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!