Will Smith

Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

Earlier this year, DC Films started its serious attempt at creating an expanded universe to combat the one that rival Marvel Studios already has in place. They kicked things of with the critically-maligned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in preparation for their upcoming Justice League films. I sat through that two-and-a-half hour slog, actually finding myself somewhat drawn to the storyline and to the characters we have seen portrayed on-screen time and again. I ultimately blasted the film for its climactic bait-and-switch which took away any possibility for DC to make a bold statement within the superhero film genre that would have stood in stark opposition to the seemingly happy-go-lucky Marvel fare we have seen over the past eight years. One of the key crosses that DC bears in the creation of its films is this idea that they must be the darker alternative to their more light-hearted counterpart. As a result, their films have lacked a true sense of fun and adventure, but the studio hoped their newest installment might be the one to break that dreary mold. 

Suicide Squad opens with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a military operative attempting to craft a plan for keeping America safe from future meta-human threats in the wake of Superman's death. She plans to assemble a team of dangerous criminals forced into taking high-risk missions on behalf of the government. The team, emotionally led by an elite hitman known as Deadshot (Will Smith) and a deranged psychiatrist named Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), must fall in line behind Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) as an ancient menace begins terrorizing Midway City in a plot that could spell doom for the entire world. The group of hardened and seedy individuals must then decide whether their own personal proclivities overpower the needs of the rest of the world before time runs out. 

Let's just cut to the chase: Suicide Squad is a terrible movie. I'll get more into the specifics in just a moment, but the film simply illustrates a summation of cataclysmic factors that generate one of the worst filmgoing experiences I have seen in quite some time. Below-par movies oftentimes manage to have some sort of silver lining or saving grace, but Suicide Squad earns the rare distinction of being an all-around stinker. Let's figure out just what fails, shall we? 

If a film can only be as strong as its screenplay, then Suicide Squad must have been made with particle board. I'll discuss the issues and concerns with the movie's cast and stylistic choices momentarily, but every aspect of the film ultimately suffers as a result of an abysmal script that simply doesn't allow the actors or the story any room to breathe. The film opens with an overly long introductory segment in which Viola Davis's character runs through the members of her brand new "bad guy" task force. These rapid-fire cut scenes play like the lineup introduction during an NFL broadcast, complete with a list of stats and misdemeanors for each and every character. Rather than allowing the audience to meet the characters organically over the course of the film, we are given a rush-cut of their personas and ideals right from the start in the hopes that skimming through these introductions will allow the main storyline to hold the film's focus. The film's opening feels sloppy and rushed, but I hoped that the lack of attention to these introductory moments might give way to a decent storyline filled with the lighthearted humor that a DC film so desperately needed. What we get instead, however, is a plot so ridiculously muddled that it seems as though the characters themselves can't keep it straight. 

The cast does its absolute best to elevate itself above the atrocities the screenplay presents them, but there's only so much an actor can do with awful material. Will Smith plays himself here, bringing a little bit of his personal flavor to the criminal-with-a-heart-of-gold character we have seen so many times before. Margot Robbie portrays a perfectly adequate Harleen Quinzel, and to her credit, she seems to be having the most fun with her character. Aside from the lack of true characterization, my biggest gripe with her performance lies in the fact that her accent slipped on more than one occasion throughout the film. As you may have heard, Jared Leto has infamously taken on the Joker persona, portraying the character on-screen for the first time since the passing of the late Heath Ledger. All of the marketing for Suicide Squad played as though the Joker would be a central figure throughout the film, but in the final cut, he's simply resigned to chasing after his honey bunny Harley. In the few scenes in which Leto actually appears, he hams it up, leaving his performance feeling over-the-top and borderline pretentious. Reports have surfaced that a number of his scenes were cut from the final film product, and perhaps a more fleshed-out Joker would have presented a stronger performance. As it currently stands, however, it feels more like piecemeal than anything else. We can round out the stars of the film with Viola Davis, who brings a seemingly strong character out of the muck. Her screen presence alone makes her a minor shine in the film, but everything else just leaves her star power dwarfed. 

The remainder of the cast rests on a spectrum ranging from under-utilized to absolutely atrocious. Jay Henandez's Diablo just might be the film's best-written character, receiving an actual arc over the course of the story. In contrast, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's Killer Croc might receive the slightest amount of background information; all I gathered about the character was that he is some sort of mutated individual who now eats other humans for fun. Jai Courtney shows up and actually plays against type (in that his normal "type" is stoic and dull), but I never really got a sense of his character's motivations. Cara Delevingne plays both sides of the field, but that simply means she offers her awful performance to both the good guys and the bad guys in what culminates in the movie's worst performance. Joel Kinnaman, Kara Fukuhara, and Adam Beach round out the principal cast, but each proves to be either mediocre or forgettable. Again, most of the blame of this film must lie with the screenplay itself, but even so, this cast offers up a slew of poor performances. 

Suicide Squad also offers a number of peculiar stylistic choices that don't necessarily work with the end result. The cinematography can be characterized as colorfully murky, presenting a grimy world that still hopes to show some bright flash aimed at keeping viewers invested. Suicide Squad does take a step away from the full-on dreariness that Zack Snyder has crafted with his Superman entries, but this one never feels like it does quite enough to bring it completely out of that darker atmosphere. The musical choices also left me scratching my head. The film takes a page from the Guardians of the Galaxy playbook by offering a number of catchy and recognizable rock and pop songs meant to draw the viewers interest. Unlike its Marvel counterpart, however, these song selections are not used to enhance the film or add to the storyline; instead, they seem haphazardly placed simply as a veiled attempt at keeping the audience engaged. 

All of its flaws aside, Suicide Squad simply proves to be a slog of a film. I know that I have been an outspoken opponent of the superhero genre in general, and I know that I clearly do not fall into the key demographic for this realm of movies. In addition to the diehard comic book fans itching to see their favorite characters on-screen, studios mainly market these movies to adolescent boys looking for explosions and edgy - but not inappropriate - humor. I'm sure that plenty of people in that group enjoyed Suicide Squad, but I also saw a thirteen-year-old in a seat near me fall asleep halfway through the film. Suicide Squad is a boring, muddled mess of a movie, and all you DC fans deserve so much better. 

The Shaunies, 2006

Below are the nominees and winners (in bold) from the 2006 Shaunie Awards. Enjoy!

Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

A Scanner Darkly
Superman Returns
V for Vendetta

Barry Ackroyd, United 93
Dean Semler, Apocalypto
Emmanuel Lubezki, Children of Men
Guillermo Navarro, Pan's Labyrinth
Tom Stern, Letters from Iwo Jima

Brad Paisley, "Find Yourself," Cars
Chris Cornell & David Arnold, "You Know My Name," Casino Royale
D. Katz, Gabe Saporta, Sam Hollander, & Travie McCoy, " Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)," Snakes on a Plane
Jack Black & Kyle Gass, "The Pick of Destiny," Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny
Prince, "The Song of the Heart," Happy Feet

Howard Shore, The Departed
James Horner, Apocalypto
Javier Navarrete, Pan's Labyrinth
Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens, Letters from Iwo Jima
Thomas Newman, Little Children

Bill Nighy, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Earl Mann, Idiocracy
Paul Newman, Cars
Robin Williams, Happy Feet
Will Lyman, Little Children

Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Ivana Baquero, Pan's Labyrinth
Jaden Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Juno Temple, Notes on a Scandal
Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson

David Slade, Hard Candy
James McTeigue, V for Vendetta
Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking
Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine
Rian Johnson, Brick

The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
Stranger Than Fiction
United 93

Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Jennifer Connelly, Little Children
Julianne Moore, Children of Men
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stranger Than Fiction
Vera Farmiga, The Departed

Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Michael Caine, Children of Men
Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine

Ellen Page, Hard Candy
Emma Thompson, Stranger Than Fiction
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Ken Watanabe, Letters from Iwo Jima
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness

Christopher Nolan & Jonathan Nolan, The Prestige
Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
Rian Johnson, Brick
Russell Gewirtz, Inside Man
Zach Helm, Stranger Than Fiction

Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Paul Greengrass, United 93
Richard Eyre, Notes on a Scandal

The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Notes on a Scandal

Pan's Labyrinth
United 93

The Shaunies, 1997

Below is a list of the nominees and winners (in bold) from the 1997 Shaunie Awards. Enjoy!

The Fifth Element
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Men in Black
Starship Troopers

Dante Spinotti, L.A. Confidential
Harris Savides, The Game
Robert Elswit, Boogie Nights
Russell Carpenter, Titanic
Slawomir Idziak, Gattaca

Alan Menken & David Zippel, "Go the Distance," Hercules
Diane Warren, "How Do I Live," Con Air
Fred Washington, Patrice Rushen, Terry McFadden, & Will Smith, "Men in Black," Men in Black
James Horner & Will Jennings, "My Heart Will Go On," Titanic
Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty, "Journey to the Past," Anastasia

Danny Elfman, Men in Black
David Newman, Anastasia
James Horner, Titanic
Michael Nyman, Gattaca
Patrick Doyle, Donnie Brasco

Christopher Lloyd, Anastasia
James Woods, Hercules
John Cleese, George of the Jungle
John Cunningham, Starship Troopers
Tim Blaney, Men in Black

Andrew Khalimon, Kolya
Christina Ricci, The Ice Storm
Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Wild America
Kevin Zegers, Air Bud
Vanessa Lee Chester, The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Andrew Niccol, Gattaca
Dale Rosenbloom, Shiloh
Gore Verbinski, MouseHunt
Raja Gosnell, Home Alone 3
Simon West, Con Air

Boogie Nights
The Ice Storm
Jackie Brown
L.A. Confidential

Bridget Fonda, Jackie Brown
Christina Ricci, The Ice Storm
Heather Graham, Boogie Nights
Kathy Bates, Titanic
Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential

Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights
Jude Law, Gattaca
Kevin Spacey, L.A. Confidential
Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting
Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Brown

Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets
Joan Allen, The Ice Storm
Joey Lauren Adams, Chasing Amy
Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights
Kate Winslet, Titanic

Ethan Hawke, Gattaca
Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets
Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights
Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting
Russell Crowe, L.A. Confidential

Andrew Niccol, Gattaca
Ben Affleck & Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting
Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential
James Schamus, The Ice Storm
Paul Thomas Anderson, Boogie Nights

Ang Lee, The Ice Storm
Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential
Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting
James Cameron, Titanic
Paul Thomas Anderson, Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights

Good Will Hunting
The Ice Storm

L.A. Confidential