Suicide Squad – A Review

Posted: 08/15/2016 in Uncategorized

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Well, this was truly something. Critics have not been divided on this one. Suicide Squad is almost universally reviled with terrible reviews across the board. With fans, this is another matter. I saw this media event yesterday and can honestly say there was both good and bad about it. Overall, I enjoyed it and certainly far more than the fantastic failure that was B vs. S. The plot paid homage to both Man of Steel and Ghost Busters in some respects. There were,however, performances that were so damn terrific, allowing DC to gain much needed ground.

Three names save this film from being a bombastic mess. Will Smith as Deadshot/Floyd Lawton, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. All were formidable.  Robbie I kind of expected as too much had been made of her efforts both through pre-screenings and powerhouse media blitzes. Her Harley is absolutely insane. She is hyper violent, funny, and in many respects completely lost. Her doomed relationship with the Joker (Jared Leto) doesn’t really give us a lot of who she was other than an Arkham based psychiatrist who fell under his sway. This failing however is quickly compensated for via her manic, yet strangely endearing performance. Her physical retreat within herself, when her attempted rescue from “Task Force X” fails along with the notion her lover might be gone, is simple yet elegant. Standing in the rain in her garish apparel, she looks damaged and horribly lost. Her quickly exchanged smile with Lawton/Deadshot is beautiful as he actually gets her versus “Mr. J” who just attempts to ruin her and make her in his image. Robbie simply, and literally, kills with her performance. Her balletic athleticism, her humor with edges of bitter hurt make her turn more tour de force than simple rote over the top villainy.

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Take heed, Jared Leto, this is how it is done. Robbie gets it right. Leto fails and spectacularly so. As a visual, he succeeds only in one segment, namely his tuxedo wearing, machine gun wielding rescue attempt by helicopter. His look and mannerisms at this point were disturbing and vintage joker. For the remainder of his foray, he is over the top, garish, looking like a character out of a nasty version of Fifth Element mired with a look perfected by Prodigy, a punk-ish, alt band from the 1990s. He is simply trying too hard. From his forced maniacal laugh to his “look at me – I’m a crazy bad guy” overacting in numerous sequences, Leto’s effort just falls flat. He recently bemoaned 15 minutes of his performance being on the cutting room floor. If they are anything like the 20 we were subjected to, I think the cut was a necessary grace.

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Will Smith reminds us with this film that he is still an A list actor. His portrayal as an assassin for hire like Robbie’s Harley Quinn becomes more than a straight laced anti-heroic performance. He is funny, angry and lethal. The demonstration of his skills along with the suiting up with the traditional Deadshot costume is straight out of the pages of the books from which he was created. His interactions with his daughter Zoe (Shailene Pierre-Dixon) are genuine. His little by little becoming the true leader of the group occurs naturally. His bringing out the decency in his fellow villains works as well. DS’s moments with Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman- who also brings forth a solid performance) forces the Squad’s watchdog to admit things have gone too far as well as his own complicity in the debacle that ensues. Flagg is never presented as a total bad-ass with the opening reveal of how Waller keeps him in check, but Kinnaman manages to make him real enough that we care how things turn out for him. Despite his “you die” speech, Flagg is honorable or as honorable as he can be considering the fetters placed on him by Waller.

Segueing nicely into this latest film depiction of this long time DC classic character, Viola Davis simply kills the role. She is mercenary as hell, cold blooded and fearless. Her every action is calculated and an exercise in extreme, military precision. She runs the show and all acknowledge it, including Flagg who reluctantly yet unquestionably follows her instruction. Her clandestine meeting with people in power at the restaurant assures the viewer she is at the helm. Her actions during her rescue at the compound are brutal but not unexpected. A certain standard is set with Amanda Waller and Viola Davis delivers it effortlessly. About the only question that comes to mind with Waller is a central plot point regarding her use of the Enchantress/June Moon (Cara Delevigne). By her own acknowledgement this millennia old witch is incredibly powerful and “will be around when the rest of us aren’t”. Why would she attempt to handle a force she could not possibly hope to control? Even with measures in play, the use of this entity in any capacity was crazy. Delevigne brought nothing new to her role, in either capacity, be it mousy archaeologist or magical villain.

Really the squad team concept was pretty weak. Slipknot’s (Adam Beach) part was laughable. Jai Courtney’s “Captain Boomerang” was more a device to allow a cameo of another DC character than anything substantial. Karen Fukuhara’s Katana underwhelmed, presenting a weaker version of the CW’s depiction. Killer Croc featured amazingly good CGI but the heart of the performance seemed lost on facial tics and growling mannerisms. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Croc does score with “I am beautiful” earning Harley’s “yes you are…” while the group shares a drink at a bar before potential Armageddon. His post battle request for “BET” is also funny.

One of the more surprising roles was Jay Hernandez’s “Diablo”. Everything about this character was interesting including his mvp performance against one of the big bads. The less is more effects culminating in a holy eff reveal about him was stellar. His back story was tragic. His interaction with Harley and Deadshot was also a palpable hit. DS pushes Diablo to help using his seemingly boundless destructive abilities. Harley bitterly reminds him to own what he did to his family before giving her own treaty on what people like them can expect from life. The bar scene was understated yet extremely well done.

The ultimate plot involving magic and a brother/sister evil god pairing was pretty bad. Effects including blob people just didn’t resonate other than to give a fairly bloodless battle between the Squad and an evil army. The cameo dark knight scenes featuring Ben Affleck were a vast improvement from his B v S  version. The Batman that appeared in this film was far more of a nod to the source material, citing an efficiently tough, yet merciful hero. Overall, Suicide Squad is not the hit DC would love, but it does serve as a serious step in the right direction. Suicide Squad is not quite outstanding, but very much worth your time.

There is a post credit scene that sets things up for future film runs.

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