Suicide Squad fails to deliver

DC Comics’ latest movie adaptation is thin on character and low on laughs

Kim Taylor-Foster


Kim Taylor-Foster

Suicide Squad fails to deliver

Suicide Squad (15)
Running time 2hr 3min
Rating **

DAVID Ayer has directed some pretty gritty, testosterone-loaded films. His last was Second World War drama Fury, closely preceded by visceral – and nasty – Schwarzenegger-comeback vehicle, Sabotage; and documentary-style crime drama End of Watch. All of his films examine men who kill. His appointment as helmer of Suicide Squad, DC Comics’ latest foray into moviedom, suggested a grimier take on the comic book adaptation, something in the vein of perhaps Sin City or Watchmen. But what he’s made is something more run-of-the-mill; something that takes comic book movies back a good 20 years.

The first in what DC plans to turn into a franchise, it instead feels inspired by the lacklustre Fantastic Four films. It takes its time in the initial stages to introduce the characters, although never in any depth. Ayer fills in their backgrounds for us, frequently against the soundtrack of some well-known song designed to make us feel tense/excited/like what we’re watching is cool, which shows up
the film’s shortcomings; is setting the film to a string of classic rock and pop songs really the only way to inject some credibility, and move the audience? That’s just lazy, or inept.

Anyhow, Ayer relates each character’s background so we know how and why they’re bad guys. Held in a secure government facility, each is highly dangerous. Some have superhuman powers, while others have undergone some kind of transformation, with the remainder normal humans harbouring elite skills. There’s Deadshot (Will Smith), an assassin who always hits the target; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a violent, agile and deranged accomplice to The Joker (Jared Leto); cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); pyrokinetic former gangster Diablo (Jay Hernandez); Aussie crook Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and specialised mercenary Slipknot (Adam Beach).

Intelligence boss Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is, however, the most badass and deadly of the lot. Wanting to put together a task force prepared to tackle a supervillain threat should another less friendly Superman appear, she forces these incarcerated baddies to do her bidding with promises of reduced sentences – and explosives implanted in their necks.
When it all kicks off, they’re despatched under the command of special operative Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to confront and take down the latest threat to humanity – a centuries-old witch with a grudge intent on resurrecting her brother and taking over the world. Problem is, this witch – called The Enchantress – inhabits the body of Flag’s girlfriend, Dr June Moone (Cara Delavigne), which raises the stakes.

As the band of ne’er-do-wells works together to defeat the common foe and stay alive, they learn the value of teamwork – and friendship. Not so mean after all…
Playing out like a two-hour trailer, the film spends most of its time setting up the characters. Sadly, though, characters are undercooked and it’s difficult care about any of them. Will Smith’s hit rate with the script’s jokes is highest of all but it’s telling that there were zero laughs in the cinema I was in. There’s an uneasy balance of humour and darkness as they have tried to please everyone – fans of the dark tone of the Batman films as well as Marvel aficionados who like the humour and more escapist feel of The Avengers. In the process, of course, they’ve created something that appeals to neither. 

As the Joker, a character with little role to play in this plotline, Jared Leto tries too hard to match Heath Ledger’s unhinged performance while channelling Cesar Romero – and it’s a self-conscious mess. Margot Robbie, meanwhile, can’t help but play up to the humiliating sexist stereotype that’s been written for her – she exists to be ogled in too-small hotpants, to sport girlish pigtails and flirt coquettishly. She’s a male fantasy, controlled by a man whose thrall she’s in.

With hints of Nineties actioner Con Air, Suicide Squad is tired, dated and unoriginal. It’s like they ignored the fact that comic-book movie game changer, Deadpool, moved the goalposts.

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