We’ll just chalk this one up as a missed opportunity.
It was a chance for DC to right the wrongs of the stuttering start it’s made to its Extended Universe (DCEU). What was billed as an anarchic, balls to the wall, non-stop, adrenaline ride, is, in practice, actually pretty formulaic. If anything it feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to be edgy. The soundtrack is littered with enough classic rock and hip hop to get the blood pumping, and yet even that doesn’t come across nearly as in fitting with the tone, or as effortless as, say, the Guardians of the Galaxy OST. I make that comparison because they’re two films that share much of the same DNA. Both centre on “bad guys”. And both shoot for a cheeky, anarchic tone. But anarchy doesn’t have to mean disorganisation, as we get here.
Because yes, it’s basically the same disjointed, bitty storytelling that plagued Batman v Superman. It means characters like Slipknot (Adam Beach) get short shrift, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is wasted (though he’s largely unintelligible anyway), and there’s more ungraceful shoehorning in of characters that have zero impact or relevance to the story at hand with Batman (Ben Affleck) and The Flash (Ezra Miller). I like Ben Affleck’s Batman, but when he’s being included at the sacrifice of the development of members of the actual Squad – some of whom are given precious little backstory – he becomes a little bit of a luxury.
Whilst on the topic of luxuries, there’s none greater for DC than the cast of villains they have at their disposal – primarily in Lex Luthor and the Joker. They’ve already shot themselves in one foot with Luthor, so why not take out the other foot with the Joker? Jared Leto is here and present as the most famous of mischief-makers, and yet I question if the film would have been any worse off without him. Not just because, well, he’s ridiculous, but also because he has no real bearing on the actual plot. The Suicide Squad is formed by the shady Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) as assets for the US military to use in dangerous operations. No Joker. Squad member Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) goes off the deep end and tries to take over the world. Still no Joker. The Squad battle to stop Enchantress before it’s too late. Still no Joker. In truth, his only purpose in the film is in saving Harley (Margot Robbie), and frankly she’s quite capable of saving herself. He’s detached and stuck in his own little bubble, when really a character of his magnitude deserves more. That’s before we even get to the actual portrayal of the character. His tattooed, metal-toothed visual style is simply too much for my liking, and the hyperactive overacting from Leto removes all subtlety and intelligence from his Joker. All that we’re left with is a green-haired gangster.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Will Smith’s Deadshot is fun, if slightly restrained. It seems like the perfect movie for Smith to return to his ’90s, Fresh Prince level of self-confidence, but he’s mostly subdued here. Still, he’s ever charismatic, and Deadshot’s arc is at least emotionally satisfying, and he’s given decent closure. Not only that, but he also takes some of the best of the action sequences, notably one moment in particular where he takes out a horde of combatants singe-handedly. It’s a great showcasing of the character’s individual talents and the skills that make him unique in the makeup of the Squad. A moment which the likes of Boomerang and Killer Croc would most certainly have benefited from having their own version of.
The film’s real saving grace however is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. The bubblegum popping, firecracker of a character is wonderfully embodied by Robbie. She epitomises what Suicide Squad should have been as a whole; off-kilter, kooky and frantic. Even when reaching a thoroughly daft climax ripped almost wholly out of Ghostbusters (complete with a shit Gozer, but just shy of having the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man rocking up), Robbie manages to elevate what could quite easily have been the film’s final derailing with a good serving of her manipulative brand of sweet-yet-crazy. Thank goodness for Harley Quinn.
Rating (out of 5):