Action Adventure

'Suicide Squad' Film Review: Antiheroes, assemble!

August 4, 2016Ben MK

Every good superhero movie deserves a worthy supervillain (or two). However, in the case of the DC Cinematic Universe's hotly-anticipated followup to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it's the hero — the Dark Knight himself — who takes a backseat to his adversaries, a motley crew of bad guys assembled to embark on a mission that will almost certainly get them killed.

That's the basic setup for Suicide Squad, a super-powered team-up that plays less like Marvel's The Avengers and more like The Expendables. That is, if you replaced the Expendables' roster of aging action stars with characters from Batman's Rogues Gallery — Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) — throw in Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Slipknot (Adam Beach), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and put them all under the command of the hard-nosed Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman).

Brought together by a government heavy named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) — who would sooner explode their heads using the tiny explosives implanted into each of their necks than admit to the American public that she's enlisted the help of a group of sociopaths — the titular squad find themselves thrust into the middle of a city under siege, where they must defeat hordes of zombified ex-citizens, as well as do battle with the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), an ancient, supernatural entity whose nightmarish powers threaten to rip our world apart.

The result is a film that's often schizophrenic in tone. However, if you've been keeping up with the Internet news cycle surrounding the movie's production — specifically, the rumors of re-shoots meant to liven up director David Ayer's gritty original vision — that should come as no surprise. Essentially an amalgam of two wholly different movies, Suicide Squad tries to have its cake and eat it too, serving up brooding drama one moment, and tongue-in-cheek, rock-and-rap-infused spectacle the next. And while the effort is ambitious, it doesn't always work.

What does work — extremely well, in fact — are the casting choices, as the actors definitely look and feel very much like the characters they embody. Particularly noteworthy, however, are Smith and Robbie, for along with Hernandez's fire-starting ex-gangbanger, the hitman "who never misses" and the Joker's psychologically scarred girlfriend form the narrative's emotional backbone. And without them, its villainous dream team, as cool-looking as they are, would be little more than fodder for Waller and her strategically placed nano-explosives.

As for Leto's much-hyped turn as Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime, it ends up being one of the movie's key strengths, as well as one of its greatest weaknesses. For not only does Leto deliver the creepiest screen rendition of the Joker to date, but his performance also serves to highlight just how few and far between the movie's flashes of brilliance really are. Make no mistake, Suicide Squad is a more-than-competent piece of action filmmaking. But for all its colorful swagger, its ability to leave its mark on viewers begins to fade as soon as the credits start to roll.

Suicide Squad releases August 5th, 2016 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 3 Mins.

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