Film Review : Is suicide squad

By Caryn James , BBC News 

DC Comics needs a hit after the critically reviled Batman v Superman. Unfortunately, this supervillain extravaganza isn’t it, writes critic Caryn James.

"Film Review: Suicide Squad - A Captivating Analysis"
Image by Oliana Gruzdeva from Pixabay

“What happens if the next Superman is a terrorist?” That’s the rhetorical question intelligence agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) poses to persuade her bosses that she needs a band of supervillains to battle the planet’s potential new enemies. She finds an assassin and a psychotic former psychiatrist, among others, and releases them from prison to fight evil with evil.

It lands on the screen with a big-budget thud of missed opportunities

If only the rest of Suicide Squad

were as intriguing as Waller’s politically loaded premise. You could say her plan sets the story in motion, but motion is the wrong word for a film with such flat-footed action and such an overload of forgettable characters. Suicide Squad looked bright and promising in its run-up, but lands on the screen with a big-budget thud of missed opportunities.

Suicide Squad’s DC Comics characters, lesser known than Batman or Superman, are introduced in quick flashbacks. Will Smith, toned and with a shaved head, is Deadshot. He is paid millions of dollars to murder someone, but lands in prison because he won’t do it in front of his beloved daughter. A familiar Smith type, he’s the bad guy who’s not all bad, wisecracking easily although not often enough here.

We see Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn as she used to be: Dr Harleen Quinzel, of the oversized black glasses and three-inch heels that all prison psychiatrists wear. She falls for her green-haired, silver-toothed patient, the Joker and soon goes rogue, with bright-white makeup and red lips that match her lover’s. Robbie wiggles her spangled mini-shorts, occasionally possesses a mad gleam in her eye and, just as sporadically, a broad Brooklyn accent.

The “meta-humans” Waller rounds up are nonentities despite their particular quirks. So is the Joker, who is surprisingly banal. Jared Leto plays him as Scarface, acting tough in a nightclub, relaxing on the floor at home encircled by guns.

Why so serious?

David Ayer wrote and directed Suicide Squad, so he has no one else to blame for the muddled screenplay. Ayer is best at grit and moral nuance: he wrote the screenplay for Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day, and wrote and directed the intense cop drama End of Watch. But given a broader commercial mandate and cartoon characters to work with, his narrative lacks imagination and his visual style is simplistic.

The film shares the drab palette of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the previous instalment in the interconnected series based on DC’s characters. The pops of colour that Harley and the Joker bring are like jolts of energy.

The dark implications are never explored

Actual jolts of energy come in the form of lighting bolts that overwhelm two clichéd action sequences involving the villain of the piece, Enchantress, an ancient witch who’s taken over the body of an archaeologist, June (Cara Delevingne). These scenes echo countless other movies, including Ghostbusters past and present. When Enchantress wrecks a subway station it seems ho-hum. It is also probably not the most effective way to end civilisation.

There are glimpses of what Ayer might have done if he had followed his rougher instincts. Waller is thoroughly ruthless, and Davis is sly enough to keep us on her character’s side and suspicious at once. But like the spectre of a terrorist Superman, those dark implications are never explored.

Girl power

And it is a plain fact that women rule here: Waller and Enchantress are the opposite poles of power. Harley became the face of the movie, a breakout character, months before the film’s release. There is the underused Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a woman wielding a sword that absorbs the soul of the person it has killed. And yet Suicide Squad never overtly acknowledges the gender politics that are clear for all to see.

Even the music is excruciatingly literal-minded

When comics-based movies work well, as many of the rival Marvel films do, they are smart and slick enough to reach beyond a fan base ready to embrace them on geekiness alone. Captain America: The Winter Soldier used plot twists and duplicitous government officials to add ballast. Suicide Squad merely slaps ideas on its surface.

It does give humans and supervillains (Batman v Superman)

redeeming features. Deadshot practically weeps when he receives letters from his daughter. Harley is wrecked when she thinks she has lost the Joker, or her Pudding as she affectionately calls him.  Square squad leader Rick (Joel Kinnaman) loves June so much he will risk the world to release her from Enchantress. With an enhanced voice huskier than Batman’s and a goddess’ slinky wardrobe, Enchantress seems a lot more exciting than meek little June, but in love there’s no accounting for taste.

Early on, there is Sympathy for the Devil. Really? By the end, when we hear the Bohemian Rhapsody line, “Mama, I killed a man,” it’s not a cue to incoming mayhem but an occasion to groan. How did they miss What I Did for Love? That’s a song that would have captured the soft heart and even softer brain of Suicide Squad.

 

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