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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.81%
Worth A Look: 14.29%
Average: 19.05%
Pretty Bad33.33%
Total Crap: 9.52%

1 review, 15 user ratings

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Suicide Squad
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by Brett Gallman

"These are not squad goals."
2 stars

The opening logos for “Suicide Squad” serve as an apt metaphor for the DC Cinematic Universe so far: each starts off bathed in bright, fluorescent hues before the color is literally drained from them, unwittingly reflecting what Zack Snyder and company have done to the terrific, four-color source material.

“Fun” seems to have been a dirty, three-letter word when conceiving a universe that’s so convinced of its own profundity that just about everyone involved seems to have forgotten that it’s okay if the audience doesn’t feel bludgeoned upon exiting the theater. Enter David Ayer—certainly not the first name that you associate with the word “fun”—to craft something of a shock to the system with “Suicide Squad,” an irreverent take on a men-on-a-mission film that substitutes rogues for heroes, presumably to signal some sort of break from the quote-unquote superhero malaise.

In an ironic twist, however, this is the most comic-bookish of the DC bunch to date—which is not to say it’s very good, mind you, but you can at least sense an attempt to capture something spirited through its colorful characters and its game cast. It’s just too bad they’re in search of a better movie than this shapeless, go-nowhere thing that’s much too busy for its own good. There’s a whiff of DC trying to keep up with the Joneses in the rushed attempt to will its shared universe into existence, leaving some characters here to feel less like actual characters and more like defibrillators, existing only to jolt it all to life. (Yes, I am looking very much in the direction of Jared Leto’s Joker, who also feels like a barely sentient Hot Topic accessory—yeah, maybe it’s cool to look at, but do you really need it?)

With so many characters—some important, some very disposable—it’s no wonder the first 20-25 minutes of “Suicide Squad” is dedicated to tediously introducing them. And, in some cases, re-introducing them: after opening with a couple of scenes featuring the incarcerated Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) strolls into give the film some semblance of direction. Shortly after Superman’s death it occurs to Waller that it might not be a bad idea to form a meta-human task force to deal with the “next Superman,” who may or may not be a terrorist (nevermind the fact that the US was already distrustful of the actual Superman).

And so she spends what feels like an eternity rifling through file folders in a sequence that half-heartedly serves as the origin stories for the titular squad. Perhaps only a shade less lazy than the laughably bad e-mails that introduced the Justice League members in “Dawn of Justice,” a series of montages properly introduce us to mercenary hitman Deadshot, the clinically insane Harley Quinn, goofball Aussie Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, remarkably tolerable), hotheaded pyromaniac-turned-remorseful recluse El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the beastly Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and the otherworldly Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). As this bit goes on and on, you can practically hear all the wheel-spinning drowning out Davis’s narration—at a certain point, you begin to wonder if “Suicide Squad” is going to be a movie or if it’s going to be content to just deliver the sort of backstory you’d find in an old arcade fighting game.

Once the film gets going, it---well, no, actually, it really never does at all. The fundamental problem with “Suicide Squad” is that it somehow never feels like anything vital is ever happening. I don’t know it’s even possible to take multiple time-worn tropes that thrive on immediacy (the whole thing is basically “The Dirty Dozen” by way of “Escape from New York,” right down to implanted chips that will immediately kill disobedient squad members) and render them dull as hell. The actual plot is just white noise and weirdly underplayed: early on in the film, Enchantress turns on Waller (who had been forcefully keeping her under lock and key), reunites with her brother, and vows to destroy humanity. In turn, Waller enlists the squad to enter Midway City and rescue a hush-hush high value target whose identity is so obvious that I can’t believe the film plays it as a twist. Remarkably, no one seems to be all that concerned about doing anything about the apocalyptic portal threatening to swallow the earth until said target is abducted again.

None of it coheres to anything approaching a gripping story: for whatever reason, the filmmakers here have taken a lean, killer concept and bloated it to death. Leto’s Joker operates around the fringes, stopping the film dead in its tracks whenever he appears (or whenever Harley Quinn wistfully recalls their deranged courtship). Both Batman and another Justice League member make cameo appearances, and an obligatory mid-credits tease hints at the next entry for a universe that’s starting to feel dead on arrival. Despite being so goddamn busy, “Suicide Squad” never amounts to anything—it’s all well and good to make the inspired choice to have Ayer helm this movie, but what good is it if the entire thing feels auto-piloted by a studio in panic mode?

Ultimately, there’s an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” vibe to the whole affair, especially when it climaxes with the squad facing off with faceless hordes and a generic CGI-augmented baddie as debris is hurled about in a “swirling trash pile,” as Deadshot puts it at one point. Is this not, you know, the same climax as nearly every other comic book movie, only done so half-heartedly that you don’t even really care what’s going on? Technically, it’s a two-pronged climax split over two locations, but Ayer only cuts away to the secondary locale once. There’s not even attempt to give it any sort of shape, let alone generate tension or suspense—as is the case with much of the film, stuff just sort of happens while the cast stands around firing off one-liners.

“Formulaic” is perhaps the last thing I expected from David Ayer helming a “Suicide Squad” movie, yet here we are; what’s more, it’s not so much replicating a formula so much as it’s just taking the expected ingredients and tossing them together in the hopes they’ll mix. Sure, there are quips meant to inject humor, but so few of them actually land. Yes, its palette bursts with bright primary colors, but they’re in the service of a completely leaden story. There are needle-drops that feel directly inspired by “Guardians of the Galaxy,” yet most are so basic and irrelevant that they just add to the noise. Most distressingly, this is a terrific and (gasp!) fun cast of characters, but you only spend most of the time hoping the inevitable sequel does them more justice. It turns out that the logos serve as foreshadowing since “Suicide Squad” feels like a pallid, lifeless shade of what it should be.

I’d like to stop short of saying Deadshot’s “swirling trash pile” line is destined to describe the film itself, but “Suicide Squad” makes that very difficult. What’s most frustrating are the sparse great moments that sneak through. The closest the film ever comes to feeling like a real-deal Ayer film involves a short little break at a bar, where the Squad takes some time out to shoot the shit and ruminate—while it seems like this would be a drag in the middle of a romp, it’s actually one of the few times this movie feels alive (plus, it’s not like “Suicide Squad” is much of a romp anyway—that would imply a certain level of energy, something this film has little of).

This scene also highlights just how badly the film wastes an ensemble that deserves better than this. Smith is something of a de-facto lead as Deadshot, the hitman with a heart of gold who wants to parlay his gig here into a chance to see his daughter again. It’s a very Will Smith sort of role: wry, poignant, quip-heavy, though it’s been a while since he was this effective. Not for nothing, but he’s also more of a hero than Superman ever was in “Dawn of Justice,” as if we needed another reminder of just how screwy this DC Universe has been so far.

Surrounding him are characters who occasionally pop in from the background to remind us that they exist. Among the most notable is Hernandez as El Diablo, playing a stock stereotype of a Latino gangbanger who lost his family to one of his fits of rage; as uneasy and cliché as that sounds, the script does carve out a redemptive arc for him that shows a vested interest in this character. It’s too bad it doesn’t extend to everyone (though with a cast this enormous, was there ever a chance of that?). For example, Killer Croc is basically a non-entity—all I know about him after seeing this movie is that he enjoys B.E.T. (to be fair, this eventually makes for one of the movie’s better gags, I guess).

Likewise, Jai Courtney has never been better as the twitchy, scatterbrained Captain Boomerang, but there’s not much to him outside of those tics and affectations—it’s a fun performance with no real center or gravity to it. For every step forward—and believe me, making it look like Jai Courtney is capable of emoting is a big step forward—“Suicide Squad” stumbles backwards for two steps, half-heartedly shrugs, and then trudges along. Other characters are literally tossed into the mix at the last second: just before heading off for the mission, the Squad is joined by Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Slipknot (Adam Beach), whose casual additions just speak to how little the film actually cares about most of these characters.

This is especially disappointing for Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Clearly the film’s standout performance, it’s nothing short of magnetic: Robbie’s wild-eyed lunacy is irresistibly charming, and she channels it in such a gleeful, almost childlike way that Quinn feels truly dangerous. Better yet, it feels like she’s having fun every step of the way, so much so that you start to believe she’ll be able to completely salvage “Suicide Squad” on her own.

Ayer and company have different plans for her, though. If I’m being honest, they kind of treat her like complete shit: not only does the camera constantly leer and gaze at her objectified body, but she’s also reduced to some kind of plaything, left to the mercy of the film’s misogynistic streak. An early scene has her climbing off of a stripping pole just long enough for the Joker to pimp her out, while another scene has her being cold-clocked by Batman as part of a punchline (the first of two instances where a woman being pummeled is played for laughs). The rest of the women don’t fare much better: one is all but fridged as a damsel in distress, while Waller is vilified as conniving and suspicious in a way Marvel male counterpart Nick Fury isn’t.

Resisting the urge to dismiss it all as problematic proves difficult: while Ayer hails from a background that’s seen him explore grimy, seedy underbellies, it feels off when couched in this particular film. Despite its posturing as a cheeky superhero alternative, “Suicide Squad” ultimately just proves to be a gross and misguided excuse to indulge in disreputable material and laugh it off. Ayer’s signature grit and grime—which mostly manifests itself in absurd tattoos, gold teeth, and hacked-up violence—is an odd, superficial polish here to give the false impression that this is anything but the same old stuff, only done with much less conviction.

At best, it gives you a glimpse of what it might look like if a Gathering of the Juggalos staged a remake of “Escape from New York.” At worst…well, do you really want to imagine anything worse than that?

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 08/04/16 02:55:44
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User Comments

6/15/18 Mark Louis Baumgart Lotsa fun, always love Dirty Dozen flicks. Shoulda been an R, but watta you gonna do? Fun. 4 stars
10/07/17 The Squid Trash. Boring, nonsensical dreck that doesn't even rise to the level of merely juvenile 1 stars
7/21/17 Chaz Walter I agree with Alisha. I want to see more of Harley and Joker. 5 stars
3/28/17 oz1701 worst joker ever! movie was a wasted opportunity. 2 stars
10/27/16 Bob Dog Yawn. 1 stars
10/03/16 Timothy Killoran Liked the cast, but the movie wasn't good and the plot could have been better. 3 stars
10/02/16 Jeff Faulkner didn't live up to the hype in my head 3 stars
9/02/16 Angel Baby Araiza Movie was good but would have loves to see more Harley Quinn and joker scene's 4 stars
8/29/16 MVC If only it was R Rated! 4 stars
8/26/16 Croweater888 Margots lushious arse literally defines heterosexual buggery. 5 stars
8/21/16 Alisha Harley and the Joker need their own movie!!!!!! please!!!! 5 stars
8/16/16 Croweater888 Not as bad as some people say it is. 3 stars
8/06/16 chad cowgill BTW, willy, everyone wants to sodomize margot ! ! !. 5 stars
8/06/16 chad cowgill I think this was an average movie, unfairly bashed, but could have been better. 3 stars
8/05/16 willy jerk-off I want to sodomize Margot Robbie. 5 stars
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  05-Aug-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Dec-2016


  DVD: 13-Dec-2016

Directed by
  David Ayer

Written by
  David Ayer

  Will Smith
  Margot Robbie
  Cara Delevingne
  Jared Leto
  Scott Eastwood
  Jai Courtney

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