Film Review: 'Suicide Squad'

Even with its eccentric anti-heroes, Suicide Squad is a tonally confused mess with very few bright spots. (DC Entertainment / Warner Bros.)

Even with its eccentric anti-heroes, Suicide Squad is a tonally confused mess with very few bright spots. (DC Entertainment / Warner Bros.)

★★

Suicide Squad is marginally better than the Fantastic Four reboot last year. That's not saying a whole lot.

The next entry in DC Comics' extended universe is the top contender for most disappointing movie of the year. Director / writer David Ayer, an otherwise talented filmmaker (both Fury and End of Watch are under his belt), couldn't find the magic formula for making a superhero movie of this scale and scope work. Instead, Suicide Squad is a mess of genres and styles, loosely cobbled together by canned and even amateurish writing that only serves to cheapen this high-budget experience.

READ MOREFilm Review: 'Fantastic Four'

Is Suicide Squad a black comedy, using the deranged minds of comic book villains to crack some envelope-pushing jokes? Is it a dark-and-gritty flick, borrowing from Christopher Nolan's brooding style to make the movie seem like serious business? Is it a high-flying superhero epic where the heroes combat seemingly insurmountable foes? Suicide Squad is none of those things; the movie is a Frankenstein-like mishmash of genres that draws inspiration from everything, yet excels at nothing. And the inconsistency of it all, with the movie haphazardly switching tones back and forth, is incredibly frustrating, especially when there's already a  boatload of characters to have to worry about.

Margot Robbie's performance as Harley Quinn, while memorable to an extent, does little to elevate the movie. (DC Entertainment / Warner Bros.)

Margot Robbie's performance as Harley Quinn, while memorable to an extent, does little to elevate the movie. (DC Entertainment / Warner Bros.)

The character responsible for bringing them all together in the first place is the secret government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who hatches the idea of having a team of incarcerated supervillains carry out special missions on the government's behalf. The movie, which already started out with colleagues talking about serious government matters over a dimly-lit dinner, takes a quick 180 into a get-to-know-these-guys montage set to oldies rock and stylized with music video-like editing. We meet Deadshot (Will Smith), a sharpshooting hitman who's been separated from his daughter after being imprisoned. There's the eccentric and irreverent Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the movie's darling and its top-billed character. We also get cursory glances at the flame-spewing Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the scaled Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and the rough-talking Boomerang (Jai Courtney), who uses a boomerang all of three times in this movie. There's many other characters in the team, but they're so rushed in their introductions that they barely leave an impression.

There's definitely no shortage of bad guys and personalities in the movie. But it's also the perfect example of quality over quantity, as none of them are developed enough to make them intriguing beyond their surface appeal. Because of that, there's no central character nor emotional core to a movie that desperately needs one. Deadshot perhaps comes the closest - the movie flashes back a few times to him and his daughter - but he receives so little development otherwise that he blends in with the rest of the cast. And the half-hearted attempts to humanize Deadshot and the other players fall flat, just like ninety percent of the jokes they make. Given that this is a movie loaded with big-name classic characters, the fact that none of them are unique nor likable is disappointing.

Oscar-winner Jared Leto turns in a uniquely memorable Joker performance that stands apart from Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, although not above them. (DC Entertainment / Warner Bros.)

Oscar-winner Jared Leto turns in a uniquely memorable Joker performance that stands apart from Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, although not above them. (DC Entertainment / Warner Bros.)

Even Suicide Squad's most redeeming qualities don't do much to elevate the film, the biggest example being the twisted romance between Harley Quinn and Jared Leto's fine take on The Joker. Their on-screen chemistry is undermined by Ayer's severely lacking screenplay, and it lands far short of its billing as one of film's most demented and intriguing romances. It's just more clutter in an already crowded movie, and so Suicide Squad gets so bogged down by the finer details that it doesn't worry about making the movie enjoyable to watch in the first place. So don't be surprised when the film stumbles its way to a jam-packed, special effects-ridden, and frankly exhausting climax that looks like The Avengers went on a Hot Topic shopping spree.

With its problems continually mounting, perhaps the most frustrating part is just how little the movie resembles its predecessors in Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Because of incredibly striking differences, you'd have a hard time believing these movies all take place within the same universe. As elaborate and deep the DCEU is, I'm not sold on the illusion; Suicide Squad is a poor universe-builder that doesn't bolster the franchise as it's supposed to.

READ MORE: Film Review: 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'

While the typical response here is to shut your brain off and just have fun, Suicide Squad is so riddled with shortcomings and so schizophrenic in its structure that even just watching it is an unpleasant experience. It's a long and taxing trudge where the best part is when the credits start to roll.

Rated PG-13. 123 minutes.

Written and directed by David Ayer.

Starring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Viola Davis.

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© 2015 Rex J. Lindeman.   All rights reserved.   |   (760) 274-5948   |   rexlindeman@gmail.com

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