Film Review | Orchestrated anarchy at its worst

Suicide Squad had to endure rushed cuts after early responses to its initial trailer weren’t all that great

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
16 August 2016, 8:45am
Suicide Squad (clockwise from left): Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Deadshot (Will Smith), Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara)
Suicide Squad (clockwise from left): Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Deadshot (Will Smith), Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara)
Rumour has it that Suicide Squad had to endure rushed cuts after early responses to its initial trailer weren’t all that great. With a heavy heart, it must be said that the results of such a desperate move are very much in evidence in this choppy and muddled attempt by DC Entertainment to continue to establish their own cinematic universe – based, in turn, on the same comic book universe that gave us Batman and Superman. But while the rat race between Marvel and DC continues (with Marvel continuing a winning streak at a confident clip) it’s the cinemagoer who remains the ultimate loser.

Worried that the appearance of ‘metahumans’ like Superman on the scene has escalated the level of national security to new heights, calculating government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to – in her own words – “fight fire with fire” by assembling a team of super-powered (or just super-talented) criminals to keep on standby in the event of another attack. Kept in check by military hero Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) – who also controls the grenades strapped to the back of their necks – the group comprises of hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), literal firecracker El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), cannibalistic human-crocodile mutant Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the Aussie bank robber Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and expert climber Slipknot (Adam Beach). 

However, it’s love that might actually complicate the mission for these killers and their government watchdogs. Flag himself is in love with archeologist June Moon (Cara Delevingne), who is cursed to share a body with an ancient with called Enchantress, and who ensures that the ‘suicide squad’ get their first mission straight away by unleashing havoc across the city. And one of the squad’s key members just so happens to be Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), whose beloved just so happens to be The Clown Prince of Crime – the infamous Joker (Jared Leto) himself.

For a while, it looked as though this could work. An anarchic set of characters embodied by some of the hottest Hollywood players of the moment and a director who’s more than proven his mettle with gritty subject matter and ensemble casts? Check. 

However, we can also check off DC’s panicked approach to their own material, as it feels as though Ayer’s film – he also wrote the screenplay – was put through the most violent and misguided studio wringer of all time. 

The basic mistakes are the biggest giveaway. The incident that sets the main plot in motion is just a puzzling, lazy move – with Jane Moon summoning the Enchantress for no reason at all… right after we’re shown just how much she hates doing so. Next, it’s the obscenely sloppy approach to the characters. We know that orchestrating such a big ensemble is a challenge, but Ayer (though more likely the studio) feel the need to both ‘introduce’ certain characters more than once, while at the same time not giving nearly enough room to others. 

The eclectic ‘greatest hits’ soundtrack is also a grating, embarrassing move. Woven in so beautifully in Guardians of the Galaxy – another film ‘Squad’ emulates to jarring effect – here it just comes across as yet another attempt to breathe some life into the mess. 

Still, there’s some fun to be had, and career-best performances by both Robbie and Courtney to be enjoyed (in the case of the latter, it’s damning with faint praise – but still). The repartee between Smith and Kinnaman is a joy to savour, and hints at good cast chemistry and a director who has an idea about what works and what doesn’t.

Sadly, much like Leto’s overhyped but underused Joker, the film flounders under the weight of its burden as yet another franchise-propping placeholder.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...