‘Suicide Squad’ is an Entertaining Mess

Those of us who were waiting for the movie that would quiet the critics and thrill the fans of DC Comics are going to have to wait a little longer. Suicide Squad is an entertaining mess.

The issues that people have with “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” are not present in “Suicide Squad.” This is a movie where hope and redemption are part of the story. There’s actually a lot of time spent on character development (with a large cast, no less). Finally, and most important to many people, there are light-hearted moments and good laughs.

However, some of the problems with Suicide Squad are familiar to people who enjoy comics movies, or genre movies in general. The biggest problem lies at the script level.

“Suicide Squad” has three distinct acts and unfortunately the first act is by far the best. The movie begins with a cross-section of introductions to the cast and some political wranglings by Amanda Walker (Viola Davis) who wants to create a team comprised of enhanced bad guys who answer to the government and can be dispatched to deal with the growing fear over superheroes.

We are treated to a series of scenes that show how these bad guys were captured in the first place. The graphics during this set of scenes are vibrant, fun and psychedelic. They remind me a lot of what you’d see in a Guy Ritchie movie, or something from Quentin Tarantino. The movie gets off to a great start. It’s thrilling and energetic. The scenes are memorable, exciting and funny.

Then we get into the second act and things start to lag a bit. There are some legitimately good moments, but they are weighed down by a derivative plot and lackluster threats. The third act unfortunately was a letdown, although I liked the character moments.

“Suicide Squad” is a mixed bag.

Director David Ayer gets the sole writing credit, but we know this is a film that was tinkered with over the course of production. You can also see the tendrils of the producers of this film, including, but not limited to Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder. The plot is pedestrian and I know that people have compared it to “The Dirty Dozen” but it felt more like “Escape from New York,” with more Snake Plisskens, to me. In both of those other movies we had a better goal and better antagonists though.

This is yet another movie where I have to complain about the lack of a good villain. Your protagonists are only as good as the challenges they must face. The army created by the villain in “Suicide Squad” are boring and easily defeated. The villain who is the catalyst for the plot is ill-equipped to provide a satisfying final confrontation. It’s all too predictable.

The direction by David Ayer is good work. He’s got a decent look in the film and his action scenes are exciting. He’s not great with comedy timing though, and that’s too bad because he’s got a lot of talented actors and some memorable zingers to work with.

Will Smith as Deadshot is solid in action scenes and unsurprisingly excellent with comedy. His character, who is an assassin for hire, is grounded through the relationship with his daughter, and by his desire to be seen as honorable. His character arc is well done, and I liked him in this role much more than I expected.

Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller is a cold government bureaucrat who has a one-note delivery, but does so with great presence. What I liked most about this character is that this is just the sort of role that is usually played by a white man. To have a black woman in this role is far more interesting and Davis does a sterling job.

Diablo, played by Jay Hernandez and Rick Flag, played by Joe Kinnaman are good in their roles. I could have done completely without Jai Courtney as Boomerang. He wasn’t effective on the team, nor was he funny.

Before I get to the best roles, I want to give some recognition to Ike Barinholtz who plays a guard in the film. He’s actually got many of the funniest lines at the beginning and he really nails them. I got to the point where I really looked forward to seeing him on the screen and he’s a minor character at best.

This is Harley Quinn’s film. Make no mistake about it, Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie is a superstar. Robbie demonstrates a complete range of emotions, and is convincing in moments of psychosis, seduction, levity and carnage. Even though it’s the Joker she’s pining for, you can’t help but feel for her character and she is simply electric. Speaking of the Joker, she overshadowed him completely.

The wait is over and the jury is in on Jared Leto’s Joker. This is a role that’s very close to the comic version (even if the look is off). Leto has the requisite menace and unpredictability. He has a take on the Joker that is all his own. He’s fine in the role, but I think subsequent appearances will allow him to give a performance that’s not as labored.

No, Leto is not as good as Heath Ledger, but that’s not really important, and this is a different style of film. I did really enjoy his scenes and I look forward to seeing much more of him in the future.

“Suicide Squad” channels the classic rock soundtrack of “Guardians of the Galaxy” to paint the scenes with energy and nostalgia. It’s effective here too, but it’s used so often that it begins to wear a little thin. I wish they could have created that energy when the music wasn’t playing.

There could have been a lot more action for my taste and the action they gave us was not as inventive as I expect to see in a film filled with super-powered characters.

There’s more Batman in this film than I expected. He’s still not in it much, but what we see is good stuff. There is a lot of continuity between this film and the other films in theDC Extended Universe, as you would expect.

There is a hint of desperation in this film, fueled by the reaction to “Batman v Superman” and Warner Brother’s desire to attain the heights of critical and financial success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You can see that Warner is making adjustments to comport with the Marvel style. I personally think that’s a mistake and I wonder what this film would look like if it had been conceived in a vacuum.

“Suicide Squad” is not high art and it’s not the critic-killer we wanted. It is an often entertaining film filled with likeable anti-heroes, some good action scenes and a healthy dose of fun. It’s mired in mediocrity particularly because of the plot and the weak-sauce villains. If you’re a fan of Harley Quinn though, it’s a joy to see her brought to life in this way.