Review: 'Suicide Squad' finds sincerity in insanity
An unlikely team of supervillains must save the day.
The fantastic felons of Suicide Squad have got soul and they’re superbad.
There’s both undeniable sincerity and an over-the-top punk rock vibe to writer/director David Ayer’s completely bonkers ode to supervillains (***½ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters nationwide Friday) tapped to contribute to the greater good. It helps flesh out the comic-book world of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, plus makes a bunch of obscure outsiders just as engaging and fun to watch as that well-known Dark Knight.
With powerful metahumans and vigilantes inhabiting Earth (Ben Affleck’s Batman turns up more than you’d expect), the government needs a plan to deal with them. Enter the ruthless Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who has taken it upon herself to recruit Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), an archaeologist possessed by an ancient witch, as the first member of Task Force X. Its modus operandi is to send its members on deadly missions. And if they don’t come back? Oh, well.
With shades of Guardians of the Galaxy and the original Ghostbusters, Suicide Squad takes its ne'er-do-wells — led by the assassin Deadshot (Will Smith) and oddball bad girl Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) — from their Louisiana supermax home to battling a magical enemy. Alliances are formed, bonds are shaken, and the group is constantly on the edge of implosion.
Because of the size of Ayer’s cast, some of the more interesting characters are shorted, especially samurai warrior Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Australian hoodlum Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) — though the latter has a quick run-in with a superhero that knowing comics fans will adore.
Deadshot is the movie's emotional heart, and it’s Smith's best role in years — he gets to showcase some of Concussion's deep emotion but with that old Independence Day swagger. Jay Hernandez similarly impresses as El Diablo, a fiery L.A. gang leader with a horrific backstory.
Harley, a psychiatrist turned unhinged moll with an undying love for the Joker (Jared Leto), is finally Robbie's star-making turn. And Leto’s weirdo take on the Clown Prince of Crime is a far cry from the late Heath Ledger, though it definitely works. A tattooed Tony Montana type, this Joker is a nightclub owner with a thing for bling and a psychopathic determination to find his main squeeze. His relatively brief screen time leaves you wanting more, and Leto and Robbie make a distinctly dynamic duo in their fleeting scenes together.
Another relationship that’s intriguing but ultimately overshadowed is that of squad leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Enchantress’ human alter ego. While their romance drives one of the many subplots, Delevingne spends most of the film in freak mode, leaving Kinnaman as the guy keeping the fires burning. No matter the character, though, Ayer has a keen way of making you care for them, even the Joker.
Like The Dirty Dozen for the Hot Topic generation, the team gets in-your-face introductions and things just grow more mental from there. But compared to its ilk, Suicide Squad is an excellently quirky, proudly raised middle finger to the staid superhero-movie establishment.