Wednesday, 10 August 2016

SUICIDE SQUAD review

After the events of Batman Vs Superman, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together a task force of criminals and sociopaths that she believes can do some good in the fight against these new unknown entities.


In the long fought war between Marvel and DC, two things have become abundantly clear; Marvel make the better cinematic versions of their characters, and DC have all the best bad guys. Put those two things together and Suicide Squad was always going to be a risky project. From the title alone this film was different, and the first of the current wave of superhero films to ask the audience to directly identify with the bad guys (Guardians of the Galaxy were always more charming rogues, so they don't count). Of course, bringing in film stars such as Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie all but guarantees a high level of exposure, but apart from the Joker, who are these characters?

Leading the pack is Will Smith's Deadshot, a deadly assassin with a code of ethics and a daughter who gives him a reason to live. He's not a widely known character outside of the comics, but provides Smith with enough internal conflict to make his choice of this film over the Independence Day sequel an easy one. The poster girl for the group is Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, delivering the first live action iteration of Joker's former Arkham Asylum psychologist turned girlfriend. All agreed, with her impossibly wide smile and manic eyes she's perfect casting for the role, and brings a lot to a character that is severely under-written.


Keeping Waller's team in check is Joel Kinneman's Rick Flag; a soldier who has been brought into the fold thanks to his romantic interest in Cara Delevigne's June Moon (aka Enchantress). Flagg is sadly quite a one note character, obeying his orders dutifully and having zero reaction to witnessing his employer murder a bunch of innocent agents; but he's Liberace in comparison to the other soldiers (including Scott Eastwood's GQ), who are so bland they could have been rolled into one character and still be lacking. The most interesting thing about Flagg is that he appears to stop and get a drastic haircut once the shit starts to hit the fan, although this may be explained away by the extensive reshoots and new material that make up the first act.

But, I suppose this is a film about the bad guys, and that it does have. There's something quite hypnotic about Leto's Joker, although that may just be that there's so much dazzle about his appearance it's hard not to stare at him whenever he is on screen, which isn't much. Unlike the much lauded big screen interpretations that have come before him Leto ups the gangster aspect of the character, depicting him as a crazy gangland kingpin/club owner. It kinda works, but the character needs to be better explored when he inevitably reappears to face off against Batman.

Joker's relationship with Harley Quinn provides ample opportunities for some lovestruck lunacy, but their scenes together are mostly limited to flashbacks (oh god, there's far too many flashbacks) and do little to flesh out their connection. It's a shame as there's clear chemistry between the actors, but little chance to let it develop. The same goes for Joker and almost all of the cast. For all the highly publicised disturbing artifacts and live rats Leto sent to his co-stars, he spends almost zero screen time with them. Again, it's a shame, as there appears to be an interesting dynamic between him, Harley and Deadshot that will have to wait to be explored another day.

As for the rest of the Skwad, they're a collection of poorly drawn caricatures and borderline racist stereotypes that know their place is to stand behind Smith and Robbie as they walk down the street in their (anti-)hero poses. Some characters are introduced purely to be killed off or be a walking weapon, whereas others such as Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang are left with nothing to do but tick a number of bogan stereotypes of the list. Boomerang is a jovial presence and is honestly the best Jai Courtney has ever been; but he's sidelined by the finale and not given much to do.


The most pleasant surprise of the film is Jay Hernandez's Diablo, who despite barely appearing in the trailers and also conforming to a whole checklist of unfortunate stereotypes, ends up being the best character in the entire film. He's the only one with any fire to him, and has a backstory that has given him real conflict about his abilities. The quiet man of the group, he has the depth that characters like Killer Croc and Slipknot could only dream of from their cells.

Having too many characters and not enough 'character' is not Suicide Squad's only issue. Once again the world is threatened by an underwhelming big bad that turns their mission into a game of capture the Flag as it descends into generic action (there are THREE separate helicopter crashes that people walk away from unharmed) and CGI madness. Edited to within an inch of its life, it's clear that Suicide Squad has gone through a few changes on its journey to the big screen; but with his background writing films like S.W.A.T. and Training Day and directing End of Watch and Fury, David Ayer seemed like the perfect director for this film. If he couldn't bring Suicide Squad to us unscathed by the negative response to Batman Vs Superman, no-one could.

Yet, despite all the negative reactions this film has garnered from critics and some audiences, it would be wrong to say I didn't still enjoy it as a generous helping of dumb popcorn entertainment. A masterpiece? No. A let down to everyone who thought this could be the film to put the DCEU finally on the right track? Undoubtedly. But it's still a fun but heavily flawed film, and without the weight of an entire cinematic universe on its shoulders, it could have been brilliant.

Verdict
3/5

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