Director: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis and Jared Leto
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: August 5th
Spare a thought for the doomed souls who handle PR and marketing at Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment for they’ve probably developed lifetime health issues due to the course-correction whiplash storm that arrived in the wake of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. One only need consult the recent Justice League trailer to see how blatant and transparent the about-face really is. So it’s out with grimdark pain and death and in with gags and recognisable rock songs as DC continues to sputter and wheeze as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beige as it may be, strides ahead.
Acting as a rather rickety bridge between the two Batfleck capers is Suicide Squad, an altogether strange affair that needs to not just ape the free-wheelin’ charm of Guardians of the Galaxy (and boy does Suicide Squad want to be that movie) but also emerge as a box office smash, too. Honestly, the advertising budget for Suicide Squad alone would likely make independent filmmakers weep. Make no mistake; there’s a lot riding on this one.
Curiosity and endless promotional material should result in an eventual home run but Suicide Squad is a garish, ugly mess of a thing. Headed up by alpha male auteur du cinéma David Ayer (go watch Sabotage if you want to see one man’s pure unadulterated hatred for decorum boil over), this tale of a ragtag bunch of murderous villains reluctantly banding together to defeat a world-threatening evil is all over the place.
Studio notes undoubtedly played a role but from script to tone, Ayer’s foray into a world that has already gifted us Batman smashing a kitchen sink off Superman’s head before cutting him up like a serial killer is a confused beast that feels the need to go for the jugular 99% of the time. That’s why we get a scene in which one character appears to slash open the face of a prison guard with a makeshift razor, only it happens really fast and you don’t see anything graphic because nobody at the top of the tower could settle on an audience demographic. Odd, no?
Then again, Ayer is all about the macho bullshit aesthetic. One moment that feels deliberately engineered to generate an audience-wide guffaw sees another jolly member of the titular Squad announcing his arrival by immediately punching out a woman. Hilarious! After all, they’re “bad guys”, as Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn points out in one of about 100 moments you’ve already seen in the trailers, but Ayer (who wrote the damn thing so lay your blame squarely at the hack’s door) also wants these guys to be action figures on some idiot’s shelf so Will Smith – surprise! – is barely villainous at all. Sure, he throws out some dialogue that leads Quinn to dub him a “textbook sociopath” but you won’t buy his Deadshot as a remorseless murderer for a second. Smith is fine here, doing his Will Smith thing. The aforementioned Robbie is a perfect Harley Quinn but is constantly let down by an exceptionally weak script and a pair of shorts that seem to shrink a little with each passing scene.
Elsewhere, Joel Kinnaman continues to grimace his way through an uninspiring career (Tom Hardy dodged a bullet here), Viola Davis has good presence because she’s capable of rising above trash (even if the “I put him in a hole and then I threw away the hole” is a direlogue all-timer) and Cara Delevinge makes a decent impression even if she, like every single person caught up in this mess, is hampered by Ayer’s lifeless words and staging.
But wait, what of the ostentatiously tattooed elephant in the room? You’d think you could bet the house on Jared Leto nailing the role of a narcissistic psychopath, especially after all those WACKY PRANKS he pulled on the rest of the cast. Alas, the clown prince of method acting swings for the fences and misses so spectacularly it’s almost embarrassing to watch as his lurid and lame Joker stumbles about like a child desperate for attention. He at least nails the laugh, but there’s really nothing to chuckle at here. Despair, instead, when the repugnant Suicide Squad inevitably pulls off the worst trick of the summer and rakes in a shedload of green.