Movie Review: "Suicide Squad" (2016)
Your overworked and mildly underpaid boy, Stu, finally got around to watching David Ayers "Suicide Squad". I wish I had done it sooner. You heard me. I know this movie (like all of the new DC Universe movies so far) has been a "love it or hate it" deal. Did I love it unequivocally? No. But I enjoyed the experience very much.
I will preface this by saying that I am very much a DC guy- any of y'all who know me personally know this. I don't know why Marvel never really appealed to me as a kid; it just didn't. Sure, Spidey was cool, but that was about it. I've always been drawn to the darker side of, well.........everything. My mom told me I always colored in black. Go figure.
The DC Universe has simply been more willing to be stylistically, aesthetically, thematically, & tonally different than the Marvel Universe in practically every way. Where Marvel is light, DC is dark. So on and so forth. I genuinely believe that is a direction that will ultimately pay off. I also believe that DC will feel the sting of not getting in the game sooner for years to come. They gave the good folks at Marvel too much of a head start.
Following the events of Batman vs Superman, the world is on edge. Superman is "dead" (yeah, right) and the government is keyed up for the next metahuman threat. As the old expression says, "To secure peace is to prepare for war". That is precisely what Amanda Waller is doing for the US government. Waller (chillingly portrayed by Viola Davis) is assembling a team of the "worst of the worst" supervillains to act as a last line of defense against the threat that they are all sure is coming. Waller is as cold-blooded and ruthless as any of her budding team that she is keeping in the swampy prison of Belle Eve.
Deadshot is played with a surprising degree of depth by Will Smith (Men in Black series, I Am Legend). The role of the amoral hitman who never misses is tailor-made for Smith. Ayers establishes both the humanity and inhumanity of the character reasonably well. It's not going to win an Oscar, but it did the trick. You can almost always give the Fresh Prince an A for effort. He's not lazy.
Harley Quinn is brought to garish, sexy, batshit crazy life by Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street). Make no mistake about it- she is the star of the film and for good reason. She knocks it right out of the park. Robbie absolutely drips with lunatic sex appeal. The Harley Quinn character could've been dressed down, so to speak, and made more "safe" and "palatable" for the comic book look. Thankfully, DC decided to make her smoking hot and pretty damn racy. I applaud them for it. It's another thing that sets their universe firmly apart from Marvel (although Marvel has given us Deadpool, which was fucking nuts).
The Killer Croc is adequately done by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko from Lost). I suppose that with a character like Croc there is only so much that you can do in terms of character development. He lives in the shadows and is treated like a wild animal. I wanted to see more of what he could do in this movie, but he did look fucking amazing.
Aussie badass and bank robber extraordinaire, Captain Boomerang, is a surprising bright spot from Jai Courtney (Terminator Genisys). His humor and his levity worked out better on screen than it should've, in spite of the wooden writing. Besides, boomerangs are a pretty badass weapon when used by the right nutjob. Well done.
Jay Hernandez (Hostel) is the pyromaniac gangbanger, Diablo. This one perplexed me a bit. The look and the performance were fine, but it's the writing for this character in particular that bugged me. I can dig the fact that he is reluctant to use his powers, I suppose, but it's all done in such a heavy-handed fashion that it makes you not want to believe his backstory of being a Scarface level gang banger of such renown.
Cara Delevingne plays both Dr. June Moone and The Enchantress. She is a new face to Hollywood from the modeling world. I think a lot of the problems for most people with this movie (aside from the subpar writing and late extensive reshoots) comes from this character. Had they cast a talented lady with some experience in this role it would've helped flesh out Rick Flag's character and the love story angle, at the very least. She just didn't do it for me. She looked great as The Enchantress, but looks are easy. You've got to have a villain with some flair and personality.
Slipknot was a throwaway character literally used as a plot device to prove the vailidity of the "neck bombs" (he can climb well.........oooohh!!!). Katana had a pretty cool sword and look, but she was seemingly there as a fight extra with style.
This brings us to The Joker, played by Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream). You had to know that whoever the poor bastard was that stepped in the massive left vacant by the late Heath Ledger was going to be scrutinized to the Nth degree. When the first pics came out of the "new" Joker looking like he crawled out of an ICP video I groaned out loud. It looked awful. So, how did he do in the role? Not bad. It really grew on me as the movie went on.
Here's the thing about Joker, though- there have always been multiple Jokers in every media.....most importantly in his actual story arc through the years in DC comics. There is no "one" Clown Prince of Crime. Every person to play the Bat's arch-nemesis has brought his own flair. Cesar Romero was about over the top hilarity with a touch of dark. Nicholson brought a smooth pimp style to the role (and a willingness to go to any lengths necessary). The Mark Hamill voiced Joker from the excellent animated TV series is the gold standard blend. Heath Ledger played Joker as a true, psychologically accurate psychopath (as he was written).
Leto's Joker is closest to the Ledger interpretation. I think that is why so many folks shit on this incarnation. It's too soon, and I get that. I really do. However, you have to believe that if Ledger hadn't died he would've been the only actor kept from the Nolan-led series simply based on the strength of that incredible method performance. It only makes sense that they go with the same uber-dark Joker. Don't hate on Leto for going all method on it, too. I think you have to go method to get The Joker right.
So what worked for me? First and foremost- the casting. All but 1 part (Enchantress) had the right actor/actress putting in work and having a great time doing it. Secondly, the soundtrack was well used and full of great songs like Bohemian Rhapsody, Spirit in the Sky, & Fortunate Son mixed in with some classic Eminem and new Skrillex. The set design was first rate and the fight choreography kicked some serious ass.
The overriding takeaway for me was the sense of fun, dark humor, & SUSPENDED DISBELIEF that just let you roll in and enjoy it. That last is probably more a reflection of me. I'm a lousy critic because I enjoy going into a movie and letting go of preconceived notions and requirements. The key to really enjoying a movie is to stop fucking nit-picking it so damn much. Nit-picking is for subsequent viewing when you can really pay attention to the little details.
What didn't work? The whole thing felt rushed and the writing was lazy and clearly tweeked, re-tweeked, turned upside down, & then gangraped for good measure. This movie is a mess from a film geek perspective. It moved at warp speed, and that's not always a good thing.
But I'll be damned if I didn't have a good time. Now keep showing me Harley as she walks away. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm...........