Good Guys and Bland Guys, by Bob Connally

5 Aug


During the summer movie season, many of us- even those of us who view film as art-  want nothing more than to be entertained. We want movies this time of year to be fun. Certainly we want a film about a group of convicts being cobbled together for a mission that puts their criminal skills to use for good to be fun. Unfortunately, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad commits a crime worthy of a stint in movie jail. The simple truth is it’s just dull. Considering the potential this movie had, it’s that much more of a shame.

Set in the wake of Superman’s death in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a group of criminals to be used for Dirty Dozen-style missions for the U.S. government. These expendable agents include topflight hit man Deadshot (Will Smith), violent psychotic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and metahuman Diablo (Jay Hernandez) who can create and manipulate fire with his hands. There are some other team members that the movie barely cares about so why should we? Together, they’ll be led by Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) on the sort of world saving mission that superhero movies tend to have and which tend to be uninteresting. The mission here exists only as an excuse to put these characters together, something that would be acceptable were these characters more interesting and the action more engaging.

Written and directed by Ayer (adapted from the comic book by John Ostrander), Suicide Squad feels like DC’s attempt to outdo Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. I didn’t want to get into the DC-Marvel rivalry that has spilled over from comics to screen, but this movie readily invites the comparison to Guardians both in its aim to be an oddball outlier in its cinematic universe and through its heavy use of classic rock songs. Sadly though, where Guardians succeeded on both of these counts with flying colors, Suicide Squad fails. Guardians embraced being unapologetically weird, funny, and unique, with its ‘70s and ‘80s pop songs representing the beating heart of a lead character who’d lost his mother too soon. The songs in Suicide Squad are just there for the sake of being there and especially through the first half of the movie they are relentless. It gives the film an unwanted episodic feel from scene to scene.

The cast is hit and miss, with Smith and Robbie faring the best. They are as good as the material allows them to be, providing some soul and depth to their characters and making at least some of the film’s humor land. There’s a nice natural chemistry between the two that is unfortunately barely utilized. The rest of the cast is largely forgettable while Jared Leto’s work as the Joker is fascinating. It’s not the performance itself that’s fascinating, but rather the effect that it has. He manages to be both bland and over the top at the same time. Yes, over the top. For the Joker. He has none of the charisma or sense of flare of Jack Nicholson, nor the genuinely frightening menace or depth of Heath Ledger. It’s like watching an annoying friend do his Joker impression in a Halloween costume.

By the time we get to the big, dumb finish it doesn’t even matter anymore that we can barely see the action through the smoke and dark because we don’t care and Ayer makes action sequences that are boring. In this age of constantly remaking the wrong movies I can’t help but feel that Suicide Squad is exactly the sort of movie that someday should be remade. There’s potential with this premise and these characters. David Ayer couldn’t deliver. Maybe in about twenty years someone else can. Maybe we’ll get to see the Suicide Squad this movie should have been.

2 Responses to “Good Guys and Bland Guys, by Bob Connally”

  1. Bill Sadler August 6, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    Spot on about ending. .. remake or sequel? ?

  2. Bob Connally August 11, 2016 at 6:00 am #

    Since it’s made a ton of money and it’s just part of this big cinematic universe Warner Bros and DC have started I’m sure it’s going to be spin-offs and sequels. Eventually they will all just end up being remade again though probably anyway.
    So to answer your question, ultimately both.

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