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Suicide Squad review – Does it live up to the hype?

By Fabio Crispim

Who do you turn to when there’s no superheroes to save the day? Why the super-villains of course…right?

Suicide Squad is the eagerly anticipated third instalment of the DC franchise following Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this year and, like its predecessor, Suicide Squad has both fans and critics divided.

Directed by David Ayer, the film opens with a reminder of the fall of Superman and an essence of dread looming over the now unprotected city of Gotham. Anticipating impending danger, Government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) seeks the help of Gotham’s most dangerous and criminally insane with the notion of fighting fire with fire should another superhuman go awry. With a promise of a reduced sentence – and the aid of explosive microchips implanted in their necks – Waller persuades her team of super-villains to comply with her action plan, exploiting their superhuman abilities for the good of mankind. But what are the probabilities of such an occurrence happening? As it turns out, indefinitely.

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The congregation of criminals which become known as the Suicide Squad is made up of hitman Deadshot (Will Smith); the Joker’s psychopathic girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie); bank thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney); fire conjuring El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), cannibalistic Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); Slipknot (Adam Beach); and later joined by mystic warrior Katana (Karen Fukuhara).

The team of antiheroes assemble when the ancient demonic “Enchantress” possesses the body of Dr June Moone (Cara Delevingne) and threatens humanity by freeing her brother, Incubus, and opening a portal in a Gotham subway, turning all around her into a deadly army.

The casting choice, although aesthetically pleasing, is sometimes questionable as most of the main roles are played by models – or models turned actors. The casting of beautiful faces to play Gotham’s ugly, such as Robbie, Delevingne and Courtney, makes you question as to whether Suicide Squad is an action film or Gotham’s Next Top Model.

Regardless of this fact, Robbie pulls off Harley Quinn perfectly, instantaneously becoming a favourite with her sassy charm and blunt bubblegum-popping wit. However, her contribution to the film is more than merely the pin-up poster girl of the squad; she doesn’t pull back on the punches, although deranged, her character is uplifting, funny and the most entertaining, and despite her incredible love for the Joker being her weakness, her character is arguably the strongest and most independent of her antihero counterparts. Both parts beauty and balls, Harley Quinn kicks ass with a deadly slug as she swings her baseball bat over her shoulder and sashays away in her sparkling hot pants.

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Aside from Harley, the rest of the squad is very Deadshot orientated. Although pleasing to many Will Smith fans, Deadshot’s character building seems to dominate a lot of the screen time. His storyline detracts from the action genre a bit too much, leaning more towards that of a sentimental chick-flick Jackie Collins novel, battling father-daughter morality issues when he should be more concerned with battling bad guys.

Many of the other squad members, like Killer Croc whose lines are as short as Harley Quinn’s pants, are highly overlooked in this sense as character focus is predominantly pulled on Harley herself and Deadshot. Boomerang and Katana essentially are to the Suicide Squad what Hawkeye and Black Widow are to the Avengers. Boomerang’s character for instance is somewhat pointless to the story and his presence primarily for comic relief in an overly stereotypical Aussie fashion as his choice of weapon is a boomerang in one hand and a can of lager in the other.

Surprisingly the greatest villain however is agent Waller. An exceptional performance by Davis, she dominates the screen with a cold, detached power and is more heartless than any of the villains she has united – and yet she’s still likeable.

With some big clown shoes to fill following Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Jared Leto’s interpretation of the infamous criminal is pleasing. Played as more of a gangster figure, if a little camp, Leto’s Joker combines the creepiness of Ledger with an essence of refinement of Hiddleston’s Loki in Avengers. While Ledger was playful and quirky in his role, Leto is more so serious – pun intended – and succeeds in making him his own.

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Although entertaining and humorous throughout, Suicide Squad’s downfall is it’s predictable storyline and inability to deliver as much action as promised. With as many cut-always and flashbacks as an episode of Family Guy, action and anticipation is effectively lost at points. Being a 15 certificate, the film is almost void of swearing and the action scenes are relatively mild in comparison to previous DC incarnations and could be darker.

This is certainly reflected through the Enchantress and Incubus, the ultimate villains of the plot. Although they threaten impending doom on the entire human race, the antagonists don’t seem to pose much of threat, outside of Gotham at least, and their trail of disaster is relatively diluted. Their absence throughout the majority of the film is very noticeable and Delevingne’s character seems more preoccupied with Latino dancing than world domination. In addition to this, their army falls short, again not posing much of a threat to the squad, as halfway through the film they manage to find the time to wander into an empty bar, throw back a few shots and throw in a few more flashbacks. This peaceful heart-to-heart in the centre of the supposed havoc without the threat of a single bullet only heightens the film’s need for more action, which is supported by the minimal deaths throughout the film which can be counted on one hand.

The final battle feels somewhat rushed and a lot of the fighting is masked by special effects and the unnecessary slow motion throwing of a gun for dramatic effect. The entire rendezvous is similarly rendered essentially pointless at one point, as if the Enchantress suddenly forgets about her magical powers to which you can hear the sniggers of the audience in what seems like a major plot oversight.

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The costume and overall cinematography, however, works well in correlation with the characters and plot. One of the best components of the film is definitely its soundtrack as the likes of Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones and The Animals, to name but a few, set the scene from the offset and complement the mood and character of the film brilliantly.

The final verdict; Suicide Squad is certainly high in entertainment and comedy value, but lacking in action sequences and requires less sentimentality and more suspension. Characterisation is on the whole is well developed and the open-ended, albeit predictable, finale screams sequel with the hint of character’s possible return.

Regardless as to whether the film’s endearing leading lady, Harley Quinn, will make an appearance or not in Gotham’s next chapter, it is undoubtable you’re going to see a lot of the popular princess knocking on your door this Halloween – and you’d better answer, she’s very handy with a baseball bat.

Words: Tom Richardson

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