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Suicide Squad Review #2: It's Better Than Batman v Superman

By Julian Roman — August 4th, 2016

Suicide Squad is a relatively brainless, pop-action spectacle. It's a two hour barrage of bullets and beat downs, meant to introduce a host of characters that we will see ad nauseam in countless future Warner Bros. movies. Suicide Squad never tries to be anything more than the cool whip on top of the sundae. It's the shallowest teen in the high school clique. That is a welcome relief. Writer/director David Ayer makes no attempt to feign serious. He delivers exactly what all the years of publicity and hype promised, a kicks and giggles take on the DC universe. It lacks substance, but is vastly more entertaining than the dismal Batman v Superman.

The death of Superman has opened up a frightening possibility to the U.S. government. What would be our recourse if a super villain, someone or something with immense power, attacked our way of life? Insert Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), an extremely formidable black operations chief. It's her way or death, period. She's captured the world's most dangerous criminals and meta-humans. Then placed them in a top secret prison called Belle Reve in the swamps of Louisiana. Waller's vision, Task Force X, a disposable and disavowable team of baddies to handle the most dangerous of threats.

Waller's biggest prize is Floyd Lawton (Will Smith), aka Deadshot, the world's deadliest hit man. There is Chato Santana (Jay Hernandez), aka El Diablo, a gang banger with the power to incinerate. Digger Harkness (Jai Courtney), aka Captain Boomerang, a hard drinking thief with a penchant for murder. Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a mutant half man, half crocodile with a taste for human flash, and last but certainly not least, Dr. Harlene Quinzell (Margot Robbie). A former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Dr. Quinzell fell under the spell of the Joker (Jared Leto). Their romance threw Gotham City into chaos. Her capture left the clown prince heartbroken. Nothing will stop him from getting her back.

The overall plot of Suicide Squad is fairly pedantic. The usual end of the world nonsense. What works is the interplay between characters. Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Margot Robbie are at the forefront. Smith is the star of the film, with a lot of time devoted to his back story. His skill as an assassin is effectively portrayed. He never misses. When you're fighting legions of mutated bad guys, it's good to have a guy that puts every shell square between the eyes. There's the requisite Will Smith quips that I could have honestly done without, but to be fair, had the audience laughing. Robbie's turn as Harley Quinn is drawn tile for tile from the comics. She's sexualized, vicious, and psychotically infatuated with the Joker. Their love story is a major part of the film.

I'm on the fence with Jared Leto's incarnation of the Joker. On one hand, he looks absolutely fantastic. Ayer has updated the character's style to a 21st century punk gangster. He has quite a bit to do in Suicide Squad, but we only get hints of his character. He cackles like the Joker, but just didn't come off as scary or threatening. Heath Ledger's Joker was a devastatingly evil psychopath. It may be that Leto needs more screen time to make the Joker his own. I look forward to see where Warner Bros. takes this character. It's unfortunate, but the comparisons to Ledger's performance will continue until Leto surpasses him.

Suicide Squad lays a lot of groundwork for the upcoming Justice League. The tie-ins aren't exactly smooth, but this seems to be par for the DC course. Marvel films are above and beyond their DC counterparts in that regard. There's a whole lot of arguing that can be done as to why this is the case, but it's not terribly distracting in Suicide Squad.

Suicide Squad runs at a quick pace. Fueled by a classic rock and rap soundtrack that I found likeable with David Ayer's direction. It's hardly serious, in no way memorable, but entertaining enough to warrant a second viewing. For all the build-up about bad guys being good guys, Viola Davis' Amanda Waller is easily the deadliest character of the bunch.

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