#SquadGoals ‘Suicide Squad’ Review

Written and Directed by: David Ayer (Fury, Sabotage, End of Watch, Street Kings, Writer: S.W.A.T., Training Day, The Fast and the Furious)poster.png

Original Music by: Steven Price (Gravity)

Cinematography:  Roman Vasyanov (Triple Frontier)

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Adam Beach, Jay Hernandez, Karen Fukuhara, Cara Delevingne, Ike Barinholtz, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Scott Eastwood.

Suicide Squad is a better movie than Batman v. Superman. As of this publication a percent lower on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie is a great example of the short falls in movie metadata. Review aggregation of the now famed site is misleading due to the fact that the latter film had more lee-way and didn’t follow an immediate backlash. The only success Batman V. Superman can presume to have over Suicide Squad is that it managed to be polarizing enough to have more people somehow love it. Out of 10 BvS had a 5 point spread: 2-7/10, and I think Squad is more 4-8/10 it has a 50 point difference between critics and fans.

Officially Excellent Teaser Trailer:

This is the movie that Will Smith decided to do instead of an Independence Day sequel. In retrospect it was a smart decision to do something new. Apart from the fact that this film will make 100+ million opening weekend, You don’t often see Will Smith in an ensemble cast, and you wouldn’t expect him to be a part of an ensemble comic-book DC Universe. Lately his career output has slowed down, and he probably could use a new big hit, so he brings to the table a far more human and charismatic interpretation of Deadshot to the big-screen than the character probably deserved. Played way too overly charismatic  for a bad guy as an Anti-Hero who develops more of a complex moral compass. His work with Margot Robbie, more fun here and carried over from last years ‘Focus‘ feels like it belongs in a different film than here but it works. With a few scenes together, her portrayal is as excellent and complete a character as Smith’s is. Though her badass physicality is let down by weak grappling choreography, she makes up for it with moxie. Moving back, a main problem with the movie is how relationships like these are pitted against the weaker parts of the rest of the film.

Harlee Quinn and Deadshot make for an oddly compelling pairing, reigned over from the actors last movie together.

It’s all a bit messy. Apart from Smith and Robbie you have a set of interesting characters with hardly any relationship to one another. Jai Courtney in his native Australian accent for once playing in a crappy studio Hollywood movie brings with him a funny and lighthearted personality that you believe as a tough guy without him trying too hard. He has a number of small moments in the film which seem to work just as the director intended them too, not overshadowing others and gamely playing a cog in the machine. Jay Hernandez as Diablo in a smaller part is surprisingly affecting but apart from Smith has no camaraderie with the rest of the squad. Viola Davis sells the hell out of her portrayal Amanda Waller that rivals CCH Pounder (who voiced on the Batman animated series and video games) when she time and time again is given tough unbelievable dialogue to chew through. She bites her way through with authority. Finally Jared Leto is good in a surprisingly minor role as the joker, giving a fresh exciting interpretation that builds atop the topsy-turvy pile of excellent performances from previous actors in the role. The controversy from his initial reveal, as one writer on the AV Club remarked how could a character like that sit still with all those fancy tattoos which seemed out of character is answered in a club scene which shows how he calmly moves. Its off-putting in just the right way that’s not as overblown as you’d expect but again his relationship with the other characters barely apart from Harley Quin is non-existent. I would like to see for a potential sequel what’s left of the squad be hired by him to take on the Batman. (Don’t forget, they’re the bad guys.)

An excellently distinct 2nd trailer:

I don’t quite see the racism or misogyny like Vox or Vanity Fair pointed out. As far as I’m concerned, back-to-back punches from established bad guys to prison guards who happen to be female is a punch towards equality and the off-hand nature of it shouldn’t be the focus of it a movie that’s plenty not great for other reasons. What is more one or more of those characters get served in more ways than one later on. There’s a possible argument to be made for racism wherein a white character remarks to another white character wanting to celebrate with grape soda. I would imagine by that stretch if referring to the black stereotype of wanting grape soda is a criticism of appropriating black culture that other outlets have mentioned, that critique is racist itself. Most people in America at least tend to focus on racism in film as a binary black and white and I think that area is covered in this respect by the mediated presence of Will Smith lightly calling out to it at times, and especially Viola Davis who is shown like him to be just as capable if not more and well-drawn. Not mentioned above is the character of Japanese Katana and Native-American Slipknot who are offhand introduced and given the narrative short end of the stick, but I’d be surprised if the media covered this as a facet of racism rather than a product of a lazy narrative decision.

Finally in terms of performances, we get to the weak links. The romantic presence of Rick Flagg and Dr. June Moon a.k.a. the Enchantress is lacking. As we’ve seen on The Killing it takes a long time to form out a soul in Joel Kinnaman, and for what he’s given either due to choppy editing or being just out of his speed of acting range I didn’t believe their romance. I do not like Cara Delevingne, here she’s a good example of what Margot Robbie would be like if she had no acting talent or charisma comparing their two ‘romances’. The latter is given very little directly and makes more out of it. If you wanna be defensive on this the latter does have 2 years life experience and four extra years acting experience. And to be fair the role is much to take on for anyone playing two characters that are choppily edited together. But to be fair if the rumours are true, what the hell was David Ayer thinking when he was the first to cast her before any details were settled? This would have been before Paper Towns came out. So either likely the studio thought she was what’s sexy right now and cast her in the best possible role, or he just wanted her.

So how much of the blame of the movie falls at his feet? He wrote the script (in 6 weeks) and the story messes up what could have been a straightforward plot. He draws good performances out of most of the principal actors. There was an apparent rotating panel of editors (Lee Smith did some uncredited work) but that didn’t hurt Furious 7. For the studios fault WB seems to have no idea and is trying to catch up their films to Marvel. To quote Michael Caine’s Alfred “[I]n their desperation they turned to someone they didn’t fully understand.” Why would you hire a director who never made more than a half-decent film (End of Watch is an 8/10) and has been rehashing the same type of film again and again. Ayer fetishizes gun violence at the gang level, whereas Zack Snyder is more militia minded. Warner Bros. would have been better served to hire the longtime studio loyal Clint Eastwood to direct this dirty-dozen type story and have it written by someone else like Fast & Furious scribe Chris Morgan or Iron Man 3 & Rogue Nation‘s Drew Pearce. How about latter Hunger Games team Peter Craig and Danny Strong? Perhaps Drew Goddard is too busy.

Critics saying to Ayer: “Better luck next time!” For the record Scott Eastwood (left) is barely in the film. Maybe for things like this. Not that it gains or loses much, but I did wonder where Director Ayer (right) placed him and his crew half the time anytime they weren’t on-screen with the Squad. Continuity and a sense of time and place is what killed this film with most critics.


Rating: 5.5/10

Speculation and Notes:

  • Excellent: Smith, Robbie, Davis, Leto, Courtney/ Ho-hum: Kinnaman, Delevingne.
  • The first two trailer makers deserve a raise.
  • Joker’s role was reduced perhaps for plot, saved for future movies, or fan backlash.
  • Ayer was… not a great choice for director, at least it could have been worse.
  • The studio added more jokes in reshoots, not a bad choice.
  • Reliance of licensed songs added a contrived feeling to the spirit of the film.
  • Some people have compared the tone and style of the movie as catering to 7-14 year old boys hopped up on sugar who can’t seem to sit still. How perfect then, that I had a 7-year old boy hopped up on sugar burping and bouncing in his chair beside me unable to sit, while still making this sound with his fountain drink. I was unable to ask him what he thought of it.
  • I probably wasn’t able to ask him what he thought of it after midway through the film I politely in a whispered tone told the dad to please tell his son to settle down. In response he starkly told me in an upset tone and regular voice his son’s age. To which I reiterated his logic back at him. 10 mins. later he quietly told his son to settle down.
  • I remember before I was 7 in July of 2000, when the Cineplex opened I went to see X-MEN. My dad gave me and my brothers a chocolate bar before the film and I am sure I wasn’t as bad as that. Dad also thought Suicide Squad was ho-hum.

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