Suicide Squad review

Suicide Squad Main International one sheet poster
Title: Suicide Squad
Director: David Ayer
Starring: Margot Robbie,
Will Smith,
Jared Leto,
Joel Jinnaman,
Viola Davis,
Jay Hernandez,
Jai Courtney,
Cara Delevingne
Genre: Action/adventure, crime, superhero, sci-fi
Runtime: 2 Hours 03 mins
Music: Steven Price
Studio: Warner Bros.
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Release Date: US: Aug 05 2016
UK: Aug 05 2016
See If You Like: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,
Worst Heroes Ever?

By now, despite the killer opening weekend (a recording breaking weekend, beating Guardians of the Galaxy for biggest August opening of all-time), you’ve probably heard Suicide Squad is getting thrown under the bus by most critics, and as much fun as it’d be to adapt the film’s tagline to read  “worst film ever” it simply wouldn’t fit; as despite some major problems, Suicide Squad is a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

Based on DC Comics’ series of the same name, Suicide Squad sees a manipulative government agent named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, The Help) recruiting some of the biggest and baddest super-villains in the DC world for a project she calls Task Force X; sending super-villains on do-or-die missions (she literally holds the button – now a killer mobile app – to detonate explosive implants within their spines, killing them instantly if they refuse to comply), to battle meta-humans (people with powers) and save the world, while being able to totally deny any government involvement if things go pear-shaped.

Inevitably, a problem arises and Amanda is forced to send her crew into the heart of darkness on their first mission, so Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, The Legend Of Tarzan); Deadshot (Will Smith, Focus); Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Oz); and a number of lesser-known DC characters such as Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, RoboCop); Diablo (Jay Hernandez, Hostel); Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, Terminator: Genisys); and Katana (newcomer Karen Fukuhara); are all sent to face the film’s big bad; a giant witch, with extendable arms.

Yes, it’s such a poor choice of villain you’ll have forgotten it’s name (if it even had one) within minutes. Sure, it has a partner who’s more memorable, but it boils down to another super hero film where the big bad is simply trying to destroy the world for no good reason at all, in a barely setup plot which goes nowhere, has no emotional drive or impact, and ends up with, to quote Deadshot, “a swirling trash ring in the sky” – a badly designed, poorly written, decision which means nobody cares who the villain is, or what happens where he’s concerned.

On the other hand the heroes are all excellent, even though we don’t get chance to properly spend time with some of them. Sadly, however Suicide Squad falls into the trap of so many ensemble films; focussing so much on its heroes, it neglects who/what they’re facing, and given the enemy he/she/they face is the true measure of any hero, the first outing for the Squad doesn’t offer much of an emotionally-testing yardstick for our band of baddies.

Each comes with their own internal struggle however; Deadshot wants to be a better father and return to his young daughter, Harley wants to be reunited with her lover/partner-in-crime Mr J, aka The Joker (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club), and El Diablo simply wants to find some semblance of peace after a fit of rage unleashed his powers and led to a terrible accident. So there are at least attempts to get us to engage with the individual characters, the problem is we don’t necessarily need to humanise them to enjoy them; can’t they just be bad guys? Just for a little bit?


Still, the attempt is made, and largely succeeds in getting us to care for the major players (Harley, Deadshot, and El Diablo), but what really draws us in and gets us to care for these characters is the actors’ portrayals; there’s not a bad one amongst the bunch (unless you count Will Smith essentially playing the same ‘character’ he’s been playing on screen since The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – the cocky and charismatic hero/leader type everyone wants to be like); Hernandez is especially empathetic as former gangbanger El Diablo, Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is surprisingly complex and well played (it’s possibly the best we’ve ever seen him), Jai Courtney delivers his first decent showing ever as the wacky alcoholic Captain Boomberang (despite limited screentime, he’s very fun to watch), and even Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc slips into the mix quite well (though a larger, more comic-book like look would’ve been preferred).

Yet it’s impossible to deny Margot Robbie steals the show as Harley Quinn; it’s her film from start to finish, and she steals the limelight from everyone the moment she’s on screen; despite playing an impossibly difficult character to master, she nails ever aspects of Harley’s personality to a T. The voice work the acrobatics, the zaniness, the cute-but-deadly/what’s-she-going-to-do-next attitude which leaves everyone both intrigued and terrified, it’s all there. It’s brash it’s bold, but it’s also layered and nuanced and you just want more of her all the time. More. More. More (which thankfully we’ll get as it sounds like there could be a Harley solo film underway soon).


Supporting stars are also well placed; Viola Davis is acceptable as. Amanda Waller (though perhaps not quite believably conniving and ruthless enough), Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns) is exceptionally vulnerable and creepy as archaeologist June Moone, and the sorceress who possess her (Enchantress), and Jared Leto puts in an okay turn as the latest big screen incarnation as The Clown Prince Of Crime; The Joker.

Leto’s character however, through the eyes of any Batman film/comic/cartoon fan, is an utter let down; not only do we see very little of him (which was half expected, as he’s really only there to bolster Harley’s character, and what we feel for her – giving her an origin story, and something to fight for), he’s lacking all the fun and the crazy we expect to see from a true Joker; here he’s far too predictable, has no Jokes whatsoever, and simply comes across as an ordinary, but fairly eccentric, spoiled gangster.


So while it’s clear Fury director David Ayer made a number of hugely bad writing decisions (the villain ‘plot’, the needless humanising of the Suicide Squad members, and ruining the Joker), he knocked it out of the park in other ways; not only getting fantastic performances from his actors, but filming some awesome action sequences (sadly, they generally lacked impact, but were at least shot well), setting the film to a sublime soundtrack (seriously, check out the OST), and crafting his own unique R-rated piece of the DC Extended Universe (with a distinct, memorable, and tonally fitting look to it).

Summing up, Suicide Squad is littered with problems (mainly writing issues) and is far from a great film, yet it’s one you can’t help but enjoy and fall a little bit in love with (especially thanks to Margot Robbie’s effervescent and enigmatic Harley Quinn); the villain’s a non-entity, there are some poor character decisions (nobody will remember this Joker, and in attempting to humanise the Squad their status as ‘the worst of the worst’ is not only nullified, but they’re also prevented from appearing as good guys – do one thing well, not several averagely), and the plot itself is highly forgettable; yet, the actors’ are excellent (especially Robbie, and true Smith plays himself yet again; but he’s charismatic, likeable, and makes for a good fit – even if hogging the limelight a touch), the action is awesome, and the soundtrack’s superb. In fact, Suicide Squad is shot like one big music video, and as with most successful music videos it can be summed up in a single word – fun.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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