David Ayer’s Suicide Squad has the odd distinction of being one of the most critically reviled movies of the year and the one to smash the August box-office record once held by Guardians of the Galaxy. The latest foray for Warner Bros. into the DC Comics universe is certainly flawed — not what the studio wanted coming off the disappointment that was Batman v Superman — but it in no way warrants a 26 percent “fresh” score on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
The plot of Suicide Squad is fairly straightforward. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is a U.S. official tasked with putting together a team of “meta-humans” who can conduct black ops that are too risky for special operations forces. She wants to assemble the “worst of the worse” into a unit that would allow the government to throw them “under the bus” at any moment. One of Waller’s evil puppets goes rogue, which ironically provides the team with its first mission.
Writer and director David Ayer had two hours to establish seven characters the vast majority of its audience had never heard of, wedge in scenes with Batman and the Joker for Warner Bros., and then stick the landing with a climax that borrows heavily from Ghostbusters (the originals or the disastrous remake from earlier this summer). Ayer lovingly handles the first 45 minutes of his task, but a shoddy script or corporate interference during the editing process does Suicide Squad’s third act a grave disservice.
Waller’s devilish ensemble is introduced through a series of flashbacks, which reveal each villain’s capture and detention in a CIA-like black site. Will Smith as the assassin Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn — the Joker’s (Jared Leto) lover — wisely get the most screen time and scenes with Batman. Their star power is on display throughout the movie, although Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Jai Courtney (Boomerang), all have moments to shine.
All the magnetism in the world, however, cannot save a movie from bad editorial decisions. The Suicide Squad, also known as Task Force X, accompanies good guys Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Col. Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) on a mission to stop a god-like being in the heart of a city. Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and her equally powerful brother open a portal to another realm, turn people into zombies, and deploy giant destructive tentacles during their reign of terror. Task Force X must detonate a strategically placed bomb to save the world, and does so in torrent of VFX that only serves to expose the film’s muddled second half.
Ayer’s cinematic vignette’s at the start of his film are entertaining, but ultimately people want to know why a crazy woman with a baseball bat is more equipped to handle a demonic being than special operations forces. Why is a man with a boomerang needed to stop a threat that can be killed with an ballistic missile? Why does a supposedly good man watch Waller assassinate federal employees and then, for all intents and purposes, shrug his shoulders? Plot holes pile up as the movie goes on, which render Suicide Squad a somewhat entertaining but frustrating mess.
It is hard not to cut Mr. Ayer some slack when outlets like Vanity Fair accuse him of inserting a “soupçon of racism” into his script. It his difficult to trust reviewers when major outlets like Entertainment Weekly are writing pieces like, “Suicide Squad executive producer part of Donald Trump’s fundraising campaign.” Regardless, when one filters out critics obsessed with political correctness or partisan agendas, Suicide Squad still is a classic case of untapped potential. See it if you want one more bite of the summer blockbuster apple, but otherwise wait it out for Netflix.
Rating 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Original CBC review by Doug Ernst