What do you get when you release a hit-man, a clown, a crocodile, the devil, and a drunken Australian from prison? If you guessed a bar fight, you’d be wrong. If you guessed a riot in the street, you’d be closer – but still wrong. If you guessed an Avada Kedavra app for Android you’d be… dead right. That same phone can be used for all sorts of things. From threatening convicts to keeping classified documents close at hand. These days, phones make briefcases obsolete – unless you’re the secret government director who likes the feeling a beating heart makes from behind those two little locks, or how a top secret, 3-ring binder flutters as it hurtles towards an unprepared official. Evidently, Amanda Waller is both a gangster and a hipster.
Spoiler version or non-spoiler version? Let’s tackle the latter first: the world (ie. a subway station in a popular American city) is under attack and the only heroes left to save it are currently serving life sentences. Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), (*deep breath*) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) are recruited by the hardass, off the books, government director, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), to go on a suicide mission and save the planet from destruction. If they refuse, if they disobey their babysitter, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), or if they make a break for it, Amanda the Wall Waller has authorized their immediate decapitation by implant explosives. Unsurprisingly, most of the recruits suit up and ship out. Spoiler version? The mean old lady known as Enchantress is cursed, vengeful, and has had enough of Waller stabbing her heart with a number 2 pencil. She demands that her brother – the lava demon of modern art – helps her rip the world apart to stick it to all the humans. Not sure what her long-term plans are, but she’s looking at a pretty lonely landscape once her evil plan takes hold.
All this parading around chewed-up streets in stilettos, avoiding the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean 2, following a leader who puts the “Rick Flag” in “Capture the Rick Flag” would not be nearly as exciting were it not for the stellar musical cues. From Bohemian Rhapsody to Seven Nation Army, the tunes are the perfectly paired wines to the Squad’s assortment of cheeses. Nothing defines a character faster than a song entitled “Sucker for Pain”.
But Suicide Squad is less about the whole squad and more about how the hired gun, Deadshot, is really a man with a conscience, and how the ex-psychiatrist, Harley Quinn, is really a stripper without one. These two are some of the few to show actual development; they start in one place, experience a moment of personal realization, and end someplace else. The rest of the team are their colourful soundboards with teaser backstories. We take a brief interlude to sit under the soft glow of bar light and tune in to the inferno that is Diablo’s past, but most of the Squad have to settle for a minute-long montage and a second-long written bio. I get that there’s a serious time crunch, but a little more material on the other thieves and murders would be nice. For example, what in the hell kind of radioactive lunchroom special created the dehydrated golem known as Killer Croc? He’s a chamber of mysteries, that one, and I would happily trade one of Harley’s many butt shots for a little talk with the Croc.
While there’s not enough time to explore the full Squad in detail, there is certainly not enough time to get a feel for our brand new Joker (Jered Leto). From what I can gather, he’s a glammed up mix between a happy mob-boss and an angry loner. You can’t help but compare Suicide Squad’s Joker to The Dark Knight’s anarchist, whereby the standout difference is that this Joker appears to give a damn. For a guy that talked his beautiful therapist into bathing in acid, he genuinely seems to care for her wellbeing. Trying to figure out this Joker in our brief glimpses, and the infatuation he and Harley share, is like trying to watch Art Attack under strobe lights. As much as we’ve been waiting to see a Joker that leaves an impression so strong it sends us shivers in the mail three weeks later, Suicide Squad delivers an action figure we’re meant to keep sealed in the box.
The missing character development is all in answer to the needs of the plot. I’m surprised that Suicide Squad, a movie that consciously steps away from the rising hero who saves the day, feels so formulaic. Suicide Squad looks cool, with killer makeup and more helicopter crashes than takeoffs, but our unlikely heroes follow a predictable structure of meet, argue, fight, lose, inspire, win – the same structure we’re only too familiar with. The only change is crazy Harley singing, “Weeee!” from start to finish.
Suicide Squad is a tough one to rate. It doesn’t bury the classic DC characters, but it doesn’t necessarily give them the attention they deserve either. The story could be packed with more: more surprises, more reveals, more jokes at the expense of others, more explanation of the villain’s game plan, and a little less Deadshot. Basically, the planning stuff. Suicide Squad is one I’ll watch again because of character nostalgia, but not one that sends me screaming from the bleachers for an encore – 6/10.
When prepping for a suicidal fight, don’t forget the ruby lipstick.