When financial ambitions are the main driving force behind a movie instead of any real talent, there is no way you can hide your incompetence

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad (2016)

Writ­ten and di­rect­ed by David Ayer. Based on char­ac­ters from DC Comics. Star­ring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Mar­got Rob­bie, Joel Kin­na­man, Vi­o­la Davis, Jai Court­ney, Jay Her­nan­dez, Ade­wale Akin­n­uoye-Ag­ba­je, Cara Delev­ingne, Karen Fukuhara, Ike Bar­in­holtz, Scott East­wood and Adam Beach.

A group of vil­lains are forced to work to­geth­er and save the world. Sounds pret­ty ex­cit­ing, doesn’t it? In­deed, that is a very promis­ing idea, but Sui­cide Squad is proof that in the wrong hands, any great premise can sink like the Ti­tan­ic if the main force dri­ving it is pure com­mer­cial am­bi­tion ($$$) in­stead of real tal­ent. Even that brief hint of ir­rev­er­ent lu­na­cy that we see when the pro­duc­ers’ names first ap­pear on the screen (you will know when you see it) is a promise that nev­er de­liv­ers. The only true vil­lainy here seems to be that every­one in­volved in com­mit­ting this atro­cious movie is giv­ing us the fin­ger and say­ing with an evil laugh that you won’t get your mon­ey back.

The third chap­ter of the DC Ex­tend­ed Uni­verse — which is not do­ing so well since the bare­ly pass­able Man of Steel (2013) and the bland Bat­man v Su­per­man: Dawn of Jus­tice (2016) — Sui­cide Squad fol­lows the cre­ation by Aman­da Waller (Vi­o­la Davis) of Task Force X, formed by dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals locked up at Belle Reve Prison. These crim­i­nals are hit­man Dead­shot (Will Smith), for­mer psy­chi­a­trist turned psy­cho Harley Quinn (Mar­got Rob­bie), py­ro­ki­net­ic ex-gang­ster El Di­a­blo (Jay Her­nan­dez), thief Cap­tain Boomerang (Jai Court­ney), ge­net­i­cal­ly mu­tat­ed Killer Croc (Ade­wale Akin­n­uoye-Ag­ba­je) and as­sas­sin Slip­knot (Adam Beach). Un­der the com­mand of Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kin­na­man), they are to be used as dis­pos­able as­sets in high-risk mis­sions for the US gov­ern­ment, each mem­ber car­ry­ing a tiny bomb im­plant­ed in their neck which will det­o­nate in case any of them tries to escape.

What makes you think you can con­trol them?” some­one asks Waller right in the first act. Why, that is a very good ques­tion — in fact, the most im­por­tant in the en­tire movie. When we see a big threat emerge to de­stroy the world pre­cise­ly be­cause of that stu­pid plan in the first place, it doesn’t take a ge­nius to re­al­ize that they can­not con­trol them. And this is only the be­gin­ning. Along the way, there are more and more signs that this plan sim­ply doesn’t work. It is baf­fling that no one is able to fig­ure out the ob­vi­ous or ever de­cides to just shut down the whole god­damn project at once — es­pe­cial­ly af­ter the hun­dredth time some­one tries to es­cape or some­thing goes ter­ri­bly wrong, putting every­one in danger.

But what can you ex­pect from a messy script that has no idea what it is try­ing to do? It can’t even jus­ti­fy the pres­ence of The Jok­er (Jared Leto) in any of it (all his scenes could be ex­cised from Sui­cide Squad, and noth­ing would change). Every­thing is so poor­ly writ­ten that the at­tempts at char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment are a to­tal fail­ure too. The char­ac­ters re­main sketchy and more car­toon­ish than in the old Bat­man TV se­ries of the 1960s. The struc­ture is aw­ful, tak­ing for­ev­er in an end­less­ly ex­pos­i­to­ry first act only to in­tro­duce the char­ac­ters. But what is un­for­giv­able is that there is no fun. Every­thing is lazy and dull. Even the last-minute hu­mor thrown in to save it from be­ing an­oth­er cure for in­som­nia like Bat­man v Su­per­man: Dawn of Jus­tice falls flat.

In fact, you know some­thing is doomed to fail­ure when you see that the pow­ers that be (that is, Warn­er Bros. ex­ec­u­tives) de­mand­ed reshoots to in­clude hu­mor in or­der to coun­ter­bal­ance the grit­ti­ness in­tend­ed by the di­rec­tor. It’s com­mer­cial needs vs artis­tic free­dom. No one wins. And the sense of hu­mor forced into the movie is sil­ly and in­tru­sive. I can’t see any­one laugh­ing when Harley Quinn asks some­one: “Do I have a hick­ey or some­thing?” It’s just ter­ri­ble, much like the di­a­logue, ac­tu­al­ly. The whole ini­tial tête-à-tête be­tween Dead­shot and his lit­tle daugh­ter, for in­stance, is full of cringe-in­duc­ing clichés, in­clud­ing her beg­ging with whiny eyes “Dad­dy, don’t do it, please!” to con­vince him not to kill Bat­man (Ben Af­fleck, in a cameo).

If all that came from a lousy film­mak­er, I would un­der­stand. But David Ayer, who is no Uwe Boll and also wrote and di­rect­ed the ex­cel­lent Fury (2014), could have done a lot bet­ter. His di­rec­tion is ridicu­lous, with an ex­cess of mu­sic (a lot of clichéd songs, by the way; Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il, re­al­ly?), solemn slow mo­tion, flick­er­ing lights, close-ups of bul­lets falling down on the floor, ner­vous cam­era move­ments and te­dious fight scenes which are shot in the most unin­spired way pos­si­ble. He even tries to cre­ate sus­pense not from one but two he­li­copters be­ing knocked down. Still, there is no great di­rec­tion that could save a script that doesn’t un­der­stand what should be the most im­por­tant here: the characters.

In fact, one of the things most peo­ple want to know when they go to see Sui­cide Squad is whether Jared Leto is a good Jok­er. The an­swer is def­i­nite­ly no. He looks more like a gang­ster car­i­ca­ture, with met­al teeth, dressed like a pimp and full of rings. His laugh sounds fake and ex­ag­ger­at­ed, and he nev­er man­ages to make his Jok­er unique like Heath Ledger, Jack Nichol­son or Ce­sar Romero did. The oth­er ac­tors do what they can, but any at­tempt made by the film to ex­plore their char­ac­ters’ per­son­al con­flicts doesn’t work, like when we learn (and don’t care) about El Diablo’s past or Katana’s (Karen Fukuhara) dead hus­band stuck in­side her sword. The same goes for Harley Quinn, who is there ba­si­cal­ly to look loony and show her body.

And what can be said about this cheesy vil­lain called En­chantress (Cara Delev­ingne) who I guess should be re­mem­bered more for her sil­ly Macare­na-es­que moves than her vil­lainy? Or the fact that El Di­a­blo in­sists that he doesn’t want to be part of Waller’s project only to ap­pear in the group right af­ter? Or, of course, the un­be­liev­able mo­ment in which Flag re­veals to the oth­ers (and to us) a sto­ry that we al­ready knew and saw hap­pen? I could go on and on and also men­tion the ab­sur­di­ty of Flag de­cid­ing to re­lease mur­der­ers when they are shown to “not be so bad af­ter all,” or (spoil­er alert!) the laugh­able mo­ment when he screams “Her heart’s out!” just in case we are im­be­ciles and haven’t no­ticed it.

But it doesn’t mat­ter. The fact is that the movie doesn’t care to ex­plain the most ba­sic stuff, like how these char­ac­ters come to love one an­oth­er so fast and out of the blue (“I lost my fam­i­ly, I ain’t gonna lose an­oth­er one,” we even get to hear El Di­a­blo say) or the fact that a cer­tain char­ac­ter shows up im­pos­si­bly alive and well in the end (“How are you not dead?,” hel­lu­va good ques­tion). With also a trashy art di­rec­tion, mediocre vi­su­al ef­fects and a dread­ful con­clu­sion, Sui­cide Squad at least makes us re­lieved that the DC Ex­tend­ed Uni­verse can’t get any worse than this. So the only way now is up.

PS: So, let me see if I get this straight, strug­gling black man Floyd “Dead­shot” Law­ton is cap­tured and brought to jus­tice by mil­lion­aire Bruce Wayne, who is the very rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem that per­pet­u­ates so­cial in­equal­i­ty in Gotham City and cre­ates out­laws like Dead­shot in the first place. Has any­one else no­ticed the irony? Not David Ayer, I’m sure.


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