Forget about Deadpool; Suicide Squad is the real bad boy of superhero movies. At least, that was the idea. Round up some of the most dangerous and unstable badasses in DC’s considerable rogues gallery and let ‘em raise hell. David Ayer’s deadly Dirty Dozen was meant to be the nasty kid brother to Zack Snyder’s po-faced Batman v Superman, but the end result is nowhere near as nasty as promised.
Yes, Suicide Squad boasts a start-studded cast and a little more humour than previous entries into the DCEU, but that’s not enough to rescue an underwhelming end result. The characters are thinly written, the direction uncharacteristically bland, and the plot, which is messy and full of holes, basically amounts to a cross between Escape From New York and Ghostbusters – only without the former’s subversive bite and the latter’s sense of fun.
With Superman in the ground and government bigwigs growing antsy over how they will defend themselves should the next superhero decide to take over the White House, Viola Davis’ ruthlessly ambitious Amanda Waller persuades the military to create a task force of screwy criminals to help fend-off any rogue metahumans.
And with that, she hastily recruits her squad: Deadshot (a typically charismatic Will Smith), the world’s most wanted assassin; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), an ex-psychiatrist who fell madly in love with the Joker (Jared Leto); Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), whose sonic drones return to him; human flamethrower Diablo (Jay Hernandez); scaly man-monster Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); and Enchantress, an ancient witch who takes over the body of Cara Delevingne’s Dr June Moone.
As soon as they assemble and have their necks implanted with explosives, the squad is choppered into a burning Midtown tasked with defeating an extremely powerful, magical entity and rescuing a secret target known only as HVT1.
Ayer actually does a commendable job gathering his collection of misanthropic misfits, fleshing out their backstories with breezy Top Trump cards detailing their vital statistics and ensuring each squaddie gets their own individual moment to shine. There’s no question Harley Quinn is the standout member with Robbie absolutely nailing her characterisation. Smart, sexy, playfully manipulative and viciously violent, Quinn’s gonzo spirit embodies everything this movie should have been.
Suicide Squad’s flaws are broadly the same as those which derailed Batman v Superman – and the DCEU as a whole. In their desperation to compete with Marvel, the studio has unleashed yet another rushed and muddled movie that fails to live up to expectations. Despite its punk rock colour scheme and eclectic soundtrack (featuring the likes of Without Me, Spirit in the Sky and Bohemian Rhapsody), the movie is unexpectedly formulaic.
The action is a perfunctory stream of CGI destruction and easily despatched henchmen, without even a hint of Ayer’s trademark gritty, kinetic energy. Meanwhile, the squad, though supposedly the meanest players in town, are surprisingly compliant, acting as committed soldiers who just want to return home. Which begs the question: why assemble the baddest of the bad if you’re not going to let them be, well… bad?
It seems Ayer just doesn’t know what to do with this motley crew of monsters he’s collected. Leto’s reinvention of the Joker as a gaudy, modern day gangsta holds lots of potential, but he’s stuck on the periphery here and appears to have been included only to add context to Harley Quinn.
Likewise, the movie’s big bad carries almost no threat. Forgotten almost as swiftly as it’s introduced, the demonic entity’s grand plan – which involves launching a giant glowing tentacle into the sky – lacks clarity and serves no understandable purpose. Following the shambles that was Doomsday, this feels like yet another faceless CGI monster created for no other reason than to give our ‘heroes’ something to fight in the third act.
We were promised an “unhinged”, “nightmarish” and “insane” antidote to an abundance of increasingly predictable superhero movies, but, Margot Robbie’s gleefully nihilistic Harely Quinn aside, what we’ve been given is just another dour superhero flick that’s more than happy to play by the rules. Forget about Suicide Squad: there’s more anarchy to be found in The Incredibles.
Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne