Cool elements, brilliant action sequences and moving backstories all stitched together in a compelling way. Characters that aren’t just there to make up the numbers, but are actually a vital part of the narrative. A storyline that coheres and flows smoothly.
These are just some of the things that Suicide Squad could really, really have done with. Instead, director David Ayer follows in the footsteps of Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder by starting off very promisingly, before Suicide Squad collapses into a mess of guns, destruction and senselessness.
Which is a real pity, given that there are many good things about Suicide Squad, undercut by its more muddled, confused elements. For example, there are laugh out loud moments (“Stupid Bats, you’re ruining date night!” roars Harley Quinn), but the humour is too often misplaced. Ayer literally tacks on one cool song after another in successive scenes, which leaves you tapping your feet – and then wondering what the point of it all is.
The premise itself is simple enough: A group of incarcerated supervillains is assembled to carry out a vital mission for the government, in exchange for clemency. Or as one character puts it, the fate of the nation is left to a collection of witches, gangbangers and crocodiles.
After the first excellent 20 minutes, we go straight into the crux of the story, with nary a pause for breath. Of the ensemble, the standouts are Will Smith’s Deadshot (giving an excellent performance as Will Smith), Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (embodying a comic book character in a way not seen since RDJ and Iron Man) and above all else, Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller.
Waller is the true woman of steel, channelling her How To Get Away With Murder persona as the cold, calculating figurehead who brings the squad together. Asked what happened when Deadshot was put in jail, she coolly replies: “Let’s just say we put him in a hole and threw the hole away.”
So what of the rest of the ensemble, essentially a random collection of characters, some of whom literally come out of nowhere? (Hello, Slipknot! Goodbye, Slipknot!) Jared Leto’s Joker is a real letdown, all flash and look-at-how-crazy-I-am and very little substance. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg is little more than the good looking military man. And…that’s it. Everyone else is forgettable, despite individual cool moments.
Your irritation will grow as the movie goes on, above all when you reach the climax. Every big bad has a goal and a scheme for getting there, but believe me when I tell you that you will have trouble figuring out just what it is. Even the blink-and-you’ll-miss it cameos of Batman and Ezra Miller’s Flash aren’t enough to make up for this.
While we’ve spoken of the bad influence of Zack Snyder (who serves as executive producer here), it’s worth looking back at Ayer’s breakout movie Fury, which was also an ensemble movie with great action and a messy story. And given The Hollywood Reporter’s report on the different pressures Ayer was subject to, perhaps it’s no surprise that Suicide Squad turned out this way.
Suicide Squad opens in Singapore today. Tell us what you think of the movie!