A film review by Craig J. Koban August 11, 2016



2016, PG-13, 130 mins.


Will Smith as Floyd Lawton / Deadshot  /  Jared Leto as The Joker  /  Margot Robbie as Harleen Quinzel / Harley Quinn  /  Cara Delevingne as June Moone / Enchantress  /  Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang  /  Jay Hernandez as Chato Santana / El Diablo  /  Karen Fukuhara as Tatsu Yamashiro / Katana  /  Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Waylon Jones / Killer Croc  /  Adam Beach as Christopher Weiss / Slipknot  /  Ray Olubowale as Nanaue / King Shark  /  Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman  /  Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag  /  Viola Davis as Amanda Waller

Written and directed by David Ayer


SUICIDE SQUAD – the third film in the DC Extended Universe – is refreshingly unlike most other super hero films out there in the sense that it’s a team-up effort involving villains saving the day instead of the more noble minded and pure blood fighters of truth, justice, and the American way.  

SUICIDE SQUAD is also disappointingly exactly like most other super hero films in that it culminates in an obligatory and routine climax involving copious CGI mayhem, a lot of faceless and ill defined enemies, and a vortex hovering over a ruined city that will open up a doorway for evil to fully emerge and engulf the Earth.  How many more comic book inspired films are going to slavishly mime this same standard-order climax for their films?  Both Marvel and DC are guilty of committing this overused and stale super hero film sin multiple times over. 

Ultimately, and on a positive, SUICIDE SQUAD mostly works – at least until it reaches its muddled and perfunctory finale – as a much more offbeat and appealingly sly third chapter in the ever expanding adventures of the characters that populate the DC cinematic landscape.  Serving as a sequel, of sorts, to this past March’s BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, SUICIDE SQUAD is ostensibly a segue or detour from that film’s narrative arc as it introduces us to a motley crew of renegade and rogue super villains that are coerced against their wills to form a governmental controlled team to tackle missions that their squeaky clean costume clad counterparts would not want to have anything to do with.  Perhaps even more agreeably so than BATMAN V SUPERMAN, this film amps up the lightness of approach and delivers a sustained tone of chaotic whimsy, which helps silence many of the critics of the DCCU thus far that have often bemoaned the perpetual and nihilistic darkness that has permeated the brand thus far.  SUICIDE SQUAD, despite its foibles, is the most purely enjoyable and light-heartedly entertaining film that DC has churned out thus far, which helps erode my concerns over the film delivering a slavishly mundane save-the-city-from-decimation third act that lacks innovation altogether. 



SUICIDE SQUAD’s ace up its sleeve is its novel premise – which does find roots in multiple DC comic books iterations over the years – and the remarkably strong cast that it has assembled that somehow makes their respective villains likeable despite doing very dislikeable things.  The film opens by introducing us to a very strong willed, cunning, and powerful governmental official named Amanda Waller (a pitch perfectly cast Viola Davis) that has a rather brilliant idea for her nation to combat forces of all-powerful evil, especially now that (*SPOILERS* if you haven’t seen BATMAN V SUPERMAN yet) Superman is apparently dead and unable to defend America’s interests.  Her grand plan is to form Task Force X, which would involve recruiting the “worst of the worst” super villains in captivity to do the government’s bidding in clandestine missions.  Now, as for how Waller would ensure cooperation from such baddies?  Microchip bomb implants in their necks – which can be easily remote detonated with the press of a button at any time – would keep all party members in check. 

Despite some early opposition, Waller gets the okay to launch her task force and she immediately recruits Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agnaje), Slipknot (Adam Beech) and El Diablo.  Leading the squad is Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and his right hand woman Katana (Karen Fukuhara), both of whom take orders specifically from Waller.  The team of dangerous misfits are forced to band together (or get their noggins exploded if they refuse) to defend Midway City (conveniently abandoned…yup, sure, uh huh) from a supernatural entity with ties to the witch Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), whose human form just so happens to be Flag’s main squeeze.  Also complicating matters is the Joker (Jared Leto), who desperately wants to get his trophy girlfriend in Quinn back using any means necessary. 

Again, it’s hard not to appreciate the freshness of approach here – at least in the early-to-mid stages – of SUICIDE SQUAD, and a film focused exclusively on an all-star who’s-who of evil fighting…villains…is not only a compelling oxymoron, but also makes for a giddily unpredictable and intriguing ride.  Of paramount importance to this approach is the cast, and SUICIDE SQUAD boosts one that’s equal to the task of wholeheartedly delivering this film’s unique brand of capricious energy.  Writer/director David Ayer (writer of TRAINING DAY and director of the crazily underrated SABOTAGE and FURY) does a routinely fine job of expeditiously introducing us to SUICIDE SQUAD’s entire menagerie of sociopaths with an overall kinetic style that delivers a lot of required exposition without feeling heavily expositional.  The film’s opening sections have a frenetic aesthetic energy that mirrors the deliriously unhinged personas that populate this story.  More than any other DC film to date, SUICIDE SQUAD wears its irreverent quirkiness, caffeinated exuberance, and, well, comic book-y vitality like a proud badge of honor. 

A few key cast members also lend themselves well to SUICIDE SQUAD’s success, especially Will Smith as Deadshot, a performer of such proven stature and authority that I was frankly quite worried about his participation going in, seeing as his presence might serve as a distraction from the larger group dynamic.  Thankfully, Smith’s assassin not only emerges as an infectiously charming wiseass rascal, but his performance also blends in fluidly with his fellow co-stars, allowing them to shine as well.  Margo Robbie is arguably the main attraction here as her former Arkham Asylum psychologist turned psychotic Joker main squeeze.  Swinging a baseball bat with wild glee, pumping out rounds of ammo like it were going out of style, and rocking short shorts and carnival-like freak show sense of glamour, Robbie nails Quinn’s unsettling sex appeal with an infectious childlike naiveté that’s positively mesmerizing.  Every waking minute that this shockingly disturbed vixen is on screen you’re transfixed and captivated.  Other cast members appeased me too, like Jai Courtney (usually a charisma black hole in films), and he seems fully liberated as his Aussie villain and hysterically harnesses his hooligan-like stature.  Even though his role is limited, Courtney may be the main performance surprise in SUICIDE SQUAD. 

For as much ample and electrifying chemistry that this cast has with one another, some of the characters in an already crowded film get a bit lost along the way, whereas others like Beech’s Slipknot are given virtually nothing to do.  Jared Leto’s Joker might be the largest casualty of SUICIDE SQUAD, seeing as he was figured oh-so-heavily in the film’s pre-release advertising, which raises many post-screening questions from me about his appearance in the overall film being somewhat unsatisfyingly delegated to an glorified cameo.  We get flashes here and there of the Joker’s history and his seduction of Quinn, but overall his inclusion in SUICIDE SQUAD never really germinates into something substantial or memorable.  There’s no doubt that Leto is clearly having fun with the role and makes this character – coming off the heels of Heath Ledger’s iconic turn – uniquely his own.  With his grim metal teeth, tattooed adorned body, crimson green hair, nasally inflections, and overall gangsta vibe, this Joker feels like a disruptive ticking time bomb waiting to go off…but we just need to see him in a more prevailing manner in a future DC film to witness the tangible benefits of Leto’s infamously creepy method immersion in the role. 

That, and the final act of the film really underwhelms as piece of blockbuster filmmaking that’s sluggishly on pure autopilot, especially considering the cheerfully erratic vibe that the early sections successfully harnessed.  Adding to this disappointing denouement are a pair of villains, one of which is a lumbering pixelized creation that’s never really developed by Ayer and company, nor does he even feel like a worthwhile antagonist in a film of this stature (his motives – beyond one-note world destruction – seems ill defined and hazily rendered throughout).  Then there’s the whole thorny nature of the film’s eleventh hour reshoots – which many were pontificating was a reactionary measure to the critical and audience drubbing that BATMAN V SUPERMAN received – but a good chuck of SUICIDE SQUAD feels tonally cohesive and a far cry away from the continuity embarrassment that was FANTASTIC FOUR, which pathetically showed its haphazardly shoehorned in new footage with a shallow obviousness.  

SUICIDE SQUAD is a far cry away from being the hot mess that many critics have been laboring to relay to you.  The film really struggles in its home stretch, but as an effective and continued world builder for the future on-screen adventures of the DC Extended Universe, it gets the prescribed job done.  That, and it has a confident swagger, rebellious spirit, lively rock and roll attitude, and most crucially, an unbridled fun factor that hasn’t peppered previous DC films, which leaves SUICIDE SQUAD feeling more like an endearingly cultish man-on-a-mission yarn than a dime-a-dozen comic book tale.  Yes, the film devolves into genre formulas in its late stages that are distracting, but it's the whole joyous lead up that fires on intended cylinders.  SUICIDE SQUAD, with intermittent success, dares itself to be different, which is perhaps what the DC filmverse really needs at this stage…and something that not enough comic book extravaganzas in general seem interested in.  


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