Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad ★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The abusive, manipulative relationship of Harley Quinn and the Joker, with the latter hurting the former in an attempt to show his affection, is, sadly, a fitting metaphor for Warner Brothers' relationship with audiences. After a ravenous response to a couple of trailers cut by the Trailer Park, Warner Brothers hired a few employees from the company to recut portions of Suicide Squad. The intention was to infuse the energy, humor, and rhythm from the trailers into the film. That mandate was taken too literally. Suicide Squad's first act plays like a lengthy trailer for the third act, compressing exposition, emotional beats, backstory, and compelling character arcs into a cacophonous montage. Having not spent the time to properly endear each character to the audience, the second and third acts, involving an extended set piece in Midway City, fall flat because of payoffs to no set-ups. These misguided attempts to placate fans and consumers by giving them exactly what made the trailers work displays a complete lack of understanding about how cinema operates. While experimental jump cuts, non-linear storytelling, and stylistics can be thrilling, the efforts here are cheap attempts to provide the bare minimum of information while dazzling fans with references and cameos. Clearly, these tricks have connected with some viewers. If the film profits this weekend, then the studio will have received the message loud and clear: keep it up. So, like the Joker continues to mistreat Harley, so too will Mr. WB continue to feed their lovers trash.

What is truly disappointing is that two scenes hint at what Suicide Squad could have been. When the rapid editing slows down and the squad members have conversations, the film, briefly, works. First is the only scene Harley and the Joker share that is romantic, uncluttered, and visually inventive. Testing Dr. Quinzel's commitment to him, the Joker asks her to dive into the same vat of ACE chemicals that transformed him (how laymen audiences are supposed to understand that is unclear, however). In a performance that is more imitation and hollow theatricality than method, Leto's hint of loving sympathy as he dives after Harley provides the clearest glimpse into the perverted romance between these two. That sole scene endears Harley more than any quip or file folder exposition. The same is true for the ensemble scene in the bar. Discovering El Diablo's tragic origin and seeing the connections between the team members grow is a welcome reprieve from the blurry, incompressible action.

A dialog exchange between Deadshot and Rick Flagg about the thin line between a criminal and a soldier provides the film's only suggestion of a driving theme. Represented by the Machiavellian Amanda Waller, the government's callous dehumanization of the Squad and unforthcoming tactics are a cynical, broad condemnation of the treatment of soldiers. Another reading might interpret the diversity of the Squad versus the whiteness of the government (excluding Waller) as a symbol for racial inequality within the justice system. All of these inferences are barely supportable, however, as Ayer and Warner Brothers have edited the material to a dull, illogical, two hour trailer for a film that will never arrive.

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