Do me a favor. Go back and read my review of Batman v Superman. Okay, fresh in your mind? Now, apply it all to Suicide Squad.
End of review.
Okay, so there is a bit more to it than that, but it’s pretty eerie how terrible Suicide Squad is, in so many of the same way BvS is. The plot is threadbare and confusing. The characters are poorly motivated. Neither film feels like the vision of a single Director, but rather a mish-mash of indigestible garbage cobbled together from focus groups and studio notes. If that’s not a red flag signaling studio interference on a franchise scale, I don’t know what is. If you’re plugged into the popular culture of modern Hollywood filmmaking at all, you’re aware that Suicide Squad went through major reshoots after the director, in this case David Ayer, turned in his cut to the studio. Rarely is this ever a good sign, and even more rare when the film in question turns out even remotely watchable. I think World War Z is the only case in recent memory whereas reported reshoots didn’t totally sink a film. The climax of that one isn’t flashy, but it’s mostly satisfying. Oh wait, Rogue One. Forgot about that one. Lots of reshoots, re-edits, etc., turned out pretty damn good. I’ll have a review of that up sometime soon.
Okay, reel in that tangent. Back to David Ayer. This is a filmmaker who wrote the first The Fast & The Furious. He wrote Training Day. He wrote Dark Blue, an obscure and endlessly entertaining yarn about modern gunslingers in the LAPD starring Kurt fucking Russell. Ayer also wrote and directed Street Kings, an underrated gem about police corruption in which Keanu Reeves actually emotes. He wrote and directed the absolutely fantastic End of Watch, another LA cop film. And he wrote and directed Fury, a WWII film that mostly takes place in a tank. You see what I’m getting at? This guy can do gritty, testosterone-driven ensemble pieces. Which is probably why Warner Brothers/DC hired him for Suicide Squad in the first place. What doesn’t make any goddamn sense is why, with that track record, they wouldn’t just step off and say, “You got this, Dave.” More on this in a minute.
Suicide Squad is a mess. To the point where scene to scene progressions don’t make any sense. You sit there thinking, “wait just a gd minute… how did all these characters get from point A to point B anyway?” The plot is a circular turd of a tale whereas the quote/unquote protagonist created the very threat she then assembles the team to combat. Much like the problematic Avengers: Age of Ultron, it’s hard to root for the good guys when the good guys are directly responsible for the bad guys in the first place. Unless that’s the whole damn point and believe me, when it comes to Suicide Squad, there is no discernible point.
Will Smith tries. Almost succeeds. How he manages to be watchable in this dreck is a true testament to the Fresh Prince’s on-screen charisma. Other reviewers out there also lauded Margot Robbie’s turn as Harley Quinn, but frankly I found her irritating. I hear there are to be spinoff films starring her as Quinn and I wish her luck, but I have little interest in anything focusing on Harley Quinn as a main protagonist. Even if it involves heavy doses of the Joker. Speaking of which…
If you go into Suicide Squad thinking the Joker is the main antagonist, as the trailers quite dishonestly lead you to believe, you’ll be sorely disappointed. He’s in it, sure. For like two seconds as part of Harley Quinn’s back story. Her and Deadshot (Will Smith) get some flashbacks to flesh out their characters. Nobody else does. Anyway, what can you say about Jared Leto’s Joker? Remember when you first saw Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight? Remember that feeling you had like you were witnessing the first true iteration of the Clown Prince of Crime in the way he was always intended? The way he captured the dichotomy of intensely cool calculations, fierce intelligence, coupled with pants-shitting insanity? The feeling he might literally explode at any minute, he’s that goddamn crazy? Totally buying that some rando dude with a painted face and no gadgets was somehow not only equal to Batman, but in some ways superior? Leto’s version is nothing like that. He bugs his eyes out, he laughs and such, he sounds like someone mixed Caesar Romero and Heather Ledger’s performances into a derivative crap-fest. Also, Hollywood Studio types and casting agents, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, when you cast an actor who looks like a fart would knock him off his feet, physical intimidation and an imposing personality become impossible. I’m looking at you, Tom “Jack Reacher” Cruise.
I’d love to see a David Ayer Director’s Cut. I don’t think it’ll ever see the light of day. I don’t think Warner Brothers would allow it. But man, i bet it’s a hell of a lot better than the garbage they released in theaters. You have to wonder why studios hire auteur type filmmakers for these big budget tent pole films if they’re just gonna tie their hands behind their backs and make a movie by committee. As I wrote earlier, David Ayer has a history of making exactly this kind of film and making them stinking well. Why not let him make it? Lack of conviction? Lack of courage? A fundamental misunderstanding of what movie-going audiences are looking for? Or, more likely, a ploy to get butts in the seats and a blatant disregard for final quality knowing they’ll make back their entire production and marketing budgets in a week oversees. Cynical, but probably true. Just look at recent history. Josh Trank makes the fantastic Chronicle on an indie film budget, gets hired for what is supposed to be the definitive Fantastic Four film. Look how that turned out. Ever see Monsters? An excellent independent genre film by Gareth Edwards. He went on to direct the flat and tone deaf Godzilla remake. Of course, he totally shit all over my theory when they released Rogue One, also directed by Edwards. And as long as we’re touching on Star Wars… awhile back, Colin Trevorrow made a little gem called Safety Not Guaranteed and then gets hired to make Jurassic World, which played like a bigger budgeted (if that’s even possible) remake of Jurassic Park. Totally homogenized and forgettable in every way (even though it made a bejillion dollars and I normally love Chris Pratt). Not a good sign for Star Wars Episode VIII, but at least Ryan Johnson is responsible for the screenplay. Speaking of which, how about the guy who made fucking Brick getting hired to write Episode VIII and write & direct Episode IX. We’ll have to wait and see if Disney can pull their heads out of their asses long enough to let the man who created Looper give us what we can only hope is a truly original Star Wars film we’ve all been waiting for. I think we can all agree that The Force Awakens felt far too familiar.
Okay, got off topic there for a bit. Let’s just cut to the chase. I am having a hard time finding any reason for anybody outside of diehard DC fans to sit through Suicide Squad. It sucks.