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New Release Review - SUICIDE SQUAD

A team of dangerous and unstable 'super villains' is assembled as a special task force.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Ben Affleck, Jai Courtney, David Harbour, Common, Ezra Miller, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Scott Eastwood



Suicide Squad's lack of ambition can be summed up by its soundtrack choices. 'Sympathy for the Devil' is played over a scene involving Will Smith's Deadshot, despite the movie featuring another character whose Spanish name translates verbatim as 'The Devil', which speaks volumes about the lack of effort on display here.



There's a sight gag in David Ayer's comic book adaptation, Suicide Squad, involving a "badass tough guy" and a My Little Pony toy. Sound familiar? If so, you'll have seen another of 2016's superhero efforts, Deadpool. "Surely that's a coincidence?" you might ask. After all, Ayer's film would have gone into production long before anyone saw the Ryan Reynolds film. But let's not discount those late in the day reshoots, which many speculated were prompted by the critical and public bashing of Zack Snyder's 'dark' take on Batman V Superman. Ayer and his cast were called back onto the backlot long after the release of Deadpool, a surprise box office smash.

One of the biggest issues with the current crop of soulless wannabe blockbusters is the lack of any indication that they're crafted by people who actually like movies. Watch the box office smashes of the 1980s and you're left in no doubt that the likes of Spielberg, Zemeckis and Dante live and breathe cinema; their movies call back to previous golden ages, while today's blockbusters merely call back to whatever movie proved a hit six months ago.



Suicide Squad was initially billed as a fresh, 'edgy' addition to the cinematic superhero roster, but the finished product is devoid of risk taking. There's nothing to suggest anyone involved gives two hoots about the source material; this is merely a checklist of tentpole tropes, lazily cobbling together moments we've seen countless times before.

If you've seen the many trailers you'll know we're offered yet another of those ubiquitous beams of light jetting into the sky from a metropolitan area. This one is controlled by 'Enchantress', a witch who possesses June Moone, an archaeologist played by the woefully miscast Cara Delevingne, who looks all of 16 here, which makes her romance with Joel Kinnaman's soldier Rick Flag look decidedly dodgy.

Why is Enchantress shooting a giant beam of light into the sky? Who knows? Who cares? At this point does anything in these movies matter? We all know we're simply being exposed to advertising  for the next installment in the franchise. Here we get the set up for a future movie involving every troubled teen's favourite villain, The Joker (Jared Leto). His presence adds nothing to what little story there is here; Leto is simply a hype man for a movie we'll be suckered into seeing in a couple years time. He's onscreen for a combined total of no more than five minutes and only interacts with one member of the main cast, which confirms his widely reported irritating method acting antics of sending live rats and used contraceptives to his co-stars as nothing more than the immature actions of an attention seeking plonker.

Of course, such tales are all part of a publicity campaign to prepare us for how 'out there' and 'edgy' Suicide Squad is. In reality it's as conservative as a Christopher Reeve Superman movie (but naturally nowhere near as fun). The opening 20 minutes tells us how insane and dangerous the various squad members are through a series of vignettes that play like trailers for far more interesting movies than the one we end up seeing, but once the squad is assembled and sent off on their generic mission they all oddly get a dose of the feels and become about as dangerous as a Hare Krishna commune.



Those opening vignettes expose just what a bad decision it was for DC to introduce all these characters in one movie. We're introduced to the various SS members the way hopeful pop stars are revealed on TV talent shows - here's Mike in his butcher's shop in Bradford, here's Deadshot at work assassinating generic mobsters.

Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, who for obvious reasons has hogged the marketing, is particularly ill served. We're told she falls so head over heels for The Joker that she's willing to sacrifice her own life for him, yet the film never shows us why she would be so attracted to Gotham's least eligible bachelor. It would be financial suicide to leave out such a fan favourite, but Quinn's presence in this story makes no sense; she possesses no skills related to the mission whatsoever, along with the small matter of her being a complete sociopath.

For most of the movie, Robbie serves as little more than eye candy, but that's the least of the film's problems when it comes to its female characters. Not one, but two women are punched in the face and knocked unconscious by men here, and another moment has Deadshot threaten to do the same to Quinn. All three beats are played for laughs. The accusations certain viewers made about the negative portrayal of men in the Ghostbusters remake apply tenfold here. There are four women in the movie: one's a blond bimbo, one's a career woman who seems to have attained her position by being a ruthless bitch, and the other two are crude Asian and Latina stereotypes. Not that the men fare much better in that department: Jai Courtney plays a drunk Aussie while Jay Hernandez is a tattooed Latino gangbanger. You'll find matchstick figures on school desks sketched less crudely than this lot.

What Suicide Squad fails to understand about 'guys on a mission' movies is that's it's the guys that matter, not the mission. The Dirty Dozen, that classic of the sub-genre, spends the vast majority of its running time on the assembly and training of its rag tag squad, letting us get to know the various reprobates involved, before sending them into battle in the final act as fully formed characters. The Suicide Squad are dropped into their warzone in the film's second act, allowing no time for character development.



Suicide Squad's lack of ambition can be summed up by its soundtrack choices; you'll hear more inventive playlists at German football stadiums. 'Fortunate Son' is there of course, along with 'Seven Nation Army', and it wouldn't be a generic Hollywood movie without a few bars of 'Sympathy for the Devil' for good measure. The latter is played over a scene involving Will Smith's Deadshot, despite the movie featuring another character whose Spanish name translates verbatim as 'The Devil', which speaks volumes about the lack of effort on display here.

When we meet the movie's villains, and they turn out to be literally faceless, we're left wondering if maybe we're watching some meta dissection of the generic nature of the superhero movie genre, or maybe Ayer is indulging in some extravagant trolling? Nah, it's just summer, and nobody can be bothered at this time of year.

In his 1991 hit 'Summertime', Will Smith sang "If it ain't broke then don't try to fix it, and think of the summers of the past." As far as Hollywood's current situation is concerned, it's very much in need of fixing, and we can but dream of summers past.

Suicide Squad is in cinemas August 5th.




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