“Suicide Squad,” the latest fumbled movie offering based on a DC Comics franchise, has only two things going for it.
The most noteworthy is Margot Robbie who brings a wonderful crazy energy to her role as super villain Harley Quinn. The character has been immensely popular since debuting in “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992 and Robbie’s personification of Quinn is flawless.
Secondly, it’s an improvement over the painfully bad “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It’s not much of an improvement, but the bar was so low a slug could have jumped it.
“Suicide Squad” is comic book’s answers to “The Dirty Dozen.” A group of ultra dangerous criminals are forced to go on a mission that will most likely kill them all. There’s little concern by those in charge because the criminals are so vicious.
Setting up the back stories turns the first 30 minutes into a plodding endurance test of explanatory material. It really doesn’t matter why Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbgje) looks reptilian or Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) uses the Aussie throwing sticks to rob banks. They’re bad to the bone. That’s all the audience needs to know.
Director David Ayer’s tries to create some sympathy for the villains through Deadshot (Will Smith), an assassin who spends half his time talking about the daughter he never gets to see.
Smith’s work would have come across a lot more interesting without the rest of the squad dragging him down. He has his moments – but they are brief moments.
If you want to avoid spoilers, skip the next paragraph. The focus on Deadshot turns the highly anticipated performance by Jared Leto as Joker into a supporting role. Making Joker a minor player is a real shock considering the hype surrounding his casting.
There was great potential with Leto, but his performance – think Jack Nicholson meets Heath Ledger – is so uninspiring that more of him would have just prolonged the pain.
The biggest and best thief in “Suicide Squad” is Robbie’s Quinn. She is a run-for-your life scary character, who manages to be adorable. At least adorable for someone who can swing a bat harder than David Ortiz.
The villains aren’t the only problem. Ayer’s turns to a long list of movie tropes – from planting explosives in the necks of the squad members as a way of controlling them to a massive final threat that looks a lot like the end of the recent “Ghostbusters” reboot. The action scenes are big and familiar.
Ayer’s set up of the big battle is convoluted and forced. It gets worse when a central threat to humanity dances around like a reject from “So You Think You Can Dance.”
DC has yet to find the balance of story, characters and action that Marvel movies do so well. The curse of recent horrible DC-inspired movies has been broken a bit because Quinn is such a captivating character. But even her performance can’t counter the painfully slow start, steady flood of trite action scenes and a convoluted story that would have to improve tenfold to be even passable.
The film doesn’t suggest “Suicide” for DC’s efforts to make comic book movies. It just doesn’t give it the life the studio needs so badly. It will be up to Wonder Woman, whose movie opens in 2017, to finish what Harley Quinn started here.
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney
Director: David Ayer
Rating: PG-13 (violence, action scenes)
Opens: Friday, Aug. 5