Suicide Squad (2016)
★★ / ★★★★
David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” has an approach problem. Despite the picture being about villainous persons forcibly recruited by the government to be of some use to society, what it offers is a standard action film fare with a whole lot of shooting and explosions but not enough thoughts and compelling motivations. What results is a forgettable mediocrity, extremely frustrating given the talent involved from in front and behind the camera.
Think of classic video games where avatars are controlled from left to right. Throughout our journey to the showdown with the big bad at the end, we are provided physical challenges such as henchmen and pitfalls. It were as if this film is inspired by such a setup—the only difference is that such games are a lot more fun to play than it is to watch this movie because the former actually engages while the latter seems intent on keeping the audience passive.
The lack of characterization is astounding—a problem because we are supposed to care about them eventually, as individuals and as “family.” Out of the group, only about three are somewhat interesting: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Deadshot (Will Smith). The rest are either reduced to one-liner sock puppets (Killer Croc played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Katana portrayed by Karen Fukuhara) or are stuck with eye-rollingly bad, soap opera-like, vomit-scented romance (Rick Flag played by Joel Kinnaman and Cara Delevingne portraying Enchantress). One wonders halfway through whether the writer-director had been replaced by an impostor given that the Ayer’s previous works, such as “End of Watch” and “Fury,” function on such a high level of intelligence, wit, humanity despite the chaos that threatens to consume its subjects whole.
Delevingne is completely miscast as the central villain. Although she has the extreme looks in takes to have an interesting face to look at, I found her unable to emote more than three emotions. Her scenes are excruciatingly bad, at times downright laughable because when the character is supposed to exude menace, Enchantress merely does some sort of dance. The filmmakers do not even bother to use Delevingne’s voice as Enchantress. It gives the impression that the performer is hired simply for her looks, not for her talent.
Jared Leto as the Joker is one bad joke. Although the issue is not completely Leto’s portrayal, given that the editing is so manic that it fails to take the time to rest simply on the performer’s face so we are able to cherish every droplet of controlled insanity, it is still apparent that Leto is acting. Not once did I believe he is the titular villain; he is the knock-off version who is trying too hard to be impressive. And that’s problem with this particular character: the more you try to play it big, the faster you sink in quicksand.
There is one excellent scene that takes place is a bar, a moment when the motley crew decides to take a break from all the unimpressive, ugly, formulaic action and simply talk to one another. It is perhaps the best moment in the film because the camera is at its stillest and there is silence. And so when a character says one thing and another reacts a certain way, we are drawn to what is unfolding rather than simply sitting back, eyes half-closed, wishing for a better anti-superhero movie.