There’s something very personal about “Suicide Squad.” Something that will only resonate with a small amount of viewers. More specifically it’s something the critics and general audiences will never fully understand. Mind you, these very same people have grasped the bigger picture: “Suicide Squad” is a bad movie. They get that it is an ill-conceived, awkwardly paced mess.
They are not wrong.
However, to a very small contingent of comic nerds, “Suicide Squad” is an accurate depiction of a very specific experience. “Suicide Squad” doesn’t just replicate the trashy enjoyment of the dumb, sometimes corny but consistently entertaining comic book on which it was based, its discursive storytelling also recalls the way in which a number of people were introduced to “Suicide Squad”: the comic.
By which I mean, buying a bunch of randomly numbered issues in a comic shop quarter bin and then trying to make sense out of the gaps in the storyline that were probably present in the missing issues.
That, in a nutshell, is “Suicide Squad” the movie. Even if you didn’t walk in on the movie late, it feels like you walked in on it late with the assumption that you are familiar with most of these characters. It also seems to be missing a second act and appears to be an eight-hour trilogy that wasn’t just clumsily edited down to two hours, but edited out of sequence.
In short, it’s a fiasco. But it’s the kind of fiasco that references the city Hawkman lives in and Alex Ross’ cover for the first issue of “Harley Quinn.”
Suicide Squad – or as its known by its official name Task Force X – is a government program spearheaded by a perpetually scowling, no-nonsense bureaucrat named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) that forcibly assembles metahuman criminals to eliminate even more dangerous metahuman criminals. In essence, it’s “The Dirty Dozen” if Charles Bronson wore spangly hot pants and beat people to death with a croquet mallet.
Among the villains recruited to take out a supernatural threat with vague designs to rule the world(?) with a machine made of ghost clouds(?) are Deadshot (Will Smith) an assassin with a heart of gold who just wants to see his daughter one last time, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie whose New Yawk accent wavers wildly) the Joker’s gun moll who plays like a cross between Deadpool and an MRA pin-up girl and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) a guy who managed to earn three consecutive life sentences even though all of his crimes are boomerang based. That’s like finding out that Gallagher was sent to the electric chair after he went “Melon Crazy.”
There’s a lot to dislike about “Suicide Squad.” In spite of Jared Leto’s method actor bullshittery, his Joker feels like that one guy at the Halloween party who is taking his costume way too seriously. The film pauses frequently to give us an overlong origin story or abruptly introduce a character only to kill them off or scuttle them off to the side. “Suicide Squad” boasts the kind of obvious soundtrack cues that imply the film directors have boring taste in music, and share the same Time/Life Sounds of the ’60s CD.
But still, there’s a lot more to like. Even if it’s tiny inconsequential details. Like the moment when hardened military veterans are deeply offended when a homicidal clown lady steals a purse from a department store window or Ike Barinholtz as a scummy prison guard. Throw in geeky nods to Paul Dini’s “Mad Love” and “Suicide Squad’s” creator John Ostrander and I’m easily pleased.
If you’re a fan of DC comic books, “Suicide Squad” will, at the very least, be passably entertaining. For everyone else, the film will be alienating.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
Starring: Jared Leto, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Joel Kinnaman
Director: David Ayer
Weekender Rating: WWW – for comic fans; V- for everyone else
Length: 130 minutes