Movie review: ‘Suicide Squad’ scores with super-villains
There’s no way of avoiding comparisons between the newest Zack Snyder-produced superhero extravaganza “Suicide Squad” and the 1965 E.M. Nathanson WWII novel, and Robert Aldrich’s 1967 film adaptation “The Dirty Dozen.”
Well, first, let’s take out the word hero. The protagonists in “The Dirty Dozen” were bad soldiers, through and through, and the folks in the contemporary “Suicide Squad” are super-villains. Both stories have awful people, all in prison for heinous acts, including murder, who are secretly being given a second chance by the government. They will temporarily be released from jail, under strict supervision, and will go on a mission so dangerous they’re likely not to come out of it alive. But if they do the job, and make it through in one piece, they’ll have a big chunk of time taken off their sentences.
“Suicide Squad,” in a different iteration, actually predates “The Dirty Dozen,” the original DC comic book being published for a short run in 1959. It returned, with mostly new characters, and a story closer to the new film’s, in 1987, then again in 2011. “The Dirty Dozen” was straight action-drama with a subversive comic edge. “Suicide Squad” still carries its comic book roots but, with Snyder, who often can’t control his big cinematic visions, watching over writer-director David Ayer (writer-director of the excellent “End of Watch” and “Fury”), it tends to get pretty excessive in terms of ramped-up effects and energy.
And though some of the story needs tightening to avoid confusion as far as what the heck is going on, and the specific motivations of certain characters, there’s never a moment that isn’t fun to watch.
It starts in the notorious Belle Reve Federal Penitentiary, home of what grimly determined government intelligence officer Amanda Walter (Viola Davis) calls “the worst of the worst,” the men and woman that she wants to turn into a team because, in a not-so-subtle reference to “Batman v. Superman,” Superman has “stopped flying” and she needs them for a special project.
The components of her dream team are introduced, verbally to her superiors, and via film clips of their past deeds and comic book-style graphics to viewers. And they are one nasty bunch, among them: Deadshot (Will Smith), who has never missed in completing a gun-induced kill; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), who has robbed every bank in Australia, then moved on to America; Diablo (Jay Hernandez), who knows his way around the evil use of pyrotechnics; and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, in what will be her breakout role), who is cutesy, always smiling, extremely athletic, and as vicious and deadly as any of the men. Harley is also the girlfriend of the Joker (Jared Leto, who astoundingly makes one almost forget the great Heath Ledger portrayal), who has managed to evade capture, and plans to rescue Harley and kill Batman (Ben Affleck has a couple of effective cameos that help build the story).
With this crew, along with a couple of others, finally formed into a less-than-cohesive unit, Amanda puts them under the command of by-the-book military man Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who is not happy about this situation, but is someone who follows orders.
It’s then that the secret mission begins, which is where that story-tightening is needed. But it’s probably enough to know that it involves Enchantress — a malevolent goddess capable of possessing human bodies — and her powerful and no less malicious brother, along with an army of fast-moving zombies that appear to be made of ashes.
Things turn ultra-violent, but in a superhero/villain-movie kind of way, so it won’t do damage to anyone age 8 or over. Then it all calms down for a quiet barroom scene where the antiheroes get to share drinks, chat, and reveal some of their back stories. But, as inevitably as those earlier movie comparisons, this all returns to mayhem, leading up to a big bad vs. evil showdown.
There’s actually an upbeat conclusion, of sorts, and an end-credits sequence that solidifies “Suicide Squad” as being a tie-in between “Batman v. Superman” and “Justice League,” which will be released — now, write this down — on Nov. 17, 2017.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written and directed by David Ayer
With Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez