Vol. 9, No. 23 – August 17 – August 30, 2016 – Movie Review

Suicide Squad/ ½ Palm Tree
by Eduardo Victoria/eduardovictory@yahoo.com

In theory, Suicide Squad represents a combustible amount of rich possibilities perfect for smart, counter programming and an irreverent middle finger to superhero status quo. And who better to helm a film about broken and desperate criminals than director David Ayer, whose street savvy direction has always used grit to serve as a reflection of humanity’s darkest frailties. Neither concept or Ayer can salvage this mess of a film however, one so obviously mishandled by studio intervention and warring with itself between each schizophrenic frame.

In the wake of Superman’s death, the world is bracing for new superhuman threats. Enter intelligence operative Amanda Waller, whose plan is to assemble a team including the worst of the worst, forcing criminals with nothing to lose the opportunity to do something good. The other obvious advantage being, that if they die during a dangerous mission, no one will miss them. This team of unwitting baddies includes Joker’s imprisoned lover Harley Quinn, skilled mercenary Deadshot, pyrokinetic gangster El Diablo, a thief named Captain Boomerang and a cannibal creature named Killer Croc. When a metahuman named Enchantress takes Midway City captive, the team is sent in to save a high priority target. Along the way, Joker is trying to reunite with Harley, while the team’s own aversion to each other and their mission may be their downfall.

There’s barely any plot with the first act being an extended montage of character introductions which are messy and choppy, before the team engages in a tedious and repetitious cycle of punch/shoot/kick action against faceless hordes protecting a generic portal in the sky. In fact, the film in general feels like an endless montage of ideas with fleeting character beats which don’t have time to breathe, cramming in relentless pop tunes that don’t mix to force a tone that’s strictly at odds with the hinted struggle of each character.

There are two performances that anchor this mess. As the film’s center, Will Smith’s Deadshot gets most of the focus and thrives within a tragic character. Smith’s charm and charisma is on full blast, even as a bad guy who’s taken the wrong route to protect the ones he loves. The other bright spot is Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo. He’s the only character who wants to escape his dark past and is one of the few sincere characters in the film.

Margot Robbie stumbles as Harley Quinn. At this day and age, her representation feels dated and lazy, is it really too much to ask for a reexamination of the character and an earnest look at the implications of her tortured romance with the Joker? As for Joker, Jared Leto is terrible, his style and makeup are so distracting and goofy, he comes across as tame and too theatrical for his own good. There’s no sense of danger or anarchy within him, he just seems like a try-hard gangster who likes to wear makeup, and we never believe his love for Harley – they have no chemistry together, and his scenes have no bearing on the plot at all.

In the attempt to overcompensate and deliver a crowd pleaser in response to BvS’ bleak slog, Suicide Squad is another stinker, again taking the wrong approach to the wrong movie. Without a genuine threat and characters who fail to live up to their infamous personas, the film plays out like a cartoon that doesn’t understand its power. In truth, it doesn’t seem fair to review the film or hold its faults against it, because it doesn’t even feel finished. For a film about villains who’ve commanded fear without compromise, a goofy film that takes half-measures with its approach doesn’t seem right.

Rated PG-13. 126 minutes. Now playing at Cinemark Downtown 10.

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