The Watchers

The Watchers

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Review: Suicide Squad (UK Cert 15)

SPOILER WARNING! This review discusses and/or mentions a few important plot points. If you would prefer not to have these spoiled, please stop reading now and come back once you've seen the film.

Set after the events of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Suicide Squad tells the tale of Task Force X- a clandestine group of the worst of the worst- brought together to combat any further metahuman attacks. These include sharpshooting sniper Deadshot (Will Smith), Australian criminal Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the deformed Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Latino firestarter El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), ancient witch Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and the unhinged Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). However, when a member of their own team turns against them, the squad is forced into action to save Midway City from destruction.

First off, let me say this: I enjoyed Suicide Squad more than I enjoyed Batman V Superman. Suicide Squad has several moments of levity and humour which were sorely lacking from the previous film. The camerawork has improved as well- not so much reliance on kinetic shakycam which is always a plus in my books- and there are a lot of decent performances. That said, there's still a lot that I disliked about the film.

My main gripe? An over-reliance on 'tell, don't show'- a cardinal error in any form of screenwriting- and far too many characters. A lot of characters get stiffed as far as characterisation goes (for instance, the character Slipknot is introduced only to be killed off a few minutes later). We are told about Katana's soul-sucking sword but don't really get to see it in action. We are told about the relationship between Harley and the Joker but only get to see snippets. Aside from one bit at the end where he swims beneath a flooded chamber, Killer Croc has very little to do (and that bit could have been reworked to accommodate a different character). Fewer characters would have meant a bit more time fleshing out the ones we're supposed to care about and empathise with.

The acting is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some superb performances and some pretty wooden ones. Several characters get lumbered with some pretty clunky dialogue, which it's difficult to make sound interesting or natural. The main victim of this is Joel Kinnaman. Rick Flag has a permascowl and major antagonism with Deadshot which tends to revolve around dialogue which goes 'I don't like you', 'Well, I don't like you' and... that's about it. You never once believe in his relationship with Dr. June Moone- Enchantress' alter ego and hands-down the worst archaeologist in the world- which is his primary motivation to be onboard with this crazy scheme (again, I think it doesn't work because it once again falls under 'tell, don't show'.)

Cara Delevingne is frankly miscast as Enchantress; she doesn't have the screen presence or the acting chops to pull off playing the main villain- all she has to do prior to the big showdown is spout some cod philosophy and gyrate on the spot. And whilst we are on the subject of villains, Jared Leto's Joker- who has featured very heavily in pre-release marketing and advertising- is maybe on screen for about 15 minutes, but that's more than enough as his mannered tics started to grate on me a little. Bizarrely, it felt like watching the Joker being played by Johnny Depp in a later Tim Burton movie. Leto's look is quite something- I can see cosplayers having a ball with it- but the substance is not quite there. Leto is reportedly upset with the amount of his material excised from the final cut and has distanced himself from the project somewhat.

But it's not all bad- Will Smith is at his wise-cracking best as Deadshot (it's probably his best performance in years) whilst Jay Hernandez gives a decent turn as a man desperate to keep his powers under control for fear of letting loose and hurting people again. However, my favourite performances come from Margot Robbie- who gets the lion's share of the laughs and is quirky without being annoying- and Viola Davis who is steely and strong as the Squad's boss Amanda Waller, a woman you disobey at your peril.

Stylistically, it's interesting- the introduction to the various members of the squad is done with some funky on-screen visuals. However, it falls foul of Batman V Superman syndrome in shooting the majority of the final scene in poor lighting, making it difficult to see what's going on. There's also some kind of shoddy CG work on the mindless bubble-headed creatures that Enchantress spawns towards the end. The Batman and Flash cameos work without being too intrusive and the mid-credits scene- between Bruce Wayne and Amanda Waller- hints at some interesting things to come. But, just as with Batman V Superman, it does feel as if DCEU are trying too hard to create an ongoing linked cinema franchise. A little more subtlety wouldn't go amiss.

One thing I do want to highlight is the use of music. There's an eclectic soundtrack ranging from 'Sympathy For The Devil' to Eminem's 'Without Me' with pitstops for Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid', The White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army' and a sadly pared down 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. It's frenetic and constantly chopping and changing but provides an interesting backdrop. But where was 'Ballroom Blitz'?

My gold standard for deciding how much I enjoyed a film is: do I want to see the film again in the cinema and do I want to own it on DVD? Sadly, when it comes to Suicide Squad, the answer is no. There's a lot I enjoyed about it but I don't see me coming back for repeated viewings.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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