Friday, August 05, 2016

Suicide Squad

From literally the first frame of SUICIDE SQUAD, you know it’s lazy, unadventurous, by-the-book filmmaking. Writer/director David Ayer (SABOTAGE) opens the film with an on-screen graphic identifying the setting as Louisiana, while the soundtrack plays “House of the Rising Sun,” mandated for every bad film set in Louisiana. Soon after, Ayer cuts to three people sitting at a table, where they spend ten minutes laying out backstory (between sloppy continuity errors) for the characters, complete with on-screen graphics reproducing their resumes — another sign that the director isn’t taxing his creativity.

And if eight credited editors doesn’t signal disaster, a scene where Ayer establishes the circus-like sharpshooter abilities of hitman Deadshot (Will Smith giving the film’s only competent performances), later followed by yet another scene establishing his skills, tells you the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing, even though both hands belong to David Ayer.

This would normally be the place to briefly synopsize the film’s plot, but because SUICIDE SQUAD has none, I’ll jump to the basic premise. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) conceives the bright idea to put together a squad of evil villains with superpowers and abilities to fight Superman (or a “metahuman” like him) in case Superman ever became a terrorist. Two problems with this stupid premise. First, there is zero chance the B- and C-listers in the Suicide Squad could ever defeat Superman. The second is that the film repeatedly tells Waller that her idea is a stupid one — “These people are uncontrollable!” — and the movie never tells us why it isn’t. Seems like assembling a squad of superheroes, rather than a squad of supervillains, would make a helluva lot more sense.

The Suicide Squad consists of Deadshot, who shoots people; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who also shoots people, so no idea what she brings to the table except a wardrobe of wet T-shirt and panties; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), who throws boomerangs at people; Diablo (Jay Hernandez), who throws fire at people; Katana (Karen Fukuhara), who cuts people with a sword; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who’s basically a stronger pro wrestler; Slipknot (Adam Beach), cannon fodder; and Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a soldier and the group’s leader. As mentioned above, no chance these guys could stop Superman from hailing a cab. Some of them receive little flashback origin stories. Some just show up (“Hey, that guy’s called Slipknot.”).

Also in this movie is Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), a witch who exists only to give the squad someone to fight. Her powers and motivations are poorly explained, and it beats me what her endgame is. And there’s the Joker (who has the word “Damaged” tattooed on his forehead in case, you know, we didn’t figure it out), embarrassingly portrayed by Jared Leto (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB) as a brilliant underworld figure who openly hangs out in Gotham City nightclubs, leaving one pondering why Batman lets the madman run around loose. Of the main cast, Leto appears only with Robbie and serves no purpose to the story, but allows Ayer to stretch the running time to a ridiculous 130 minutes.

The film contains no surprises. Everything you think is going to happen does. The soundtrack consists of the same six family-friendly oldies that have been littering bad films for years, and just when you think Ayer surely isn’t hacky enough to include “Spirit in the Sky,” ah, hell no. Outside of Smith’s Deadshot, who could use a movie of his own without rummies pulling him down, the characters behave strictly according to action movie tropes nearly as old as action movies themselves.

Look, you knew SUICIDE SQUAD wasn’t going to be good — if it were, Jai Courtney wouldn’t have been in it — but who could have expected it to be ineptly paced garbage with no exciting action scenes, no innovative visual effects, no adequate performances (save Will Smith), and no visual style? Ayer aims for heavy dramatics during the climax when Smith shouts at Robbie to toss him her gun in slow motion, and all I could think while fighting drowsiness was, “What’s wrong with the two guns you have strapped to your arms?”

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