Suicide Squad Review: DC Begins To Right The Ship

Suicide Squad had a very tough task ahead of it. An impossible mission that only the best of the worst could pull off. After the lackluster response (and critical drubbing) from this year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment really needed a hit if their hoped-for connected universe of films and iconic characters was to congeal properly. And luckily for the studio and for fans, the film pulls it off.

Suicide Squad is the story of a band of DC Comics villains who are forced to fight for the side of good by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and her group, ARGUS. The villains are implanted with nano-bombs in their necks and if they fail to comply with an order, they die. Simple as that. But when playing with fire, it’s easy to get burned, and Waller’s new team is called in rescue a HVT (high value target) in Midway City after a supernatural terrorist attack occurs, and the group of misfits must come together to not only save the HVT, but also confront the true threat: one of their own.

Suicide Squad Review

The Squad is made up of various villains from the pantheon of DC Comics. Deadshot, aka Floyd Lawton (Will Smith), has been a villain for many of DC’s heroes, but here, it’s Batman (Ben Affleck) who finally nabs him while Lawton is out with his daughter. Harley Quinn, aka Harleen Quinzell (Margot Robbie), was a therapist at Arkham Asylum, assigned to the Joker (Jared Leto), and she fell in love with the Clown Prince of Crime, helping him escape and joining him. He, in turn, shaped her into the psychotic killer she becomes, and this deranged dynamic duo rules Gotham’s underworld until Batman is able to stop them and apprehend Harley. El Diablo, aka Chato Santana (Jay Hernandez), can control fire, and as a gang banger, he uses his power to rule. When he accidentally goes off at the wrong time, he turns himself in and dedicates himself to a life of pacifism.

Suicide Squad Review

The rest of Waller’s Task Force X, or the “Suicide Squad,” is rounded out by Flash villain Captain Boomerang, aka Digger Harkness (Jai Courtney), a master of boomerangs and jewel heists; Killer Croc, aka Waylon Jones (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a half-man, half crocodile who has given Gotham City, and its protector, a hard time; and The Enchantress, aka June Moone (Cara Delevingne), an archeologist who was possessed by an ancient witch spirit and is now incredibly powerful. Amanda Waller controls Moone/Enchantress by keeping the witch’s heart locked in a box. Slipknot (Adam Beach) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) fill out the team and the cast, with Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) serving as team lead under Waller.

Suicide Squad Review

What Suicide Squad does well is give each character — can’t really call them heroes, no matter what the movie poster says — time to shine, and even a decent amount of origin and backstory. The audience sees how Harley became twisted by Leto’s Joker. They see Lawton struggle with trying to be a father to his daughter, all the while killing people for money as a sure-shot assassin. Even El Diablo gets a major turn at a backstory, and his proves that every villain is touched by some form of tragedy, which led them to the dark side of the law. There is a ton of exposition done here in the just-over-two-hour run time, and director David Ayer handles it masterfully. There are myriad moving pieces in play here, and Ayer never once seems out of control.

In fact, Ayer, who also wrote the script, took some very big risks, especially in the aesthetics of the Joker, but Leto’s performance buries any questions, as this Joker brings the character back to his Gotham crime lord roots. This is the true “Clown Prince of Crime.” He’s not trying to poison the city, or watch the world burn. This Joker is a gangster — as he was back in the comics in the 1940s — and that off-center (okay, WAY off center) temperament that he is known for helps him keep his enemies at bay. It works here, and I absolutely loved this version of the Joker, and can’t wait to see more of him.

Suicide Squad Review

Robbie’s Harley is spot-on. She toes the line between sadistic and sultry, and does so with reckless abandon. Her story is one of many different character arcs in Suicide Squad, and it never feels like she is stealing the movie.

Smith’s Deadshot is a definite highpoint, seeing how the comic book character’s biggest claim to fame is that he has the best mustache in the DCU. Oh, and he can shoot very well. His backstory and constant struggle to earn the resect of his daughter above all else resonates well, and Smith brings just enough humor and jigginess (yeah, I said it), that it adds humor to an otherwise dark and bleak production.

Suicide Squad Review

Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress is almost frightening in the way she acts and looks. This isn’t the regal, sexy witch of the comic books. This is a thing that the folks in Salem, Massachusetts, back in the 17th century were trying to protect us from.

Suicide Squad Review

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Suicide Squad is Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo. Hernandez is buried under tattoos, and doesn’t say much in the film, yet the audience gets his story and his motivations, and his action in the climax drew cheers from the audience.

Ayer’s script does an excellent job of giving each character their due, with the only true weak spot being Rick Flag and Joel Kinnaman. Kinnaman famously took over for another actor, but I’m not sure the casting was correct here. This Rick Flag is weak when he should be strong, and is just kind of “there.” And I don’t think he was written that way, seeing as his story is a major part of the plot of the film. But with a huge ensemble of so many unique actors and characters, Kinnaman’s weak Flag doesn’t hurt the project too much.

Suicide Squad Review

Suicide Squad had a lot riding on its shoulders, as it had to serve as the company’s flag bearer until somebody could course correct the sinking ship that set sail with Batman V Superman. David Ayer pulled it off, and in so doing, created the best DC movie since 2008’s The Dark Knight. The way he handled such a large cast and a big story, without missing a beat, proves that maybe, just maybe, Justice League is in the wrong hands with Zack Snyder, and David Ayer should be the one in the driver’s seat as DC Entertainment races to catch up to Marvel Studios.

Suicide Squad is one of those movies that many wrote off as a niche film when it was announced, but in all actuality, it serves as a bridge to the bigger things in store for the DCEU. There is a post credits stinger, which alludes heavily to Justice League, and, in fact, Justice League and Batman have their fingerprints all over this film, even though Affleck is only in a few scenes. Chalk that up to another feather in David Ayer’s cap as the creative force behind the film.

Suicide Squad Review

I walked into Suicide Squad hoping for a miracle. I make no secret that I despised Batman V Superman, and Suicide Squad finally delivered the DC movie I’ve been waiting for. It had an impossible mission, one that only a bunch of bad guys could pull off, and I’m glad to say that it was mission: accomplished. Now the DC Extended Universe can move forward, and hopefully, this film is a sign of things to come, and not an outlier. These characters deserve better than this, and Suicide Squad actually understands that.

Suicide Squad is rated PG-13 and is in theaters on August 5.

Suicide Squad
out of 5

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