Directed by David Ayer
Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman
Released on 5th August 2016
I’d hoped that, by now, all the fuss about Suicide Squad would have died down. But not quite. The film was released simultaneously in the US and the UK and the early American box office stats are showing that’s it’s going like a train. So did Bats V Supes earlier this year.
So plenty of people are going to see it over there and, chances are, over here as well. But what are they likely to see? The film that some critics have loved – yes, the reviews haven’t been universally bad – or the one that’s been panned by many of them? For me, it’s a film that doesn’t live up to the hype. Now, let’s face it, the marketing for this one was on such an epic scale, it’s unlikely that even a masterpiece would have met such over-inflated expectations. But even if Warner Bros had reined in their publicity machine, the film as it stands now would still have fallen short.
The story goes like this. The Squad are a bunch of seriously bad guys – and one bad gal – locked up in the ultimate maximum security prison. Until ruthless high ranking government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides they’re exactly what she and the military need to clean up the city once and for all. So the deal is take the mission, succeed and you get clemency. Fail and you die. Their adversary is The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) who is using her supernatural powers to overrun the city with her army of very odd soldiers.
Between you and men, those soldiers are actually zombies. Admittedly, not the blood dripping, flesh rotting variety, but zombies nonetheless. Which leads us to Problem Number One. It’s a film that needs a large injection of originality. Admittedly, the premise for superhero – and even supervillain – movies is always essentially good v evil, but here director David Ayer has blatantly raided a clutch of much better films, hoping that some of their magic will rub off. But it doesn’t.
He tries to create a Suicide Squad version of Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Awesome Mix, but neither integrates the music into the story nor does he use it especially creatively. And we talking classic tracks like Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky and The Stones Sympathy For The Devil. Their familiarity makes you tap your toes, but that’s all.
Problem Number Two. The Squad is simply too big. Which means the film has an uphill task right from the outset, especially by spending so much time in introducing them in the early part of the film. More come along later, but some come and go in little more than the blink of an eye. And few of them are especially memorable. There’s Will Smith’s Deadshot, there’s Margot Robbie in her hot pant as the utterly bonkers Harley Quinn …… and then you start to struggle. A guy who sets fire to things? Yes, probably. Somebody with crocodile skin who growls like a lion. Yes, but I can’t remember his name. Oh, and an Aussie. They’re just not distinctive enough and the focus ends up being on Smith and Robbie, with everybody else in the shadows.
Yet think back to all the hype and who features the most? Jared Leto’s Joker. Problem Number Three. There’s nowt wrong with Leto’s performance and it’s thankfully very different to Heath Ledger’s. This time we have a disturbing, green haired maniac with a laugh to match, silver teeth and tattoos all over the place. He’s not a member of the Squad itself, but trying to rescue his girlfriend, Harley Quinn, initially from prison and then from the Squad. But he’s only in about half a dozen scenes in the film and that is a let-down, not just because we’re expecting to see more of him, but because he’s genuinely one of the film’s strongest features.
This isn’t one long list of the film’s shortcomings. It does have some things going for it, alongside Leto, and most of them are among the cast. Viola Davis, for instance, as the cold blooded and dead-eyed Amanda Waller, one lady that you wouldn’t mess with. Margot Robbie’s Quinn is entertainingly nuts, although you do wonder about her choice of footwear – and, indeed, those briefer-than-brief hot pants.
But while they give it their best shot, they’re like the Squad itself – they’ve been set up to fail. Because both the script and the plot are messy and the humour, much of which we understand was added later on in the film, is very hit and miss. And you can see the join.
We’re only half way through the summer blockbuster season but, so far, Suicide Squad, is its biggest disappointment. I’ll qualify that: the biggest critical disappointment. Its performance at the box office looks likely to be the complete opposite, although whether it will be a one week wonder like Batman V Superman remains to be seen.
I don’t hate the film. I’m just saddened by the fact that it’s not especially good.
Suicide Squad is in cinemas now and was reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 4 August.