Film Review: Suicide Squad

by Chad Liffmann on August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad dies a slow, painfully disappointing death.

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More like an awkward dance than a ballroom blitz.

Watch the Suicide Squad trailer one more time. Do you feel that insane energy? Well, that same energy exuding from all the Suicide Squad trailers, posters, and marketing materials doesn’t exude from the feature film. All the hype, and true potential, of this anti-hero DC property has been damaged by over-bloated character introductions, weak villains, and a restrained take on some of the DC Universe’s most iconic psychopaths — looking at YOU, Joker! Suicide Squad could’ve been so much more, but unfortunately the DC film producers, again, trivialize a tremendous premise into an “extended trailer” for the Justice League movie, which is becoming less and less enticing with every preceding related release.

By the time we’re (slowly) introduced to all members of the Suicide Squad, we’re halfway through the film and jumping into a truncated second act. While other films effortlessly spend the appropriate amount of time introducing audiences to key characters and not-as-key characters respectively, Suicide Squad spends too much time on all of them, leaving no room (or time) for character development later on. In addition to the poor editing, the backstory of Deadshot (Will Smith), who acts as the primary protagonist in the film, contains a considerable amount of schmaltz. It’d be a reasonable treatment of his backstory if it wasn’t so generic, predictable, and stood in the way of the narrative taking on a more accelerated and delightfully frenetic pace.

The standout of the film is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), but even she isn’t utilized to the fullest extent. Maybe it’s the PG-13 rating, but it seems like her iconic character’s craziness was dialed back a bit. The 1930’s gangster girlfriend accent and one-liners are spot on. But not helping the situation is Quinn’s “puddin”/”Mister J” lover, Joker (Jared Leto), who ends up coming off like a high school punk trying excruciatingly hard to act like a bad ass. Sure, it’s not fair to compare Leto’s Joker to the late Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, but the former still leaves so much to be desired. First, the script didn’t do Leto any favors by limiting the moments in which he could display some real creepy insanity. Second, Leto should know that simply being capable of a semi-good Joker laugh doesn’t mean that it’s effective in any moment. Each time the Joker laughed, I wondered why is he laughing? It’s just a poorly timed, written, and executed performance. At least Joker isn’t nearly as unbearable as Enchantress/June Moone (Cara Delevingne), whose cringe-worthy storyline doesn’t demonstrate any logical reasoning for her villainous actions. Plus, Delevingne looks incredibly awkward and uncomfortable acting in a green screen environment.

There is some fun to be had, though. The action sequences, often PG-13 tame and CGI-laden, are engaging and mostly feature cool music. In fact, Suicide Squad tries to one-up Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of showcasing an impressive soundtrack, but its all over the place and feels like its trying too hard. In a span of 5 minutes, there are 3-4 hit songs from various genres used in 3-4 montages. In case you’re wondering, that’s too much (in my opinion – let me know what you think). Also fun are the guest appearances of Ben Affleck as Batman and 1-2 other members of the Justice League. Were they necessary to include, though? Nope. By the time the inept baddies are defeated and the ho-hum band of anti-heroes, who learned to kinda work together even though they were really never at odds with each other, walk away as “heroes”, the audience is simply left shrugging its shoulders and wondering if this was all just a preamble to a showdown between the Squad and the League in a forthcoming movie. Hint: it is. It’s obvious DC didn’t want to be patient while playing catchup to the successful Marvel film franchise by releasing a few more single hero titles before groups of heroes formed. But what they lack in patience they’ve well made up for in rushed, messy plot lines and no character depth. Oh wait, those aren’t good things…

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Suicide Squad opens in theaters Friday, August 5th.

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