#SquadGoals…as written by a marketing executive.
Ever since I started doing this film critic gig, I’ve exposed myself to films I normally wouldn’t see. Sometimes it works for me, but often I’ve seen some true awfulness. Films that have nothing good about them or the bad stuff eclipses all the good. But not since Jupiter Ascending have I seen a cock-up of such spectacular proportions, that I legitimately want you (yes you) to see this thing. Full warning, this movie is legitimately better than the mess that was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Bullshit, but only because THAT movie was so oppressively drab that THIS mess is more entertaining.
So we got Amanda Waller (the incredible Viola Davis), an intelligence officer who proposes to create a black ops team to deal with superhuman threats like Superman to her Pentagon superiors. The rub is, her team is composed exclusively of “bad guys” like Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). While Waller claims she can control them (by threatening all their lives), Enchantress goes rogue and summons her god-like brother to destroy all humanity. Waller responds by activating her team and give them a simple choice, follow her commands or a device go off in their neck that explodes if they disobey her or her lackeys, soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Oh yeah, and the Joker (Jared Leto) appears out of nowhere.
Honestly, the plot isn’t a bad idea. A superhero version of The Dirty Dozen, with criminals being employed to do a dangerous mission could work wonders, it’s almost surprising that no one has thought to do it as a film before. Hell, DC Animation already made a film out their Suicide Squad concept with Batman: Assault on Arkham, a really bad ass cartoon film that tossed multiple characters from this movie in a difficult situation. So I have to wonder, with the wealth of resources Warner Brothers had, how did they make such a fucking mess of a movie?
First things first, the tone of this movie wavers wildly between quirky action movie and dark men-on-a-mission film. There are tons of scenes of these dudes walking with their weapons drawn across a war-torn landscape, but they have an atrocious soundtrack of various tastes of music from different decades playing in the background. You got “Seven Nation Army” being chased with Eminem’s “Without Me,” some “Fortunate Son” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and then the film gets tired of trying to copy Guardians of the Galaxy and straight up throws in “Spirit in the Sky” for no damn reason. Honestly, a more appropriate song for the filmmakers to use would have been “Goodbye Horses” as the head of Warner Bros dresses up like Mickey Mouse and whispers to a mirror, “You’d fuck me? I’d fuck me.”
Getting back on topic, the tonal shifts are really accentuated between the action scenes and the comedy. I’m gonna rag on the comedy first because that’s easy to gauge audience love for it. Now keep in mind, my theater was jam packed with 90% of seats were filled up; but hardly anyone was laughing with any of the “banter” parts. You know, the part where characters joking and making quips, it’s what makes team-based movies so much fun. But this movie has no smart writing whatsoever, nothing about their lines develop the characters or their relationships with each other. The dialogue is primarily exposition-based, which is not conducive to developing bonds between the characters. And believe me, the fact they’re not getting along very well has nothing to do with the fact your protagonists are “bad guys” (side note: the film reminds you like seven freaking times that they’re “bad guys”).
It’s especially jarring when the final act shows up and all of a sudden this ragtag band of misfits suddenly care about each other. Spoiler alert (not goddamn really), these guys DO NOT connect with each other despite them claiming they’re family; something that will bring rage, I’m sure, to Vin Diesel. Mostly because these characters barely interact with each other in an interesting or conversationalist way. They say a few mean things to each other or glare at each other, without saying anything interesting or quippy or even remotely quotable. Because as we’ve already established, the script is absolute dogshit.
And none of the characters are fleshed out in any meaningful way, only one of them (a side character) changes at all by making a dramatic sacrifice and one character on the poster is a straight up red shirt. Without spoiling, he’s barely introduced and taken out immediately. Not like it matters since that character had a dumb ass skill…actually NONE of these characters have skills that would make them ideal to handle this particular situation.
Look, the mission is to extract a VIP from this obliterated city crawling with hostile…black, bubble-faced zombies (seriously). There’s also a giant hole in the sky being created a magical sorceress and large swathes of soldiers have been eliminated with a creature on loan from the even worse Gods of Egypt. So…do tell me movie, why the hell would you send a hitman, a crazy chick, a dude that swims like a crocodile, a pyrokinetic and a motherfucker who throws goddamn BOOMERANGS into this hellish situation? This is the kind of problem you give to Wonder Woman, Batman or even the Flash…two of which have cameos in this freaking movie.
And the whole recruiting “bad guys” to do some unsavory black ops premise is absolutely wasted here, because this is a PG-13 popcorn muncher and therefore your protagonists can’t be reckless killers (unless their name is Batman, apparently, in Warner Brothers’ insane world). The edgy premise is dulled to a butter knife by making all members of the Suicide Squad going to “save the day” for more altruistic reasons rather than just saving their own skins. It literally makes no sense to send this particular team of characters to handle this kind of a conflict, and story beats like this yank you out of the film. So yeah, if anyone tries to convince you that this a “dark” film, they’re likely a studio exec who wants you to buy the latest Suicide Squad tees from your local Hot Topic.
To be honest, I was ready to hit SOME OL’ BULLSHIT on this train wreck, but the movie was saved from annihilation by the efforts of Smith, Robbie and Davis. Viola Davis is fucking perfect as the character of Amanda Waller; a calm, calculating spy with zero regard for human life. She manipulates people, intimidates even the more monstrous members of the Squad, and all around doesn’t give one iota of a fuck. I legitimately want to see her character elsewhere in the DC Cinematic Universe once they figure out how to make a decent film for once.
As for Smith and Robbie, their lines may be atrocious but their charisma shines through all the crap. This is probably the best thing I’ve seen Will Smith since The Pursuit of Happyness which premiered ten freaking years ago. For Suicide Squad, his screen presence commands a large portion of this movie and is even given the most fleshed out backstory out of all the members. To be honest, a film starring Smith being introduced to the Squad and we watch his interactions with the team would have made for a better and far more focused film. So long as his interaction with Robbie’s Harley Quinn is given more substance.
Robbie, for her part, has a few missteps when her Quinn accent keeps dropping that prevent her from being consistent, but she was at least interesting compared to all the other members of the squad. She also has some of the best lines in this garbage script that she delivers pretty well, but she’s also tied to one of my central problems with this movie, the Joker.
Full disclosure, the Joker is only 10-freaking minutes of the two hour run-time for Suicide Squad. That’s not an exaggeration, he’s hardly fucking in it despite all the marketing materials (and especially the highly misleading trailers framing him as the main antagonist), he barely registers any presence in this whole fucking thing save for two flashbacks involving Quinn and one 3 minute sequence involving the Squad itself. Actually, you can literally cut all of the scenes involving the Joker out and you’d have the EXACT same movie. It’s that pointless Wolverine scene from X-Men: Apocalypse all over again, only this time it’s more frustrating because the trailers had hyped up his appearance from minute one. Hell, none of the other members of the cast except for Quinn even appears on screen with the Joker, which raises the question of why Jared Leto was engaging in all sorts of bullshit method acting with his fellow thespians?
Leto, for his part, is the second worst Joker I’ve ever seen. Only John DiMaggio (Bender from Futurama) turned in a more forgettable performance of one of the most famous antagonists in Batman: Under the Red Hood. The only praise I will give to Leto’s Joker is that he looks like a blinged-out gangster, which is at least an interesting angle to take the character after the iconic serial killer turn given by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. But the potential for anything interesting is squandered by this guy’s speech pattern which came across to me as a shitty Jack Sparrow impersonation (though my girlfriend thinks its way more operatic version of that character, and not in a good way…hard to argue with her). Coupled with the fact he’s providing such a tame, boring tone for one of the most insane super-villains ever, Leto’s Joker is a failure of epic proportions, one that I hope is quickly forgotten whenever Ben Affleck gets to do his solo Batman movie.
As for the rest of the cast, they range from forgettable to downright boneheaded. Katana is an afterthought, to the point I kept forgetting she was involved at all save for one scene where she breaks rank with her superiors to join the Squad in rebellion…even though she was given no reason or remote relationship with any of them to act in defiance. Speaking of forgettable, we had the new Robocop step in as the de-facto leader of this group, Rick Flag. A role originally taken by Tom Hardy and who likely dropped out after he saw the disastrous script he was handed. Jai Courtney was trying to do something fun as an asshole, which is the most positive thing I can say about the guy in forever.
But then you have Killer Croc playing some really awful Black stereotypes and El Diablo is a freaking Mexican gangbanger. Seriously? I’ve waited years for a Latino superhero, and you make him a fucking cliche? Oh! And I didn’t even mention the part where he pulls a hitherto unknown superpower, literally out of his ass that raised even more questions rather than dazzling me in anyway. And I’m not gonna even bother ragging on the villain. She just gyrates in front of computer generated effect while whispering some nonsense. Seriously guys, if you were ripping off Guardians of the Galaxy at every turn, you could have at least lifted the forgettable villain who had a concrete and formidable threat. Enchantress is about as threatening as a twerking Miley Cyrus.
The biggest letdown for me regarding this movie is the director, David Ayer. This guy cut his teeth with gritty crime dramas like Training Day and End of Watch, and even directed an action-packed World War II drama with Fury. But the shootouts he shows here are boring and uninspired throughout the crux of the film with some phenomenally bad editing. Then the wretchedness gets kicked into overdrive with a climax that looked ripped from last year’s Fantastic 4. Word to the wise, never rip that piece of shit off.
Goddamn, so much is wrong with this movie but I was never bored with it. Mostly because it kept fascinating me how it would fuck up with every character beat, every plot development, every soundtrack choice and every idiotic piece of fan service DC management shoves in there with the grace and subtlety of a rhino attempting to fuck a Fiat. It’s a masterpiece of fucking up. I can’t, in good conscience, give this an abysmally low rating, because you need to see this shit to believe it. Therefore, I’m giving this a low, low, low, low, low, low, painfully fucking low, low if you’re into bad films, lower than hell…
EDIT 6/5/2017: Due to how good Wonder Woman was, I have no choice but to go back and look at this film to be honest with myself. Because I HATE this goddamn film, so freaking much. So without further ado…
FUCK THIS MOVIE
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