Suicide Squad – Review (***)

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What many hoped would be a saving grace of the stuck-in-neutral DC Extended Universe is yet another watchable but underwhelming effort that suggests a major problem with editorial control at the top of Warner Bros. Cursorily enjoyable but undeniably disappointing, Suicide Squad is an engrossing mess.

Following the events of Batman v Superman, intelligence agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) makes a radical proposal, to bring together a team of dangerous criminals – Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Slipknot (Adam Beach) – to take on enemies that threaten Earth in order for time off their prison sentences, led by steely Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman).

It’s a delicious set-up and this is a film that absolutely does not want for style or personality. It’s clear from the outset that writer-director David Ayer (Training Day, End of Watch) is trying to capture a similar, albeit darker tone to Guardians of the Galaxy, what with the reliance on quips and pop music, yet Ayer’s effort lacks the same delicate touch and instead feels frequently tone-deaf.

For one, while Guardians liberally sprinkled music throughout, Suicide Squad hap-hazardly hurls an Eminem song in whether it fits the scene or not, and before long it’s hard not to roll your eyes at how desperately the film is pandering to its audience. “We’re cool and hip, we promise!”

Though the characters are what makes the film work, if it does at all, the first-act character introductions are hurried and unimaginative, essentially deferring to a lazy exposition dump from Davis’ character combined with choppy flashbacks. At least the performances from Smith, Robbie, Hernandez and Kinnaman in particular do prove highly entertaining in spite of the film’s issues.

It’s a nice looking film for sure, though perhaps too dark for some tastes, yet the resulting action is sadly rather workmanlike in construction, and once the villainous Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) shows up, it all goes to pot with unconvincing CGI beasties, unaided by a howlingly awful, Razzie-worthy performance from the actress.

This may sound like a burial of the film not befitting its three stars, but it does entertain when it digs down deep with its characters and doesn’t focus on its weaker aspects (the villains, the plot). It’s clear that Warner Bros. once again meddled with the final product rather than allowed their appointed director to complete his vision, with certain scenes having an undeniable reshoot stank while others have evidently been edited into oblivion.

Perhaps the critical reception of both BvS and this film will make Warner realise that their executive molestation isn’t helpful, but then again, if the Squad turns up trumps at the box office as it looks set to, that message will probably fall upon deaf ears.

***

Suicide Squad is in cinemas now

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