer’s script never lets these bad guys be truly bad, though. Deadshot has a heart of gold, Harley just wants to settle down with the Joker (as we see in a bizarre dream-like sequence) and the other characters are just… there.

In an already disappointing summer of sequels and reboots, it’s becoming more and more clear that story needs to be priority. Sure, fan service is cool but remember when Christopher Nolan was able to elevate the comic book genre to something sophisticated? I wanted to love this movie and I still think that these characters have potential, but thanks to a misguided script, a lack of focus and some clear post-production complications, “Suicide Squad” is DOA.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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