Let me preface this by saying that I really wanted to see this right when it first opened, before everyone was talking about it. But I’ve been sick with I-don’t-know-what — either with a bad cold or flu. I’m better now but unfortunately, that means I couldn’t see it without being inundated by comments from friends and acquaintances and bloggers that I listen to and so on. But I tend to enjoy comic book films. I didn’t go into this film with high expectations. I was just hoping to have some nice mindless fun. So on with my review.
You probably know the premise of the film by now, if you are reading the review. Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) is trying to create an elite team of soldiers, out of some of the worst criminals she can find. plus a few others And she’s not above using blackmail and threats to convince them, criminal or otherwise, to cooperate. The team is lead by Rick Flagg, played by The Killing’s Joel Kinnamon. His girlfriend, Dr. June Moone (Cara Delavingne) is possessed by an ancient and powerful mystical spirit — when she lets the spirit take over, she calls herself The Enchantress. There’s also Deadshot (Will Smith), an assassin-for-hire. Harley Quinn (Margot Robie) used to be a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, until she fell in love with Arkham’s most insane inmate, The Joker (Jared Leto), helped him escape, and was eventually driven mad by him (although the order that all of that happened is not 100% clear). Then there is Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a metahuman who can create and control fire. Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), probably the unlikeliest one in the entire bunch, can (you guessed it) throw boomerangs. And finally, there’s Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who played Mr. Echo in “Lost”) a metahuman who has a crocodile-like skin and sharp teeth. We also meet Slipknot (Adam Beach), who can climb anything we are told (though his lack of a back-story is all too obvious a sign of things to come). And finally, there’s Katana (Karen Fukuhara), who has a magic Katana that steals souls.
It takes nearly half the movie to introduce all of these characters, giving most of them back stories. And then, without spoiling it, they have a job — things have gone horribly wrong in Midway City in (unfortunately) an entirely predictable way — I debated whether saying what the specific way that things go wrong is — on the one hand, yes it’s a spoiler, on the other hand, the movie telegraphs this right from the start. But I’ll err on the side of silence and not say what it is that has gone wrong. But if you actually watch the movie, and you don’t see it coming, you really weren’t paying attention.
Waller has tiny nanobots injected into the rest of the squad’s necks, and she explains that she can cause them to explode via remote control if Rick Flagg dies, or if any of them try to escape of if they even ‘irk’ him.And thus FINALLY the story begins.
First, let me tell you what I liked about the movie. Margot Robie is terrific as Harley Quinn. She has a perfect mixture of madness and sexuality. She’s certainly a villain in every way. I was also somewhat surprised by Will Smith — let me say right up front that I really liked him in Ali, but I’ve never liked his more comedic or his more iconic ‘Will Smith’ roles (like in “Independence Day”, or “I, Robot”). He was better than that here and the only reason why is that he managed to avoid all of those ‘Will Smith Cliches’ which to me are like fingernails on a chalkboard. The “Oh hell no”s, etc. His performance here was a bit more subdued, and I really appreciated that. It’s a small thing, but it also surprised me in a pleasant way. And I also really liked Joel Kinnamon as Rick Flagg. He’s an actor that I thought did an excellent job in “The Killing”, and he is fairly good here as well. Most of the rest of the cast were adequate, with one exception, which I’ll get to shortly…
Now the bad… Where to start…
The writing was not good. They created a new Joker, played by Jared Leto who was not bad in his role. But he’s written more like a dangerous gangster than the over-the-top murderous but fun-loving psychopath of previous outings. Which I guess is one way of depicting him. But it’s just not as fun as either of the over-the-top performances of Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger. That said, as unexpectedly underwritten as his character was, his appearances in the movie are among the higher points, which isn’t a good sign.
Some of what happens seemed formulaic — the character deaths, even the non-deaths seemed to be by-the-numbers. The villain had to be the villain — totally not unexpected (in fact, it kind of makes Amanda Waller seem incompetent, which undermines her needing to also be entirely evil and in control for the story to work).
And then there’s the villain. Lot’s of people have complained about Marvel’s villains — with a few rare exceptions, Marvel’s villains have been relatively weak, but we forgive that because the heroes are often so much fun to watch. Well, this film has one truly horrible performance by the person playing the villain (Again, spoilers). The ‘evil henchmen’, the things that the Suicide Squad had to fight to make it to the villain just seem to die far too easily. Then the villain itself, well the actor moves in a way that is both distracting and disturbing, but not disturbing in a good way. It’s just embarrassing. I don’t know how much of this to blame on the directing and how much to blame on the actor. It’s just not good. Now as underwhelming as the Joker is in this film, this would have been a far, far better one, had they simply gone with Joker as their main villain.
I had such high hopes for this film after watching the trailers. The marketing for this film was just genius. They highlighted all of the best parts of the film — especially Margot Robie, who is just so fun to watch in almost every scene she’s in. And there is some good in this film. It’s just that there’s so much in it that’s bad that I cannot recommend it. There are parts in it that I really did enjoy. But the parts that are bad are just so incredibly bad.
Now I know that some of you may want to see the film anyway, and I’d urge you to wait until it’s on cable or netflix so you don’t have to pay full price to see it. But just in case you do decide to see it anyway (and I know that some people have liked this film a lot more than I did), then I have to tell you that there is a mid-credit scene that is worth staying to see, seeing as you’ve already paid to see it.
And now for the truly genius part of the film, the trailer: