“To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.”
-Alonzo Harris (Training Day)
I can’t remember a more hyped movie in recent memory than Suicide Squad. Since last year at Comic-Con when the first footage was released, it has been a tour de force of marketing and fanboy anticipation. I, admittedly, bought into the hype. I jumped onto the hype train with no reservations and hoped it would take me to comic book heaven. What happened was something very different. The train derailed and crashed into a school bus full of children, and I ended up in the third level of comic book hell. That’s some extreme hyperbole, but that’s the level of disappointment I felt with this film.
David Ayer is a very talented filmmaker, so his attachment to Suicide Squad piqued my interest early on. Ayer is known for his gritty crime dramas. He wrote the screenplays for Training Day and Dark Blue, which are two very dark films. But he also helped write the screenplay for The Fast and The Furious. So Ayer has the talent and the pedigree to make a fun and gritty film. I’m not saying that Suicide Squad needed to be dark, but that has been the modus operandi of DC. I don’t mind a light tone for it either. What is confusing for me is the way the tone switches in this film. It seems extremely odd to place Ayer at the head of this film. Ayer does a fine job with the action, and visually it looks great. The biggest problem with Suicide Squad is that substance was given a backseat to style.
Ayer’s script is rushed and not fully realized on the big screen. Characters like Slipknot (Adam Beach), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) are underdeveloped at best and mere plot devices at worst. Even the characters that are given more to do are not fully fleshed out characters. Boomerang (Jai Courtney) is completely used as a comedic sidekick, and Diablo (Jay Hernandez) is a brooding ex machina in waiting. The Joker (Jared Leto) is given little screen time, and it’s really hard to give an opinion on the character or even Jared Leto’s performance. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and June Moone’s relationship being hijacked by the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) would be interesting if it was given any type of weight. The script gives us no reason to care about either character. Who is June Moone? How did they fall in love? The movie doesn’t care.
Maybe the relationship is underdeveloped because Cara Delevingne and Joel Kinnaman are so bad. Delevingne is absolutely atrocious. Her performance is so bad I cringed every time she was on-screen. In her defense, this villain is ill-defined and we are given nothing in terms of the scope of her power. Delevingne is not capable of pulling off a convincing performance. So far she has fallen flat in both of her leading roles. Kinnaman is a good actor, but he had absolutely no chemistry with Delevingne. He often sounds like a whiney, petulant child. This role was written for Tom Hardy, and I can see why.
The best parts of this film are Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Will Smith as Deadshot. They are obviously the stars of the film, and their chemistry is off the charts. Last year’s Focus was one of my favorite films, and that had a lot to do with those two. Robbie’s Quinn is silly, violent, and sexy. The range that Robbie has shown is remarkable, and every moment she is on-screen is one to savour. Smith, just like Robbie, is magnetic. Deadshot is the most nuanced character in the film, and Smith kills every scene he is in. The only downside of either of their performances is that they are stuck in this film.
Suicide Squad isn’t nearly as bad as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it isn’t good either. Studio meddling has become a problem of epic proportions. The villain is extremely weak, and Delevingne’s performance is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Combine that with a plot littered with holes, and what you have is a mess. My biggest problem with this film isn’t how silly it is, and believe me it’s silly, but how superfluous it is. With a few exceptions, most of the characters in this movie are perfunctory. There isn’t much to differentiate Suicide Squad from your standard Youtube fan fiction.