DC Comics’ most dangerous super villains band together to fight an otherworldly entity hell-bent on world annihilation in “Suicide Squad,” an edgy action-adventure starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman and Viola Davis.
Written and directed by David Ayer, the filmmaker behind such intense dramas as “Fury” and “End of Watch,” this long-awaited anti-superhero flick is about as gritty and garish as comic book adaptations get, bringing a double dose of gallows humor and boundary-pushing action to the summer movie crowd. However, while its characters may thrive in chaos, the same degree of disorder extends to the storyline as well, and apart from some standout moments, “Suicide Squad” never quite learns how to play well together. Of course, with a star-studded cast diving headlong into their likably eccentric characters, a writer-director doing his best to shake up a well-worn genre, and an ace cinematographer delivering colorful and captivating action sequences, “Suicide Squad” may fall short on the whole, but it sure knows how to ratchet up the fun along the way.
The film kicks off in Louisiana at the Belle Reve Federal Penitentiary, home to some of the country’s worst criminal masterminds. Among the undesirables populating the prison are Deadshot (Will Smith), the world’s deadliest hitman; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a former psychiatrist who went wicked after being manipulated by her imprisoned lover, Joker (Jared Leto); Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a cannibalistic creature with a scaly skin affliction; and Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a former gangbanger with pyrokinetic powers.
When ruthless U.S. intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) learns that a “nonhuman entity” named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) is gearing up for a worldwide attack, she enlists the help of “the worst of the worst” at Belle Reve to handle the job in exchange for reduced sentences. Rounding out the despicable troop is Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Aussie with a mean streak, and Slipknot (Adam Beach), an escape artist with a penchant for climbing. Helping keep the squad in order is Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a by-the-book military man and his committed team of Navy SEALs. And just in case that’s not enough law and order on Flag’s side, there’s also an ancient sword-wielding samurai named Katana (Karen Fukuhara) on hand to maintain some stability.
With Waller guaranteeing the squad’s imminent death if they don’t carry out the task at hand, the outlaws must band together with their killer skill set to defeat a threat unlike anything they’ve seen before. Along the way, Harley Quinn and Joker throw a wrench in the squad’s mission.
With “Suicide Squad,” writer-director David Ayer certainly had his work cut out for him by not only taking on his biggest project to date but also one brimming with beloved characters from the DC Universe. And while the strain of fitting these various elements into one coherent plot is as plain as day, it’s also somewhat forgivable given his ambitious aims. Enchantress, the chief antagonist, and her loyal mob of bubbly-headed minions are just shy of laughable as far as scary villains go, and the screenplay is far too busy trying to do justice to each individual character to tell a satisfying story, but the continuous action paired with the humor succeed in diverting attention away from the film’s flaws. Helping enormously to maintain the lighthearted nature of the proceedings is the hip hop heavy soundtrack, with particularly good use of tracks by Action Bronson and Eminem, and Steven Price’s propulsive score keeps the energy level high throughout.
The ensemble cast of “Suicide Squad” is a force to be reckoned with, which is why it’s somewhat disappointing that so few of the performances truly stand out. Will Smith is predictably action-hero effective as the squad leader, even if his character’s absentee father backstory never quite hits the emotional beats it strives for; Margot Robbie crushes it as the sexy yet sadistic Harley Quinn; Jared Leto brings some new shades to Joker, although it doesn’t hold a candle to Heath Ledger’s indelible portrayal in “The Dark Knight;” and Jay Hernandez is a solid addition as Diablo, the ambivalent gangbanger trying to change his violent ways. As for the others, Joel Kinnaman is credibly aggressive as a morally upstanding colonel up in arms over his unconventional assignment, and Viola Davis is downright intimidating as the U.S. intelligence officer who sets the squad in motion, but Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc never quite comes alive and Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress is by far the weakest link.
“Suicide Squad” doesn’t live up to its unreasonably high expectations, but given the sheer madness at hand, not to mention a cameo from a certain caped crusader, it’s audacious enough to justify seeing on the big screen.
Running Time: 123 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language.