Suicide Squad plays out like an anti-Avengers Assemble with Will Smith grabbing more screen time playing Deadshot than I think is entirely necessary given that is an ensemble gig. Of the main players it is not Smith but Jared Leto and Margot Robbie who stand out as The Joker and Harley Quinn the comic book equivalent of Bonnie and Clyde. Robbie portrays the complexity, sassiness and sexiness of her character very well and after Jack Nicholson’s and Heath Ledger’s great performances as The Joker Leto pulls another great portrayal of this iconic character out of the bag.
An uncredited Ben Affleck reprises his role as Batman in the opening part of the film to help provide backstory and ground the timeline to directly after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which I saw for the first time last week and thoroughly enjoyed btw) but doesn’t reappear. He’s obviously too busy doing Justice League assembly stuff to pop over to Midway City, which I presume lies midway between Gotham and Metropolis. Flash (Ezra Miller) also makes a suitably zippy cameo helping to put one of the Squad members behind bars and also is too busy doing other stuff to join in later events.
As well as Deadshot and Harley Quinn, the Squad is comprised of Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (an almost unrecognisable Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and briefly Slipknot (Adam Beach). They’re watched over by special forces soldier Rick Flag with his disposable unit of US cannon fodder and the female samuri Katana who is more of a good guy. If I was being cynical Katana is only there to keep a certain part of the global audience happy (much like the Zatoichi looking character in Rogue One I expect).
The enemy is a self-created one (will the Americans ever learn?) and I wonder in fact why the Suicide Squad is formed in the first place. Yes there’s a vacuum after the apparent demise of Superman but with Lex Luthor behind bars there seems no immediate threat. In fact if the government had left well alone and not dicked around trying to control powers they didn’t understand then they wouldn’t be in the mess they find themselves – and indeed what of the Justice League? Not ready yet I guess. In Batman v Superman Luthor alludes to a message going out to an as yet unseen extra-terrestrial foe but it is not made clear that Amanda Waller the chief proponent of assembling the squad (the DC’s female equivalent of Nick Fury) is party to this information.
Through the use of one-liners and a little slapstick Suicide Squad is at times as sassy as Deadpool but there is less comedy and no fourth wall breaking. That said it is the most fun and least dark of any of the recent DC films and a little Tarantino-esque in terms of its use of in-scene titles and thoughtful use of classic and contemporary rock music (such as The Rolling Stones, Queen and The White Stripes). However, the film for me lost its way a little at around the two thirds mark.
Act three is mostly formulaic action-film-by-numbers akin to The Mummy and the dialogue takes a downwards turn. There’s a lot of unexplained stuff going on – character motivations after their release from the hold Waller has over them are only sketched out if at all, some scuba gear appears out of nowhere, and a Navy Seal takes the title of the film to heart and takes one for the team like the disposable extra that he is. After the unveiling of Diablo’s true nature, it left me questioning why they didn’t just nuke the Ghostbusters style swirling garbage vortex and the bad guys rather than employ this bunch of raggedy ass villains. Perhaps Doomsday in Batman v Superman had taught the military that their ultimate weapon might not be that ultimate after all.
That said (using my apoplexy at Episode VII as a baseline) overall I was quite happy – mostly because of the big performances already mentioned, some interesting casting and the first two thirds of the film. I have to say I liked Batman v Superman more but it was great to see Harley Quinn finally on the big screen and I like the edgier direction DC is taking with their films against the stiff but more family friendly (Deadpool aside!) competition from Marvel.