Suicide Squad ★★½

soundcloud.com/wagesofcinema/episode-58-suicide-squad

Call it the Rule of Very Low Expectations, but by this rule I had a good time with this movie. It's not the Fantastic Four level disaster you've heard. Is it nihilistic? Yes, though not anywhere near some other films this year (not to say it's as good as those, i.e. Deadpool), and the fact that this was green-lit and conceived in the shadow of Guardians of the Galaxy is painfully obvious (i.e. Killer Croc = Groot, more or less).

But David Ayer as a director AND writer creates his own nutso playground to work in, and though Batman from the Goddamn Synder-verse appears it's really his own making this time - it's a colorful film to look at (not as "artistic" as the other neon film by Refn, but close), and while it's an ensemble it gets two really fantastic actors and anti-hero/villain characters: Deadshot (Will Smith, in the best I've seen him in almost ten years, fully entertaining in his Will Smith but grungier, more cynical, and he is fully acting here and giving it his all even when the script lets him down), and Harley Quinn (Margot Robibie, who I assume was created because she's one of those people the camera just loves, and she loves this character and it shows).

They're the driving force here amid a group of motley characters and actors - some better than others, i.e. it was impossible not to think of Jai Courtney, having fun much as he is, as a discount Tom Hardy since he dropped out of the role, and Jay Hernandez who brings a lot to a character that is basically Fire Hulk - and that helps when it becomes clear that when this Squad that's been assembled, with a mostly entertaining series of backstories in the opening act, are put into a fairly generic and problematic plot that climaxes with (uh, spoilers?) the actual homage to Ghostbusters 84 for this summer(!)

I think if I looked at the disappointments to have with the film they would be there, like how Cara Delvegine (sic) carries some real screen presence as the villain but she is just another in a long line of comic book movie villains that want to take over/destroy the world for mystifying-stupid reasons, and the Joker is surprisingly completely ancillary to the plot (and Leto makes me pine for Ledger's good but overrated performance as the Joker - like, I really miss him now he's so snarly and ugly and his-heart-isn't-in-this performance).

But thinking about the movie some hours after, I find more to like about it than I don't: a lot of it comes down to the potential that is here with these characters and their powers, how they play off of one another, their energy and how they appear (Killer Croc is... NOT a CGI creation, yes, it's possible!) and how sometimes the plot flashbacks work (again with Diablo, the Jay Hernandez character, I felt Ayer coming through the most via his South LA filmmaking roots, and that's a good thing here).

So I can nitpick this and it's probably a mixed bag. But I was not actively annoyed or bored - climax the one exception - and it provides its actors some strong moments to shine. It's not actively brooding or trying to be DARK in some hamfisted way that doesn't work. Its flaws are not from some terrible 'moments-driven' vision like a Snyder, nor is it talky-philosophical like a Nolan film. It's as acceptable today as it would be if it had come out circa 2002, which is about right. In other words, it's a decent dark-light refitting of the 'GotG' formula, and it's adequate! In this summer of deathly bombs and other BS that's fine.


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MONTHS LATER
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This movie probably isn't as good as I remember it - and the Honest Trailer pointing out the Joker exclaiming "Big HUNKA-HUNKA!" and it clearly being a rip-off of Jim Carrey (what?!) and that now being stuck in my head forever - but the star rating stays.

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