2 1/2 Stars
Summer 2016 will go down as a season of cinematic mediocrity. Just a decade ago the span from May 2nd – August 31st produced memorable if not classic films, this year’s offerings have been so forgettable that movie-going has turned into a semi-chore for this reviewer. Promising to inject life into the dreary hot weathered months is Suicide Squad, the latest building block in the DC universe. Arriving with a vibrant neon advertising campaign and featuring (arguably) the king of summer blockbusters Will Smith, Suicide Squad is not the masterpiece fanboys are stumping for nor is it the vile incompetent trash that the nation’s critics have implied. Frankly, the film sits right in the middle of both arguments.
After the death of Superman in Batman V. Superman, high-ranking shadow ops director Amanda Walker (Viola Davis) realizes that the next meta-human may not be a good guy. Her solution is to round-up the worst bad guys currently incarcerated and throw the expendable prisoners at the problem. Who would care if the sniper Deadshot (Will Smith) is killed? Nobody. Except his teenage daughter who longs to see her dad again. The pack of villains is made up of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Killer Croc, Capt. Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). Floating on the peripheral of the group, and the film’s narrative, is Jared Leto’s Joker. The Oscar-winning actor is absolutely mesmerizing when on-screen and his absence is felt whenever his character exit for long stretches.
The overly simplified plot is basically The Raid with a comic book sheen. This same structure was also used in the vastly under-appreciated, Dredd, from a few summer’s back. Smith’s charisma shines bright and his appeal is so inviting that it nearly over-shadows the entire movie. He’s good here, but I think his mega movie star wattage is too over-powering. Fan favorite Margot Robbie is the sexy and demented Quinn, madly in love with the Joker, but also just plain mad. Robbie’s performance, wardrobe, and character are already becoming iconic pieces of 2016 pop-culture.
Lacking an intriguing villain, the Enchantress is a profoundly silly entity, the movie never gives us a reason to get involved. An exceedingly bland love story between the antagonist and military specialist Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) goes nowhere. Smith and Robbie dominate the running-time while their less famous co-stars fight for the left-overs. However, every ten minutes or so Suicide Squad shows glimpses of what could have been. A harrowing flashback sequence involving Harley, Joker, and a vat of acid proves my point. Squad could have benefited from more scenes with that kind of darkly beautiful grandeur.
Director: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto