Scott F. Evans
David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is the second Warner Brothers/DC Entertainment release this year, following the March theatrical release of Batman V Superman. And just like that film, Suicide Squad is a mess.
Ayer wrote and directed Suicide Squad. He allegedly cranked this script out in six weeks. It shows. There are a few good ideas here and there, but this feels every bit like a first draft. Main characters get multiple introduction scenes while others just get carelessly thrown into the works. After the lengthy intros, the flimsy, derivative story finally kicks in.
Guess what? The threat is yet another ancient evil, bent on eradicating mankind.
None of it makes much sense and it’s so perfunctory that by the end of the film, you forget what all of the hubbub is about. The pacing is choppy, and I’m being kind. Right after said ‘Ancient Evil’ is unleashed, the film comes to a dead stop to reintroduce the team in another scene that’s too long and filled with awkward comic bits. Then, about three-quarters into it, just as things should really be getting frantic, the film slams on the brakes (again). Suddenly the characters find the need to explain their motivations.
In a bar.
Anxious over Batman v Superman’s lower than expected box office and poor critical reception, Warner Bros./DC spent millions on last minute re-shoots to try and lighten the original somber tone of Suicide Squad. As a result, the movie is downright schizophrenic, featuring wild tonal swings from serious to incoherently comic.
Ayer is known for gritty, lower-budgeted, violent films like End of Watch and Fury, not family-friendly romps like this. You can feel him being restrained by the studio-mandated PG-13 rating. With a rumored budget of at least $175 million dollars, you can’t exactly blame the suits. Besides, the studio interference is also a direct result of the already-lost race against their direct competition, Disney/Marvel. Humor and Heart are a Marvel staple, but to date have been lacking in all of the DC offerings. So someone got the bright idea to try and shoehorn both into Suicide Squad, and the effort falls flat.
I’m not even sure that $175 million was spent on. With more than twice the budget of Fury (which had excellent, visceral and propulsive action sequences), the action here is all bland and lazily staged. It’s just one repetitive, inconsistent shootout after another with a few equally unoriginal fight scenes thrown in for good measure. Even the CGI isn’t particularly impressive. Some shots look like they were created with decades old technology. I’ve seen better effects on television shows.
On the up side, Suicide Squad has a mostly solid cast. The de facto leads, Will Smith (Deadshot) and Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), work overtime to bring some heart and whimsy into this dour film. Jay Hernandez gives us some genuine pathos and almost steals the picture as Diablo. Viola Davis turns in a decent, if one-note performance as Amanda Waller. She seems a little bored and embarrassed to even be seen in such horrible writing, and I can’t exactly blame her. She isn’t given much more to do other than glower and deliver exposition. None of these performances are enough to save this film. Suicide Squad oversells Harley Quinn… Robbie accepts the challenge by chewing scenery at every turn. Smith is saccharine with charm. It’s like he refuses to be unlikable, even when playing a bad guy. As good as Hernandez is, Ayer sidelines him for far too much of the film.
And that’s not even the worst part.
Jared Leto got crammed into this film as a new version of the classic Batman villain Joker. His interpretation is trite, boring, and completely unnecessary. Had Ayer given that screentime to Hernandez, the actor’s subtle choices may have been enough to counteract Robbie’s broad performance. Or not.
Warner Bros./DC just can’t seem to get it right. For a studio and comic company that have been making these films since the 1970’s, they miss far more than they hit.
Suicide Squad is a definite miss.