ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
A complete mess, but a mostly entertaining one.
The biggest problem for me is the way the Harley-Joker relationship is handled. The movie goes back and forth trying to show it as simultaneously loving and abusive, with the Joker trying to kill Harley in one scene and saving her life in the next. I read that some of this ambiguity was introduced after Warner Bros screened two versions of the film for test audiences and they went with the one that cut out the complex character development, but in any case it doesn't work here and creates jarring tonal shifts that really detract from the otherwise mostly successful imitation of Guardians of the Galaxy's vibe.
You could also argue that this is part of a larger problem that the movie tries to juggle too many characters and ends up successfully servicing none of them, but for the most part I didn't mind how thin the character development was spread because the focus is on the group as a whole more than any one member of it. Doing 99% of character development in flashback also feels like a bit of a cheat, and the way characters are introduced halfway through the film feels careless, but again it didn't bother me too much because I was more concerned with the whole than any of the parts. If Ayer's mark on the film can be felt anywhere, it's in the success of the team building.
But speaking of the flashbacks, why do we open on Deadshot and not Waller? I ask this question rhetorically since I know that the answer is the test audience screenings, but starting with Waller and then going to Deadshot and Harley just feels so much more coherent to me considering Waller is both the impetus for the entire narrative and the only actually interesting character in the film. But, you know, you gotta start with the "fun"/"sexy" characters first, I guess. A minor point, but I'm just disappointed at (this cut of) the movie's priorities.
In any case, what I'm trying to say is that it's certainly a frustrating experience because it could have been so much better, but I'm not even mad that I'll probably end up seeing it again in theaters.