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Suicide Squad (2016)

Reviewed by Steve Seigh

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This review is spoiler-free!

By now, many of us have seen the harsh headlines, and are now wondering whether or not DC’s latest big screen adventure is any good. Will the theatrical cut of SUICIDE SQUAD be as much fun as the trailers have lead us to believe? Can Warner Bros. reassure those who cared not for Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL or BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE? Is Leto’s portrayal of Gotham’s clown prince of crime a fresh new take on the character, or is there nothing funny about it at all? Honestly … it’s a tough call to make, and this is coming from someone who has been excited about this film since the get go.

 Yes, SUICIDE SQUAD is a hot mess. No, this will not be the movie that wins back the hearts of trepidacious DC fans. And yeah, Jared Leto’s Joker is … well … we’ll get to that soon enough.

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However, would you like to know what SUICIDE SQUAD did for me that no other film in the DCCU has done? It put a big old smile on my face! I laughed, and not once or twice. I howled several times, gleefully. Because for all it gets wrong, there are aspects of this movie that I felt were so good that I am willing to forgive most of what is glaringly awful about it. First and foremost, there’s Margot Robbie. If there was anyone in the theater today who was watching, judging, and analyzing Ms. Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn, it was me. As someone who has been in love with that character since her debut in Batman: The Animated Series, understand that I was waiting, just waiting for the writers to fuck this up. And do you know what? Margot Robbie knocked it out of the damn park! Everything: Her look, that throaty Brooklyn accent, her demented humor. It was all there, in spades! Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn!

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Secondly, I’m not certain of when my life got flipped and turned upside down, but I’d like to take a minute, so just sit right there, and I’ll tell you how Will Smith has shed the ghost of Bel Air. My hat is off to you, Mr. Smith. For me, I’ve seen his fun shit, I’ve seen his goofy shit, and I’ve seen shit where it’s obvious that that man can act his pants off. Smith’s Deadshot is right on target in this film. In fact, he and Robbie are about the only characters in this hellish joyride that display any level of depth. I’d include Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller in that list, only about a quarter of the way through the movie, you realize that her intense performance is extremely one note. She plays it straight, and she plays it good, but boy oh boy did her “Don’t test me or I’ll press this button” shtick get old real quick.

Perhaps one of the biggest qualms I have about SUICIDE SQUAD is how ineffectual or interesting any member of the team (who isn’t Harley or Deadshot) really is. Boomerang, a character with plenty of comedic potential, struck me as a complete miss with his undecipherable Austrailian accent and eye-rolling one-liners. Katana, one of three females in the group, is nothing more than a near-silent background character. Oh sure, she has a few slice-and-dice glory shots, though I’m pretty sure that most people will leave the theater knowing more about her sword than the woman who wields it. Then there’s Slipknot, who …. yeah, never mind. El Diablo was actually a bit cooler than I’d expected. If nothing else, his tragic back story and hesitation toward committing further acts of violence makes him a more compelling character than say … Killer Croc.

Don’t misunderstand, because I love me some Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, but the genetically altered Waylon Jones is without a doubt one of the most forgettable characters in this film. Which is sort of a head scratcher, considering that he looks like a goomba from the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie has been hitting the gym far too hard. Croc’s got about one decent joke throughout the entire flick, and what’s left of him just sort of swims to the dark waters within your memory and drowns there.

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Ahh, and finally, we come to Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag. Holy shit, friends. I think it’s safe to say that, at some point in our history as fans of cinema, we’ve all experienced characters that we’d love to punch in the face, yeah? That was Rick Flag for me. Granted, I’ve never enjoyed his character while reading the comics, but sakes alive did he ever strike me as dead weight here. I understand that he’s the leader of the outfit, and by default, the babysitter, but managing to be a drip even after you “loosen up” is just rude. For real, every time this dude’s life was in danger, I was quietly chanting the words “Die! Die! Die!” inside my head. Am I being too harsh? Maybe, but it’s Rick Flag, so I’ll allow it.

Okay, let me ask you a question: Have you wondered why the many trailers leading up the the release of SUICIDE SQUAD didn’t exactly tell you who the real threat in this movie is? It’s a curious thing, right? Well, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that when I found out, all I could muster was a raised eyebrow and the words, “Um, okay.” You see, I like the idea of pulling a lesser known character from DC’s ether and giving them the spotlight, I’m just not sure that it was the best idea considering how much is riding on this film. It’s difficult to go into too much detail without spoiling it for you, but suffice it to say that the visual effects for this character left a lot to be desired. While I commend DC for trying to beat Marvel to the punch in the “magic-on-screen department”, I’m not certain this was the way to go.

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Now, I know it seems like I’m dumping on this movie a lot, but I promise you that some positive remarks are on their way … but not yet. Let’s talk about the soundtrack for a moment. Here’s the thing, you’ll hear plenty of good songs throughout this film. Some of them will even give you pause and make you say, “Oh shit! This is my jam!” Then, you’ll start to wonder how in what way those random-ass songs relate to the context of the scene. I’ll let you in on a little secret, most of them don’t. Case in point: If you’re like me, you could have gone the rest of your life without ever hearing a note of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady”, but there it is! “Oh come on, Steve, it’s probably an instrumental version and only plays for about 15 seconds – lighten up, man.” Nope! The song – lyrics included – plays out for nearly a minute and half. Why? Because the members of the Suicide Squad are notoriously “shady” individuals?

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* Dusts shoulders * Alright, let’s do this. And look, I promise, there’s some positive points on the way, but we need to talk about Jared Leto’s portrayal of The Joker. Do you recall the day that photos of Leto’s Joker were released? The internet, as it is wont to do, caught fire that day – and everything was ruined forever. Not really, but you would have thought that, considering how many self-absorbed fans cried foul – without seeing so much as a frame worth of footage. Well, it turns out that not all of their concerns were unwarranted. Because (and I honestly don’t think that watching the film again will change this for me), I positively loathed Jared Leto’s debut as The Joker.

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For me, it was everything. The Hip-Hop pimp wardrobe, his exasperated Ledger meets Hunter S. Thompson line delivery, and ugh, even the laugh was uninspired. When I think of the Joker, I think of Hamill’s sadistically joyful cackle, Nicholson’s deranged giggle, or Ledger’s sinister snickers. With Leto, every chuckle from his crooked lips sounded like the laugh of an old,  dying man. There’s no rhyme or reason to his attire, either. It’s just what he wears. It lends no personality to the character, and tells us nothing about who he is or where he’s been. Given that we don’t get any sort of origin story for his character in this film, it’s as if the gold chains, platinum grill, and self-referential tattoos exist only to piss off fans of this legendary character.

Alright, I promised you all that I had some more positive things to say, so here we go. Despite all of my gripes, of which there are many, I still had a better time with this film than either of DC’s last two attempts at bringing their characters to the silver screen. Because despite the poorly orchestrated flashback and flash-forward sequences, the sub-par visual effects for Killer Croc, and a Joker that comes off as more of a cruel joke than anything worth laughing about, I was still grinning from ear to ear. Do you know why? Because it was made very obvious that Harley Quinn and Deadshot are the stars of this picture. And for me, they were so fucking good that by the time the credits started rolling they were all I really cared about.

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Perhaps you’ll think that it’s just the Harley fanboy in me that’s compelling me to over look this film’s many flaws, but I urge you to remember that, with undying love comes undying judgment. If I’m willing to bypass a chop shop editing job, cringe-worthy musical placement, and a shit stab at one of DC’s most iconic villains of all time … well, I think you know what I’m getting at here. See the film, judge for yourself. At the end of the day, I think SUICIDE SQUAD is going to disappoint a lot of people. And that’s a real shame, because DC really needed this movie to be a win for them. I doubt very much that this will be the case, considering how much the bad word of mouth has already caused excited fans to feel uneasy.

The truth? I’m concerned about the fate of the upcoming WONDER WOMAN film now more than ever. We know that DC and Warner Bros. can cut a slick trailer, that much has been proven. So the question now is, will they manage to disappoint with Diana’s first solo film as well? Zeus only knows.

Suicide Squad Review Soundtrack

Puscifer – Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen Cover)

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