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Suicide Squad




Suicide Squad (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

08/11/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



DC Comics tries to kick-start its cinematic universe in Suicide Squad, a grimy little movie that is packed with way too many desperate pleas for me to like it.

Fight fire with fire — this is the plan of one Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a bad-ass Viola Davis character who works for some super secret part of the government. Now that Superman is “dead,” she proposes creating a squad of “metahumans” to fight any other metahumans that might show up to do regular humanity harm. Because the good-guy metahumans stay in the shadows or have their own opinions or some other reason I don’t remember the movie explaining, Amanda’s squad will be full of bad-guy metahumans who, because explosive devices are implanted in their necks, can be forced to do the government’s will. And the lucky winners include:
Deadshot (Will Smith), world’s best assassin.
El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a guy whose version of Hulking out involves fire.
Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a crocodile man with super strength and assorted amphibious abilities.
Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian who fights with a boomerang.
Slipknot (Adam Beach), a guy who can climb stuff.
(You know, human tree and talking raccoon sounded stupid too, so even after being introduced to these characters I kept an open mind.)
Rounding out the bad-guy part of the squad is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the crazypants girlfriend of the Joker (Jared Leto). She, like the rest of the dirty half-dozen, is recruited from jail. 
Then there’s June Moone (Cara Delevingne), a scientist who turns into/is possessed by Enchantress, an otherworldly evil demon-witch. Special forces-type Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) is the soldier who protects/is in love with June and helps to keep Enchantress under Amanda’s control. And the sword-wielding Katana (Karen Fukuhara) rounds out the gang as a buddy of Rick’s who happens to have a sword that collects the souls of the people it has killed.
Go team!
When a giant magical thing threatens Midway City, the gang is assembled to rescue and evacuate an important official from the city and ultimately to fight and bring down the magical thing, whose goal is to (what else?) control the world, make it over for its own purposes and make all humans bow to its magnificence or whatever it is that all of these nearly identical superhero-movie villains of late have wanted. 
Complicating matters is the continuing struggle between June and Enchantress, the Joker’s attempts to rescue Harley and the assorted internal battles of all the squad members, the most interesting non-Harley of which is Deadshot, whose desire is to either get back to his young daughter or at least force the government to provide her with a top-flight education. 
So, this is DC doing a fun movie? This movie where one of the anti-hero heroes incinerated his family? Where the moral center is an assassin? 
OK, then. 
I don’t come at this as some kind of DC comic book purist. Any Batman knowledge I have comes from the Christopher Nolan series and the early 1990s animated series, and my Superman background is the 1980s Christopher Reeve movies and assorted TV shows. I don’t know what this movie does for you if you’re a comic book fan with decades of backstory and universe-building under your belt. For me, a casual fan of comic book movies and comic book characters, this movie felt like a disorganized mess with too much stage-setting for future movies.
There is, with the help of some Ben Affleck as Batman cameos, the establishing of the DC movie universe. This movie introduces us to a pile of characters, teases the Flash and other future movie subjects and reminds us of what’s happening now in the DCverse, i.e. that Superman has died (which, sigh, with the “Jon Snow is dead”-like dumbness of Superman’s “death” as a plot point) and Batman is gathering his own Super Friends. Of this, the only thing that really works for me is the Harley Quinn-Joker relationship, which reminds me of the tone of their relationship in the animated series (which, actually, is kind of disturbing when you consider that it was on after school, pitched to kids). I didn’t love Leto’s Joker but I can go along with this approach to the character and the way that, even as a love-sick long-distance boyfriend, he’s still portrayed as a cruel and vicious sadist. 
Smith’s Deadshot and Davis’ Amanda Waller are fun characters, primarily because of the actors who portray them. Hernandez’ Diablo is interesting, though like a lot in Suicide Squad his story and screen time feels cut short. Though the movie clocks in at more than two hours, there is so much going on that a lot of the meaty work of character-building feels pushed aside. 
By what, you ask? 
I guess I’d describe Suicide Squad and why I generally didn’t enjoy it this way: It feels like this started out as an interesting but overly grim little movie and then (as suggested by all those reports about DC panic after the mixed response to Batman v Superman) the movie was run through a Deadpool-izer, slathered with a paste of ground up Marvel cinematic universe world-building and then sprinkled with bits of what somebody thought would make a “cool scene.” Thus do we get the squad suiting up to an Eminem song from 14 years ago, lots of flashback montages and what feels like a lot of unnecessary and meaningless visual and character bric-a-brac. “Like these characters, LIKE THEM” the movie seems to be saying, lingering too long on jokes and forever telling us rather than showing us how kick-butt somebody is. And yet, as desperate as the movie seems to be to get us to care about these characters and get invested in the world, we don’t spend nearly enough time watching these guys relate to each other and become a team. 
The movie is forced, fakey in its attempt to “be fun!” and still unnecessarily grim in its worldview without really doing anything interesting with its grimness. (I’d argue that The Dark Knight, one of the darkest of dark action movies, actually did something with its darkness, making a point about how its vigilante character couldn’t actually be the savior of a city.) The movie seems to want to position itself as a grittier approach to fantasy characters but its grittiness feels manufactured in a “weathered jeans” sense.
Suicide Squad  is one of those movies that had just enough in its concept and its execution to produce one really good trailer. The movie itself is just a letdown. C
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content, and language. Written and directed by David Ayer, Suicide Squad is two hours and three minutes long and distributed by Warner Bros. 





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