Review: David Ayer’s ‘Suicide Squad’, Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, and Jared Leto

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In an article about DC Comics’ newfound boldness, I discuss how “Suicide Squad” could be a turning point for the DCEU. The first movie within the shared universe of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (but which technically began with “Man of Steel”), “Suicide Squad” features a group of bad guys at the center of all of the action. The film, written and directed by David Ayer, is stylish, disproportionate in tone, but somehow still better than expected, which still isn’t saying too much.

The head of a secret government agency called A.R.G.U.S., Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) wants to put together a team of miscreants, crazies, thieves, and assassins called Task Force X. Their mission would be to take down metahumans, because as Waller argues, what happens when the next Superman isn’t on our side? And now that the red-caped crusader is dead, she’s calling in reinforcements.

With all of them conveniently imprisoned (thanks in some part to Batman (Ben Affleck) and The Flash (Ezra Miller), who make brief cameo appearances), Waller gathers the likes of Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Boomerang (Jai Courtney). They’re tasked with taking down a scientist possessed by an ancient witch by the name of Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), who’s angry that humans no longer worship her.

The team is headed by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Waller’s right-hand man. In exchange for their services, they get years off their prison sentences. Oh, and conveniently for Waller, she’s implanted a mini bomb in their neck. They go off the reservation or try to run away, one press of a button and they’re dead. Hence the name of the movie. Together, and reluctantly, they must stop Enchantress from killing everyone because she can’t come into the 21st century and accept that humans have moved on.

Even upon first watch, it’s easy to tell there’s something a bit off with the film. For one, it doesn’t feel like it was written by only one person. The first third doesn’t match the rest of the film in tone, there are some large plot holes, and the squad’s mission is abrupt and unenthralling. Perhaps there will be an ultimate edition when the film hits Blu-ray and that will fill in the missing gaps, but as it were, it doesn’t feel very complete and it’s more than obvious in the editing.

In favor of the bigger stars and better known characters, others are left in the dust, with Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Katana in particular not getting too much too do by way of development. It’s impossible to do so with such a large cast, but at least they have the option of eventually showing up in any of the other future DCEU films. With that in mind, Smith’s Deadshot, Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Davis’ Amanda Waller are the highlights of the film. They couldn’t have cast a more perfect person to play Waller. Davis is fierce and takes no bullshit. She’s running the show and is a force to be reckoned with. The last third of the film, however, doesn’t do her justice.

Leto’s Joker really didn’t need to be in the film. The side plot of him trying to get to Harley in the middle of the chaos happening in Midway City (whose population seems to have disappeared without a trace or mass panic, which can only be chalked up to movie logic) chewed up screen time. Screen time that could have gone to other characters that are part of the team. His presence in the film isn’t unwelcome, but unnecessary. He could have instead been used in flashbacks as a piece of Harley’s history and backstory, which is quite disturbing.

Ayer’s soundtrack choices are questionable and a little too over the top. The film itself isn’t terrible so much as it is disjointed and the team’s mission too textbook and underdeveloped to be any good. There’s a substantial lack of fluidity from beginning to end that Ayer tries to make up for in certain areas, but even the editing can’t save the film’s fragmented structure. Ultimately, “Suicide Squad” has some fun and worthwhile moments, such as the entire segment of the team’s introduction, but it’s unclear what it ultimately wants to be and too uneven to make up for it.

50%
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Underwhelming

"Suicide Squad" has some fun and worthwhile moments, such as the entire segment of the team's introduction, but it's unclear what it ultimately wants to be and too uneven to make up for it.

2.5star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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