Review: Suicide Squad

suicide squad movie poster one sheetThere’s something about misfits that seems to fit the worldview of comic book fans. Whether it’s the motley Guardians of the Galaxy, the slightly less slacker Avengers or, in this latest comic book film, Suicide Squad. Like The Expendables, Suicide Squad is made up of tough, dangerous criminals who are pulled out of an ultra-maximum security prison because the world needs ’em to combat an unspeakable evil.

Created by the tough-as-nails bureaucrat Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Suicide Squad is run by Special Forces super soldier Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman). They hand select archeologist June Moone (Cara Delevingne), whose secret alter ego is the ancient witch Enchantress, then turn to the justice system to find the rest of the killer crew: Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).

The film takes place in the same universe as Batman and Superman and the story picks up immediately after the end of the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In a memorable scene, Waller asks a military panel what would have happened if Superman would have gone rogue. Who would have protected the United States from the meta-human if he wasn’t such a nice, upstanding citizen?

There’s a lot to like in Suicide Squad, including the entire journey from Waller having the idea of the Squad to us meeting each of the villains — including Joker (Jared Leto) — to the story exploding into the second act when Enchantress meets up with her ancient, evil brother Incubus (Robin Atkin Downes) and they get down to the business of whipping the Earth and its inhabitants into shape.

There are explosions galore, including crashing helicopters, collapsing buildings, mangled cars and the like, and while some of the visual effects might seem familiar from other superhero movies (no spoilers!) it all fits together and creates a fun, rather crazy and chaotic narrative.

Further, while we can all be thankful that director David Ayer resists retelling Batman’s backstory (Batman is portrayed by Ben Affleck), we do get the backstory on just about every member of Suicide Squad, including a really weird sequence about how Arkham Asylum psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel falls in love with her patient Joker and morphs into Harley Quinn.

The most touching is El Diablo’s origin story, and his power grows increasingly bad-ass as the film proceeds. Definitely not a guy you’d want to provoke in in a dark alley. Then again, that’s true of every member of Suicide Squad, and that’s what makes them an interesting group on screen.

deadshot will smith harley quinn margot robbie suicide squad photo still
Deadshot (Smith) and Harley Quinn (Robbie) in “Suicide Squad”

While many fans are justifiably excited about Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, this critic actually was more impressed by The Enchantress in terms of being simultaneously eerie, otherworldly and darn attractive. The weakest members of the Squad were the fairly random Killer Croc and the peculiar Slipknot (Adam Beach) who has an almost completely inexplicable part in the drama.

And then there’s Joker. Joker has been portrayed by a number of actors in the recent past, most notably Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, and in the recently released Batman: The Killing Joke (brilliantly voiced by Mark Hamill). Jared Leto had a lot to live up to with his role in Suicide Squad and, unfortunately, he doesn’t deliver much of a performance at all, being the least unhinged, least frightening Joker to be on the big screen in many years.

Still, the wonderful performance by Davis as Waller and the sheer entertainment value of seeing Robbie as Harley Quinn sparring with the rest of the Squad while they all fight the obligatory bad guys and wreak half of the city is more than enough entertainment for a film, and when you add in the solid special effects, splendid soundtrack and frequent nods to the rest of the DC Universe (look for some exciting other superhero cameos!) Suicide Squad is well worth the price of admission. It’s great fun!

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