Movie Review: Suicide Squad

Brought together to take down an evil threat, a rag tag group of misfits and criminals will have to act as a team in order to come out alive. Combine all that with some catchy music and you pretty much have just described Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy. While Suicide Squad borrows heavily of that movie’s essential formula, it does enough things different to separate itself from that comparable film. Suicide Squad is a fun, action packed and often humorous film that takes place within the Batman v Superman film universe.

There was quite a bit of fallout due to the way in which Batman v Superman was received worldwide. DC films, and those in charge, went into a bit of damage control and shifted quite a few things around, including overall management by promoting DC fan favorite Geoff Johns to head up the film division. Suicide Squad was in mid production during the release of Batman v Superman and it is unclear how much of the finished film was changed with regard to the fallout, if any. It has been reported, however; that the version we see in the theater is in fact Director David Ayer’s final cut, despite reports of competing studio edits and cut scenes.

There was quite a bit of misdirection in the various trailers for the film and for once, I’m happy there was. Several behind the scenes photo’s that were taken throughout production showed the inclusion of The Tattoo man, played by the Rapper, Common. Even some visual effects had been tweaked to show several colors present that would have us believe of his involvement as the central villain of the piece, the evil force this Task Force X would need to take down. And while the team is assembled, it is for an entirely different reason against an entirely different foe, one of which would do you a disservice to talk about who it is. Be rest assured that the threat they face is massive, on a large scale, and one that felt like a natural evolution of what Amanda Waller, the woman who puts together this ‘Suicide Squad’, was trying to do with what she had.

This Task Force X is initially put together to solve a bigger overall scope of things to come. What if the next Superman wasn’t grounded with good morals, what if he was quite the opposite? Who would stop him? And how? After a bit of persuasion and a bribe of sorts, she is granted permission to put a team together, composed of a bunch of bad people who given the right incentive, could do a world of good. This leads to the creation of Task Force X, the Suicide Squad.

Each member of the team is hand picked by Amanda Waller. Played by Viola Davis, she is a woman who gets what she wants. The previous iteration of the character was via the Tv show Arrow, of which the character was horribly miscast and just done rather poorly. Thankfully, this is not the case here. Amanda Waller, in the comics, is a force to be reckoned with, going toe to toe with Batman, staring him right in the face and not budging. I walked away from the movie being fairly impressed with this version of the character. Even John Ostrander, one of the writers who created the Amanda Waller character was impressed by the film.

The Suicide Squad consists of a huge cast of characters, some who get far more screen time than others. Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Enchantress and El Diablo are by far the main characters of this Task Force X they put together, with Killer Croc, Katana, Captain Boomerang and Slipknot rounding out the supporting cast. There are a few other characters in the movie and we’ll discuss them soon.

Margot Robbie, first off, is tremendous as Harley Quinn. She is literally pitch perfect in her performance, hitting all the high notes we expect from Harley Quinn. Margot has commented that she based her portrayal of the character off the Arleen Sorkin run from Batman: The Animated Series, which was the smart play, as well as from Lorraine Bracco’s famous performance on The Sopranos. I’m a huge Batman: The Animated series fan and was pleasantly surprised at just how much of that Harley Quinn she brought to the screen. Paul Dini, creator of Harley Quinn also praised Robbie’s performance:

“Every clip that I’ve seen of Margot as Harley, she seems to have nailed it perfectly. When she’s introducing herself to Katana, when she’s walking around with the bat behind her shoulders, she just seems to have really channeled the true spirit of the character. Seeing that come alive is just amazing for me. I saw the shot yesterday of her and Joker in the therapy session getting ready to kiss, and I was just like, ‘That’s it, that’s my girl.’”

Will Smith was the big named celebrity draw attached to the film and totally delivered as Floyd Lawton, AKA Deadshot. I was rather impressed with his grounded performance and the acting chops of Smith were on point here as Floyd had to deal with some pretty heavy stuff. He is here with that typical Will Smith presence, but given the nature of Deadshot being both an assassin and a father, he brings a solid balance to both roles. There is a moment late in the film where he is given something from another character and you just absolutely feel for him.

El Diablo, played Jay Hernandez, is a broken man who is trying to atone for his sins. Once a man with a temper and the inability to control his fire-based powers, starts the film as a bit of a pacifist. He has some real growth throughout the film and in more than one scene, completely steals this movie. Of all the characters in the movie I had expected to just not care about, he almost topped the list, and boy was I wrong, way wrong.

Cara Delevigne is pretty decent as both June Moone and her alter-ego Witch persona; The Enchantress. The creepy way she whispers “Enchantress” to peel back the mortal layer and transform into the Witch is both visually impressive and intoxicating. Delevigne has a fairly significant role in the film as her character is written into various arcs told throughout the movie. Her darker, more haunting outfit is fantastic and gives the effect a character like hers should have. She gets an outfit change later in the movie that is just handled so poorly, and combine that with the odd belly-dancing type movements she does, her character goes from a real high point to an unfortunate low. I did feel, however; that the use of her magic and how it was presented was both visually impressive and horror movie inspired.

Jai Courtney, the man who just can’t seem to do right by Hollywood, is rather great here as Captain Boomerang. After being in various bombs like the latest Die Hard and Terminator entries, Jai seems to have found a role he truly excels at. I really enjoyed his version of Captain Boomerang in this film, a character whose very name just begs to be horrible. Whether it’s ducking away from battle to chug back a few beers or his addiction to pink unicorns, Jai brings a level of humor to the character that has you laugh out loud.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara as Katana and Adam Beach as Slipknot round out the remainder of the team to varying success. Fukuhara has some great scenes as Katana and I was absolutely thrilled that she was given a scene showcasing her mystical soul capturing sword. The scene in question was powerful and was given the dramatic weight it needed. I did feel that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was just a bit too short and not bulked up enough to play Killer Croc, a creature who is meant to be towering over Batman. Adam Beach’s Slipknot is a throw away character that is only there to showcase off one particular scene that I think everyone saw coming.

Two other characters remain of the entire cast and they are Rick Flagg and The Joker. Joel Kinnaman, who many remember from the awful Robocop remake, plays Argus lead; Rick Flagg. He plays Rick with a bit of a southern accent and overall was rather good here. Much like Deadshot, he has some emotional scenes that work well without changing the tone of the movie. Originally, Tom Hardy was going to play this role but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts on a contracted film. I’m glad it turned out how it did as Kinnaman did a great job, and frankly, I don’t think Hardy would have been a good choice here.

Last but not least is Jared Leto as The Joker. Now, I’ll put this out there.. I have yet to see a performance top Mark Hamill’s Batman: The Animated Series’ Joker. It just hasn’t been topped in my opinion. I was never a fan of Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger. They just weren’t what I wanted from Joker. While Leto’s Joker is unpredictable and wonderful, he just isn’t present enough for a solid full opinion to really be formed. I like the look and tone this Joker has, his wide eyes and laugh are fantastic, but the gangster styled Joker Leto brings here, well, I can see why people may not exactly dig it. I will say that his performance has me intrigued and I hope to see more of his Joker in future films. Jared Leto has recently spoke out about how he had a solid ten minutes of Joker material cut from the film, so finger’s crossed we get a Joker cut or just an extended edition later on.

The movie balances quite a large ensemble cast and instead of just packing them all in and learning as we go, the film starts with small openings for most of the cast that essentially work as back story introductions. We see Harley and Joker in a high speed chase through Gotham City with a certain Caped Crusader in pursuit behind them. We also see Captain Boomerang stopped as he attempts to rob a Diamond Exchange, and a few others like Deadshot and El Diablo. Harley easily gets the most of these back stories as we see a somewhat condensed approach to show us her transition from Dr Harleen Quinzel to Harley Quinn. It’s also worth noting that The Joker in this movie has a bit more affection towards Harley than what is normally shown of their “relationship” as depicted in various comics and cartoons.

The movie also has a non-stop soundtrack that feels a bit forced and can feel just ‘too much’ sometimes. At least early on in the film they just go back-to-back-to-back with a few songs and it could very well become its own drinking game with how often a new song starts. The soundtrack is good, but it feels somewhat forced on us given how popular Guardian’s of the Galaxy was with their soundtrack of popular hits. I will say that the song that instantly starts up when Harley goes up the elevator was just perfect and well timed.

There is some pacing issues towards the middle to end of the film that can make the movie feel a bit longer than it is, but nothing that truly gets in the way of the movie being entertaining. I will say that the possible studio meddling can be felt a bit in the editing process as some scenes don’t flow as well as others. The set design for the war-torn streets is fantastic, and makes the destruction that is quite apparent in the city feel, well, quite apparent. Complimenting the set design is some pretty decent visual effects that brings some nice color and makes the film pop a bit.

Overall, Suicide Squad is fun, action packed and hilarious, as I’ve already mentioned. The casting of nearly everyone is spot on, and the parts of the film you want to work actually do work well. The Batman cameo really helps solidify the fact that this movie takes place in the same universe as Batman v Superman, as does the very start of the film. I will strongly suggest that you watch Batman v Superman before seeing this film as it flat out tells you what happens as the end of that film.

While there isn’t a scene after the credits, there is one mid way through. This scene doesn’t reveal anything that we don’t already know, but it does feature an interaction between two characters I was dying to see converse in this DC film universe.

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