Sunday, August 14, 2016

Suicide Squad (2016)

Director: David Ayer
Notable Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Alain Chanoine, Jim Parrack, Common

In the grand aspect of all things cinema, Suicide Squad is going to go down in the history books as one of the more fascinating films in the age of superhero film spectacle. With all of the behind the scenes drama, rumors, and confusion about what this film should be, what Warner Bros wanted it to be, what fans wanted from it, and what it is, it’s amazing that the end product is even as entertaining as it is. Of course, it’s not the kind of shit storm film that the stories and end product ended up being with Fantastic Four, so there is that for whatever comfort that gives its audience. Suicide Squad is entertaining on plenty of levels even if the end result is something of a scattered mess. In fact, when compared to its other DC Universe brethren like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, it’s the best that Warner Bros. and DC have released thus far…which is not necessarily a good claim to be making considering the end product that made it to the screen.

Amanda Waller (Davis) has a brilliant idea. With Superman gone, American needs to prepare for the worst and it’s going to take the worst to do it. She assembles a sort of ‘dirty dozen’ list of some meta-humans with powers and skills to create a last ditch effort team to battle the greater of two evils if they so show up. When one of her chosen members of her ‘Suicide Squad’ goes rogue though, she has to call on her military commander Rick Flag (Kinnaman) to gather the troupes and send them into Mid City and seal the deal. Getting them to cooperate is going to be hard enough, but having them fight off a god-like villain? That’s suicide.

As the credits rolled on Suicide Squad and I waited to see the mid-credits scene, it was hard not to feel somewhat sad about the film. Suicide Squad as a concept is bred for a fun film and in the end, at least, that’s what this film can be. If you go in with low expectations and just buckle in for the ride, this film serves its purpose. It blows through its runtime with an almost frantic pacing, barely taking any side plots for a breather once the basis of the film is laid out, and it rapid fires out cartoonish characters and silly detailing like its nothing, letting it either strike home with its audience or be carried off in its typhoon-esque ADD narrative.  If there is anything that it truly has going for it, it’s that it tries very hard to be entertaining. Almost all of the dialogue between the ensemble cast are one liners and most of the performances are charming – if not too charming as they try to cover up much of the film’s lacking character arcs and depth. To be frank, I had fun watching the film and I certainly had fun pointing out its massive flaws and laughing as it simply brushes them off as if they were nothing. Suicide Squad didn’t have time for my critical analysis, it was too busy blasting things with its extended action sequences, spouting off one liners, and being as faux-edgy as possible.

It’s too bad that this is what Suicide Squad is as a film. Popcorn flick, sure, but there was certainly something else underneath all of that worthy of its massive budget. An audience member knows this because there are these thoughtful bubbles of darkness and humanity that slip through the slathering of entertainment. A throw away character like Diablo has a very dark and horrific back story that’s explored briefly for a strong effect in the film. Jared Leto absolutely kills it as a modern gangster take on The Joker, who’s main focus – unfortunately - seems to be as a love subplot for Harley Quinn (which goes against almost everything I know about the Joker/Quinn relationship as a sort of Stendhal Syndrome and manipulation one, but that is beside the point) and misses a lot of potential to layer the film further. Even Deadshot, played in a charming Will Smith playing Will Smith manner, gets hints of a much more robust character even if his real life daughter who plays his character’s daughter does it with all the acting grace of a true willow tree trunk. It’s too bad that there are too many characters for the film to really explore because all of them are interesting in some basic ways. A character like Harley Quinn is fascinating, but this film plays her for eye candy more than anything else. If the structure of the film wasn’t so spastic in its forced flash backs and the needless addition of characters that really have no reason to be there (Captain Boomerang serves NO purpose other than to be a scrappy series of jokes), this film might have fared much better and had time to develop its smaller cast in the moment.

Jokes on the haters. He's the best thing about this film.
David Ayer is one of the more talented directors and writers working in Hollywood currently and it’s easy to see how this film undercuts all of his skills and talents in forcing the film to be the entertaining popcorn flick it is. Watching Fury or End of Watch indicates why he was a good choice for this film initially and those Ayer elements certainly bubble up occasionally, but Suicide Squad never really feels like his film. In the end, it’s an entertaining flick (unintentionally and intentionally) with its fast pacing and strong moments, but it’s also completely undermined by a horrific and scattered narrative and strong hand focus on making things as quirky as possible with the rest to be damned. Keep a proper mind set going in and have fun, but don’t necessarily take it as seriously as it should be or you might end up feeling the same kind of sadness I did as the credits rolled.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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