Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie and Viola Davis
For more than a year, Jared Leto’s antics to show how he prepared for the role of The Joker have dominated the discussion of Suicide Squad. To discuss the movie was to discuss how he sent used condoms, anal beads or a dead hog to cast mates. The marketing hype behind his capital P Performance was nauseating and annoying, and pretty (sorry) laughable given how much screen time he has.
Leto’s take on the Clown Prince of Crime takes up 10 minutes of Suicide Squad, if that. He appears mostly in the flashbacks for Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a former psychiatrist he twisted into joining his criminal dealings. They are a pair of insane lovers, guided by raw impulse and a gleeful desire to create anarchy. Leto’s performance conveys this well enough, though it’s far from the most memorable take on this character. His Joker has a deep, focused stare that is often overcome with a broad, silver-toothed grin. Robbie fares much better as Quinn, a chaotic swirl of baseball bat swinging and demented giggling. She is a menacing, dominating screen presence, something director David Ayer utilizes well throughout the movie.
Suicide Squad itself is a rambunctious if not rambunctious enough tale of jailed super villains who are freed by the backroom government dealer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and forced to join a secret taskforce. Along with Quinn, there is Deadshot (Will Smith), a hitman with really good aim (yes, that’s his only power); Diablo (Jay Hernandez), who, you guessed it, can shoot fire out of his body; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a crocodile-human mutation; and Boomerang (Jai Courtney) who… throws a boomerang. The group of obviously-named villains is led by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a member of the agency who Waller manipulates just like everyone else on the team. There’s also Katana (Karen Fukuhara), who isn’t a criminal but joins Flag and the rest of the team anyway. Guess what her weapon of choice is?
The movie’s shaky first half spends way too much time introducing every member of the squad and overwhelming itself with its own soundtrack. There are 30-second spurts of songs by Queen, Kanye West and The White Stripes, but Ayer never does anything with them. If Suicide Squad had one well-edited fight sequence or montage set to one of these songs, it would be better than using all of them in useless, distracting ways.
Once the group arrives in the overrun Midway City, Suicide Squad fares much better. The villains are kept in check by an injection that allows Flag or Waller to kill them at a moment’s notice if they don’t obey. Even with this easy plot device, the movie falls into some sloppy storytelling, especially when one of the members is freed from the injection and rejoins on their own.
Suicide Squad‘s sloppiness also leads it to moments of twisted beauty, like Quinn twirling around on a rope that dangles beneath a recently-hijacked helicopter, cackling as the city burns. The movie would have fared better if it embraced its characters’ wickedness more often, rather than bending them to a standard world-saving narrative arc. Though Suicide Squad is serviceable, often entertaining action movie, it needed more actual villains instead of “villains.”