Film Review: ‘Suicide Squad’ is an absolute disaster

suicide_squad_ver12Holy crap. There was no way to prepare myself for the mess that is Suicide Squad. I went in hoping to be blown away by an irreverent comic book film to rival that of Deadpool, and yet, I got something far closer to the reboot of Fantastic Four. Filmmaker David Ayer is capable of magnificent work like End of Watch, but apparently he’s also capable of an absolute disaster like this one. This is an atrociously bad movie, one that’s misguided from the start and only gets worse, not better.

A new poster child for studio interference, I don’t know that Warner Brothers staying away from Ayers would have resulted in a higher quality flick, but one of the many problems at hand here is a lack of any cohesion. There’s dark and gritty elements, broader comedy, and flailing attempts to tie into the broader DC cinematic universe. It’s hard to waste an actor like Will Smith, but Suicide Squad does it. Honestly, Margot Robbie saves this from being perhaps the absolute worst thing I’ve seen all year. When Jared Leto‘s divisive performance turns out to be just another boring element, you know something is wrong. That’s the most disappointing part too, this is just a boring film and the least interesting version possible of inherently interesting material. I wanted to love it, but I ended up hating Suicide Squad, one of the five worst films to come out in 2016 so far, and easily the most disappointing.

Believe it or not, things don’t start out too terribly before it all goes off the rails. We begin by being introduced to Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the mastermind behind Task Force X, a Dirty Dozen style operation meant to take captured bad guys and utilize them for the public good. In the wake of Superman’s death, her program finally gets the green light. The first two selections of hers are Floyd Lawton/Deadshot (Smith), a hitman who never misses, and Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (Robbie), a former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who fell under the spell of Joker (Leto) and broke him out, becoming his insane girlfriend in the process.

Under the command of Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and his samurai assistant Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Waller teams them up with Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevinge), who is possessed by a witch called the Enchantress, Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Slipknot (Adam Beach). Their mission is one I won’t reveal, but it’s stunning stupid. All the while, Joker and Harley are attempting to reunite, and honestly, that might have been a better movie. Frankly, it couldn’t have been any worse. The ways this all goes wrong just boggles my mind.

Screen-Shot-2016-01-20-at-10.33If I can find one thing to praise here, it’s Margot Robbie’s performance. She’s as committed as Jared Leto, but the effect is completely different. Now, part of it is screen time, but it’s also just her charisma. Will Smith is decent enough essentially just playing himself, while the aforementioned Leto honestly leaves no impression, but Robbie does. She’s having fun, and it shows. So is Leto, apparently, but the character is so shoehorned in that you just don’t care. Smith gets a small backstory that works at times, but it’s also just at odds with the rest of the story, while also sort of being an excuse to bring in Batman (Ben Affleck) for a cameo.

Of the other squad members, only Jay Hernandez is given the bother of a backstory, but it’s about as cliched as can be. Jai Courtney just provides unneeded comic relief, while Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, and Cara Delevigne barely register. The same goes for Karen Fukuhara, while Joel Kinnaman is torpedoed by a script that keeps forgetting what it wants the character to be. As for Viola Davis, she looks bored and exhausted here, and I don’t blame her one bit. Other supporting players, in addition to Affleck include Ike Barinholtz (the worst part of the cast, to me), Common, Scott Eastwood, David Harbour, and Ezra Miller in a cameo as the Flash. Aside from Robbie, it’s all a lost cause.

As someone who absolutely loves the aforementioned End of Watch and really likes Fury, it gives me no pleasure to call this writer/director David Ayer’s worst film to date. Not only does he use the worst aspects of origin stories, he just gives the cast nothing to do. I lost track of the number of times a character is introduced/re-introduced or the instances where the group just stands in a nondescript building or street babbling about nonsense. There’s also the clearly shoehorned in lighter jokes, as well as the scenes you can tell where added in later, not to mention how choppy the whole thing feels. John Gilroy‘s editing is a wash and can’t save what Ayer shot. Worse still, his regular collaborators in cinematographer Roman Vasyanov and composer Steven Price are able to contribute nothing. Ayer’s direction is compromised by circumstances, sure, but his writing has no excuse.

One member of the squad is introduced in such a half assed way, you’re not surprised at all when they’re killed barely one scene later. For all the talk about Joker being involved, he’s almost like an extended stinger cameo. Ayer also possibly gives us the worst villain in any comic book adaptation to date, and that’s saying something. There’s missed opportunities all around here though, and everyone shares the blame.

Overall, Suicide Squad commits harakiri before the end of act one, but just trudges along for another hour and a half or so. It was as depressing a theatrical experience as I’ve had in some time. The ingredients were there, both in terms of source material as well as the cast and crew, but it all blew up in their faces. WB definitely interfered with Ayer, but it seems like he wasn’t capable of making this work anyway, going by the script on the whole. I could go on and on about how poor this is, but I’m only upsetting myself. In short, Suicide Squad sucks. The worst parts of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were somehow infinitely superior. I hate that I hate this so much, but my do I ever. It’s a disaster and one of the year’s worst to date. Alas…

GRADE: (★)
Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

About Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of Indiewire's Criticwire Network as well as the Internet Film Critics Association.
  • Joey Magidson

    It’s just atrocious. Cinematic harakiri, as it were.

  • Kevin

    Shame. The first trailer made it look like it could something truly great, but every trailer since then has made it look more and more like a mess, as your review confirms.

    I guess this shows Zach Snyder isn’t the only problem in the DC universe, it’s the whole universe itself.

    • Joey Magidson

      It’s a total shame. The Trailers are phenomenal, but they’re lipstick on a pig.

      Indeed. Snyder is capable of great images, but needs a script to work with. Here, there was initially high reward potential because Ayer is a solid writer in addition to an underrated director, but it turned out to be high risk too, since he was given six weeks to turn in a screenplay and what he turned in was terrible.

  • Tee

    You and I are gonna have to disagree heavily here; I found the film to be a fun little romp with interesting but somewhat honorable interpretations and performed well, while the plot is cliched but not horrendous. It’s not the best film of the year by far, but it is perhaps one of the most fun.

    • Joey Magidson

      Certainly entitled to that opinion. I usually like these films too, I’m even almost a defender of Batman v Superman. This just didn’t fly for me.

  • Tom

    So I Guess This Ends Robbie in Oscar Hunt Discussion?

    • Joey Magidson

      That was always the longest of shots, but had the film been better, I’m sure someone would have made the case. She’s good here, but that’s a DOA conversation.

  • Cornelius Buttersby

    But wait, are you 100% sure that marvel isn’t paying you? Have you double-checked your mailbox, your bank account?
    Nah I’m kidding, just wanted to get this in before any idiots started suggesting it for real; people don’t seem to understand the concept of Movie Critic these days, and just see them as fodder for a good or bad rotten tomatoes rating.

    • Joey Magidson

      Trust me, that check got lost in the mail, if it ever existed (it doesn’t…spare some change?)

      Don’t even get me started. Luckily, it’s been calm seas so far, unlike when I had the audacity to like Ghostbusters.

  • Cristian Barros

    You make some vaild points, but I liked it more than you did, but still found it to be just okay. I think the performances save it. They are interesting characters, but the story is a mess. It feels as though there were too many cooks in the kitchen and studio interference occurred. Not to mention this should have been an R-rated affair all along. I want to see more of these characters, but next time, that script needs to be more focused.

    • Joey Magidson

      That’s totally fair. And I’m with you on the missed opportunity to actually make it R rated. Another botched element of this one.

  • jmeltzer

    I so wanted to like this film. I think my want to like it is making me feel like I did, but everything you say rings true. It was simply incoherent.

    Does WB have me on the hook though because I legitimately want them to make decent DC comic live action films? Why is it so hard for them to do. Marvel pulls off their movies so flawlessly but maybe that’s because they typically stick to the same structure/tropes? I don’t know anymore.

    • Joey Magidson

      The incoherence is the worst part, frankly.

      I’m in the same boat. I want to believe that Justice League, Wonder Woman, etc, will be good.

  • Umair Zia

    This is a tough one. I enjoyed the movie, but there are big problems. I didn’t hate it like you did, in fact, I enjoyed it… reluctantly. It is incoherent, and motive is weak at best, but somehow kept me interested. I am so curious about the original script now… Jared Leto’s Joker is uninteresting and more bratty mob-boss than anarchic entity. I had more hopes for his Joker, but all the awful tattoos and grill. There is still hope for his Joker to be amazing, if he has good writing (and ditches the raver criminal look). Robbie steals the show as Harley Quinn. More than I thought she would. And how dare you put this up with ID:Resurrection and Fantastic Four. haha. Those are horrendous movies. 😉

    • Joey Magidson

      Agreed about Leto, though my optimism isn’t too high.

      I actually preferred Fantastic Four to this, though Independence Day: Resurgence is definitely worse.

  • John

    Joey, we obviously saw two different movies.

    • Joey Magidson

      Fair enough, though I’m hardly the only one not to care for it.