A group of super villains are recruited by a secret government agency to carry out dangerous missions, in this disappointing comic book caper
Director: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney
Genre: Fantasy / Action / Thriller
Release date: August 5, 2016
Running time: 123 mins
After the crushing disappointment of Batman v Superman, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot riding on the success of Suicide Squad, both in terms of audience expectation and Warner Bros / DC’s continuing hopes to emulate the world-conquering success of Marvel Studios.
You get the impression that this is intended to be DC’s equivalent of Guardians of the Galaxy, both in concept (a team-up of anti-heroes largely unknown to wider audiences) and attitude.
Unfortunately, while it definitely has its moments, the end result fails to deliver on the promises of its admittedly superb marketing campaign.
A rocky start
Set immediately after the events of Batman v Superman, the film stars Viola Davis as shady government official Amanda Waller, who sets about recruiting a team of supervillains in order to combat a supernatural threat posed by the Enchantress (Cara Delevinge), an ancient witch who’s recently escaped Waller’s control.
Under the command of military honcho Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and with bombs implanted in their necks to ensure co-operation, Waller’s recruits include expert marksman Deadshot (Will Smith), bouncy, mallet-wielding psychotic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), reptile-skinned monster Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), tattooed human flame-thrower El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and beer-swilling Aussie thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).
The film gets off to a rocky start, with a series of character introductions accompanied by brief snatches of classic rock songs, which gives the impression of flicking through TV channels.
That sense of general messiness continues throughout the film, compounding rumours of extensive re-shoots and re-edits.
In particular, the various, multiple sub-plots never really pull together. While it’s true that the Joker (an excellent Jared Leto) does indeed appear in the film, you could cut him out completely with no discernible impact on the plot.
A bigger problem is that the film lacks a memorable set-piece. The action sequences mostly involve a lot of shouting, shooting and punching and there’s no stand-out scene to speak of, just as very little thought appears to have gone into what each particular character might bring to a fight.
Visually, the film defaults to the same drab, rain-drenched aesthetic that characterised Batman v Superman, which is disappointing considering the day-glo weirdness promised by the ad campaign.
On top of that, the film frequently feels painfully derivative, from the neck bombs (Escape From New York) to the horribly over-used destructive-beam-of-light-shooting-into-the-sky climax, familiar from dozens of sub-par fantasy movies.
In addition, Delevingne’s Enchantress makes a woefully poor, underdeveloped adversary, something that’s further undermined by unfinished-looking CGI and a frankly terrible costume.
Still, at least the film is well cast, with only Delevingne and Courtney’s rather wooden Boomerang letting the side down. What humour there is largely comes from Smith and Robbie’s film-carrying performances (the former nailing the tone, even if no-one else does, the latter cementing her star quality), while Davis gives the film its only real edge as Waller.
The cast ensure that this remains watchable, but this is ultimately messy, derivative and nowhere near as cool or as edgy as it thinks it is.