‘Suicide Squad’ Review: DC Brought the Fun But Forgot the Villains

In our ‘Suicide Squad’ review, the latest DC film was a whole lot more fun than ‘Batman V. Superman’ but in film full of villains, there were no real bad guys….

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

By now you’ve probably heard that critics all seem to hate ‘Suicide Squad’.

The extremely hyped and highly advertised offering from the DC Film Universe lands in theaters on Friday and seemingly anybody with a film review column has panned director David Ayer’s effort to right the ship after ‘Batman V. Superman’ crashed into the iceberg six months ago.

Well I’m here to tell you that ‘Suicide Squad’ isn’t nearly as bad as so many others are trying to make it out to be.

Of course that doesn’t mean ‘Suicide Squad’ is a perfect film — far from it — but there are still enough fun beats from start to finish that make this a highly watchable movie in spite of the flaws that do weigh it down at times.

‘Suicide Squad’ isn’t as bad as everyone is saying it is — but there’s still plenty the filmmakers got wrong that kept this from being a sure fire hit as it was once predicted when the first teasers for the movie were released.

Plot

In an interconnected DC Universe, the film opens with the news that Superman is dead and now the government fears what the world might do if another serious meta-human attack happens and there’s no superhero around to save them. What happens if the next Superman isn’t a benevolent and heroic alien who wants to save the world? How would humanity fight back?

Enter Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) — ripped straight from the pages of the comic books — and she’s pitched an idea for quite some time now about putting together a group known as ‘Task Force X’, which would be comprised of the worst of the worst. A group of ultra powerful super villains teamed up together and sent on missions that no sane person would dare take because the risk of death would be so high.

Thus the nickname — Suicide Squad.

The first 20 minutes of the film are dedicated to introducing the group one-by-one with special focus showcasing Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and needless to say they remain the focal point for this super group throughout the movie. Decorated throughout the introduction are appearances from a couple future members of the Justice League, who helped wrangle these bad guys in the first place, and now they are all being held at a maximum security facility where prisoners enter and never come out again.

Except Amanda Waller wants to recruit them for her special task force and when a supernatural threat hits Midway City, the government enacts her plan to gather these career criminals and force their hand to do some good to help save the world.

Acting

No shock here but with a stellar cast it’s hard to imagine that the performances wouldn’t be good. Will Smith is Will Smith — and that’s to say he’s at his sarcastic, comedic best while playing the world’s greatest assassin. Of course that jokey, ‘Fresh Prince’ spirit plays well for a hero, but doesn’t make Deadshot very menacing — at all. Still, Smith was working with what he was given and it’s clear David Ayer was a big fan of his work in ‘Independence Day’ and other vehicles where he was the wise cracking, save the day type.

Margot Robbie gets the other gold star in the cast for her performance as Harley Quinn and portraying the Joker’s favorite toy was no easy task considering the popular character had never actually been realized outside of cartoons and comic books. Robbie plays Harley Quinn with infectious insanity — the kind of girl you want to kiss one minute and then fear that she’s going to shoot you the next. Robbie plays Harley with the special kind of crazy that you just can’t quit.

Viola Davis plays Amanda Waller to eerie perfection when compared to her counterpart from the comics and Joel Kinnaman plays former special ops soldier turned Suicide Squad leader Rick Flag with alpha male precision.

The weakest link in the cast ultimately falls down to Cara Delevingne, who is remarkably bad as both Dr. June Moone and her haunted counterpart The Enchantress. If Delevingne is trying hard to make it work in this film, she needs to try much harder before her next movie.

Directing and Writing

In terms of direction, the film looks good enough — the action beats are all on point although it feels like a little too much CGI, even for a superhero movie. Nothing really stands out but nothing is really too distracting either, other than the shoddy execution of the main villains in the movie, but more on that later.

The script for the film — also by David Ayer — gets some things right and some other things completely wrong. The biggest problem is Ayer fell so much in love with his cast of bad guys that he forgot to make any of them really unlikable. I mean the movie is being sold as a group of the worst of the worst being teamed together to take down people even scarier than them, but truthfully, there wasn’t a bad seed in the bunch.

For instance — Deadshot is sold as the world’s greatest assassin, but when we meet him, he’s taking down a mob witness for a payday and then five minutes later, he’s playing the doting dad to his adorable daughter. It’s not to say Deadshot can’t have layers — but when you put that kind of information on front street from the very start of the film, he doesn’t seem like a villain as much as a guy who has done some bad things for good reasons i.e. his daughter.

Of course everyone is expected to fall for the bad guys gone good in ‘Suicide Squad’ but there was literally no transition or evolution in the characters. They all started out as fairly likable characters and the next two hours didn’t really shift or change that perspective whatsoever.

What’s Wrong with the Movie?

Suicide Squad The Joker

Now here’s where the list comes together that sounds like I’m nitpicking the movie, but really I’m pointing out some of the bigger, more noticeable flaws.

At the top of the list is the big bad for this movie — quite possibly the worst villain in a comic book movie this side of the evil elf in ‘Thor: The Dark World’. The premise of this movie was supposed to be bad guys hired to take down someone even worse, but the villain in ‘Suicide Squad’ is excruciatingly laughable.

Maybe the other biggest issue with this film was the criminal underuse of Jared Leto as The Joker while also botching — in many ways — his destructive and damaged relationship with Harley Quinn. Now the grand plan for ‘Suicide Squad’ may have been to introduce The Joker in this film and then spawn him out into the solo Batman movie being directed by Ben Affleck or perhaps give him a bigger role when there is inevitably a Harley Quinn film down the road.

Whatever the case may be, Leto was the Academy Award winner chosen to take over the role of The Joker after he was last played by another Oscar winner in Heath Ledger. Leto plays The Joker more as a gangster than a sociopathic agent of chaos, but that’s not a bad thing, especially for those people hell bent on comparing his performance to Ledger’s in ‘The Dark Knight’. Unfortunately, we just don’t enough of Joker to really gauge his performance — and we certainly don’t get to delve all that deep into his fractured and fucked up relationship with Harley Quinn.

Every, single time they were on screen together my thoughts immediately shifted to “let’s see more of this” yet we never got it.

Honestly it felt like The Joker should have been the real villain and that revelation — and the ensuing conflict it would have caused Harley as part of the team — would have made ‘Suicide Squad’ play out in such a different and more compelling way.

Add to that the fact that the only other true bad guy was Viola Davis and you can start to see why ‘Suicide Squad’ has a villain problem in a movie that’s supposed to be about villains.

Final Verdict

‘Suicide Squad’ is worth the price of admission, regardless of the faults that plague the movie at different points. Robbie’s Harley Quinn steals the show (as expected) and it’s fun to see Will Smith actually having fun again on screen. And make sure you don’t leave the theater because DC is finally biting on the Marvel formula for a post credits scene.

‘Suicide Squad’ gets three out of five on the Skolnick Scale:

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