Suicide Squad review – no death sentence needed

Suicide Squad is solid entry in DC’s movie franchise

There’s a silly narrative going out that the future of DC’s Cinematic Universe is riding on the success of Suicide Squad. That’s the problem in attempting to scale the connected comic book peak Marvel Studios has dominated since 2008. The comparisons will remain slanted in Marvel’s favor as Warner Bros/DC tries to catch up in the shortest amount of time possible.

Suicide Squad didn’t need to be anything more than another fun and entertaining entry in the DC movie universe. For better or worse for DC fans/haters, that’s exactly what Suicide Squad delivers.

Suicide Squad movie - Viola Davis as Amanda Waller-min

Following up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with Suicide Squad was risky. In hindsight, Wonder Woman definitely should have been the next film on deck to take advantage of her strong buzz post Dawn of Justice. The Suicide Squad is more on the fringe scale of the main DC Universe like the Guardians of the Galaxy, which was the eighth film in the MCU. Suicide Squad doesn’t have the benefit of an easily aggravated raccoon or talking tree to gain crossover appeal. But Margot Robbie in her Harley Quinn outfit isn’t bad.

Motivated by Superman’s actions and the potential threat of more metahumans, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a team. This Task Force X isn’t comprised of Super Friends, but a team of expandable skilled and super-powered criminals that no one will miss.

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Unleashing an acting powerhouse like Davis is almost unfair. Her Amber Waller is one of the most perfectly realized comic book to big screen characters yet. Waller is ruthless, cunning and secretive. There’s been some justified complaints about way off the mark portrayals of some DC characters’ big screen versions, but Waller is dead on.

Enlisting decorated soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, Robocop) to lead the team, Waller gathers an eclectic squad. There’s Deadshot (Will Smith, Focus), an assassin who can’t miss; fire-controlling El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), magic wielder The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and the boomerang tossing Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).

Suicide Squad movie - Common, The Joker and Harley Quinn-min

But the most dangerous member of the crew is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street), The Joker’s longtime girlfriend/partner in crime. Waller sets up contingency plans to help Flag keep them in line — an explosive device and loyal operative Katana (Karen Fukuhara).

In trying to generate excitement for the film, Warner Bros. released way too many trailers. Nothing major is spoiled, but a lot of the fun, character moments would have been nice to see for the first time in the movie. Almost immediately called into action, the Squad finds themselves in a battle against an immensely powerful opponent that tests their loyalties and abilities.

After complaints BvS was too dark, Director/Writer David Ayer makes a point to inject a lighter tone. At times the occasional forced humor backfires, which is understanding given the team makeup.

Suicide Squad movie -Diablo, Boomerang, Croc, Harley, Deadshot, Flag and Katana-min

Cracking wise works fine for Harley Quinn, not so much for Killer Croc. Ayer mostly hits the right mix of character interplay. The setup takes some time and there’s some cannon fodder that has to be dealt with, but once the Squad becomes the sole focus, the film finds its footing and gets really entertaining.

For all the initial apprehension about the tatted up, teeth grill design Jared Leto’s Joker is tremendous. Leto didn’t try to top Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger’s performances. The Joker is one of those characters available to multiple interpretations so it’s hard to get wrong. Beyond the appearance, Leto’s Joker is the comic book version come to life. He’s unhinged, unpredictable and menacing.

Despite what the trailers would indicate, The Joker isn’t actually that big a presence in the film. The Joker could have easily overshadowed everyone. Instead, he’s utilized just enough to whet our appetite for the next cinematic showdown of Batman and The Joker. Ben Affleck has a terrific cameo further proving casting him as Batman was an excellent decision.

Suicide Squad movie -Harley Quinn and the Joker-min

With such a large cast, Ayer had to be mindful of giving everyone enough screen time. The film occasionally becomes too focused on Smith, the downside of hiring such a high-profile actor in an ensemble. Deadshot is a character better served not being as talkative or invested in his teammates. As expected, Robbie was a standout. I definitely wanted to see more scenes with her playing off Leto. There’s a terrific nod for longtime Harley fans as well.

One area where the film failed to match its counterparts was the music. The soundtrack is mostly distracting with some ill-fitting choices.

Suicide Squad’s PG-13 rating seemed extraordinarily generous. There’s no Tarantino levels bloody sprays and f-bombs, but the film happily dances on the PG-13 and R threshold. The big mid-movie battle is chaotically shot and devolves into one big shootout with rapid fire editing. It’s not helped by some uninspired designs for the enemy’s grunt soldiers.

Suicide Squad movie -Suicide Squad-min

Ayer fares much better with the climactic battle. He stages one of the better choreographed team fight scenes in a comic book film. It actually played out like a squad using teamwork to defeat their enemy.

Mainstream success might be a tall order for Suicide Squad. Fans already familiar with the team and concept should find it a solid film adaptation. It’s not perfect, but it’s another entertaining addition to the DC Cinematic Universe.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Photo Credit: Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment

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