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'Suicide Squad' goals

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Latest DC effort can't quite pull it together

There's no disputing that when it comes to making the leap from comic book pages to the big screen, Marvel has got it all over DC right now. For any number of reasons, Marvel and its Avengers have basically worked out a way to delight fans and critics alike.

DC, on the other hand, has gone the other way, painting its own iconic characters with a gritty, grimdark brush with uneven results.

That's why 'Suicide Squad' was a bit of a surprise. Rather than continuing to go all in with characters from its well-known and fairly deep roster, DC decided to dig into their deep bench, trotting out some less popular properties and giving them the blockbuster treatment. It's the sort of move that allows a filmmaker a little leeway in terms of grand cinematic universe construction. Hey it worked with 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' right?

But it doesn't really work for 'Suicide Squad.' This garish and uneven offering has moments of excellence, but they're not enough to overcome the film's thin narrative, character thinness and general inconsistency.

Intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, TV's 'How to Get Away with Murder') is tasked with finding ways to keep the world safe in the time of metahumans. She has developed a plan of last resort called Task Force X that involves the recruitment and utilization of exceptionally-abled criminals (you know, supervillains) into a strike force that is both expendable and easily disavowed.

When a sinister force connected to the Waller recruit/extradimensional witch-being Enchantress (Cara Delevingne, 'Paper Towns') who just happens to be in a romance with crack Special Forces soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, 'Run All Night') in her non-extradimensional witch-being state overwhelms Midway City, the plan must be put into effect.

The team includes hyperaccurate hitman Deadshot (Will Smith, 'Concussion'); the lunatic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, 'The Legend of Tarzan'), companion and partner-in-crime to the Joker (Jared Leto, 'Dallas Buyers Club'); the Australian thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, 'Man Down'); the fire-wielding gangbanger Diablo (Jay Rodriguez, 'Bad Moms'); and the monstrous Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, 'Trumbo'). Oh and a lady with a sword named Katana (Karen Fukuhara in her feature debut) who shows up at one point.

(Note: There is definitely a Batfleck sighting as well, for those who are into that sort of thing.)

Through an assortment of flashbacks (so many, many flashbacks), we are introduced to each team member, getting whatever degree of backstory writer/director David Ayer deemed necessary (spoiler alert: for some of them, it isn't a lot). Even with some characters getting the short end of the stick, the 'meet the team' portion of the proceedings essentially makes up the movie's first half.

And then it's off to fight alongside a bunch of Navy SEALS or whatever and led by Flag. Together, these villains must put aside their personal issues and battle against their baser instincts as they come together to do battle with a threat that they (and we) don't really comprehend for reasons that they (and we) don't really understand a battle that they aren't actually expected to win.

That's not much of a plot synopsis, but there's a reason for that 'Suicide Squad' doesn't have much of a plot. In investing so thoroughly in getting the band together, Ayer sacrifices on the other end, leaving the film's back half without nearly enough time to build to a payoff with any kind of real stakes.

It's as though at the halfway point, someone realized there was only an hour left and tried to cram everything in before it was too late. That leads to some narrative confusion for instance, the number of non-supervillain members of Flag's team at any given time and seemingly nonsensical choices being made by all involved.

But all is not lost. Despite its many flaws, there are some redeeming qualities to 'Suicide Squad.'

Foremost among them are the performances. Well some of them, anyway. It has been a while since we saw this kind of swagger from Will Smith; it's not a particularly nuanced part, but he actually captures some sense of the good/bad internal struggle (though for a villain, he doesn't seem particularly bad). Margot Robbie, on the other hand, leans into the nutso villainy and is outstanding. It's no wonder that the character got pegged for a solo movie before this one even came out; she powers the entire film with an insane energy that somehow makes the character likeable while still being remarkably unsettling. And Viola Davis is straight cold-blooded she's the perfect fit for this character.

Obviously, we have to talk about Leto as the Joker (who is in this movie a bit less than I expected); he'sfine? He's in a tough spot it's a character for which we kind of already have a defining performance thanks to the late Heath Ledger but he handles it all right. At the very least, right or wrong, he definitely has a different take on the character than we've seen on the big screen. Still, after all the hype, it's a bit of a letdown.

The rest of the cast makes do with what they get. Kinnaman is a bit wooden as Flag, while Courtney and Rodriguez handle their limited duties as well as can be expected. Poor Akinnuoye-Agbaje is buried under prosthetics, while Delevingne is buried under CGI effects.

Ultimately, 'Suicide Squad' isn't the worst comic book movie you'll see. While Ayer's script and direction both leave a lot to be desired, there are some great-looking moments and some solid-to-strong performances.

And hey at least they TRIED to be fun. Maybe not as successfully as we would have hoped, but the effort is appreciated.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 09 August 2016 17:47

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