Suicide Squad ★★

"Here comes 12 pounds of shit in a 10 pound bag."

Well, proportionally, that's not as bad as you guys had been implying this was. It's not without merit. It's weird, it's bordering on fun for about half of its runtime, and it's a whole lot riskier than the out-and-out haters are saying. I find Suicide Squad's wholly negative wrap pretty harsh, especially since the ambition is scaled down from Batman v Superman, which was borderline pretentious in its handling of the numerous weighty themes it attempted to fly with. Suicide Squad is a risky movie that plays it safe, with no real baggage concerning its self-aggrandisement as an 'important' piece of cinema. It knows that Guardians of the Galaxy came before it. It's simply a poor imitation of Marvel's better work.

And yes, that is a bad thing. There are moments of sporadic fun along the way, but it's hampered with trying to evoke Awesome Mix Vol. 1 as it goes, and nothing aural sticks throughout the entire film. Beginning with 'House of the Rising Sun' and ending with 'Bohemian Rhapsody', the film appears as a bunch of scoreless scenes with a compilation of good music scattered thematically and painfully obviously over most scenes. The third act lays off this a bit, but that's only because it embodies all of the orchestral melodrama you'd expect from a video game. I honestly suspect a conversation between a studio executive and David Ayer (not everything's his fault...) about the soundtrack went something like this (if anybody even talked about it):

"So, right, Will Smith plays a black skinhead in this movie, right?"

"Yeah...I think so..."

"He's a tough guy too?"

"Yeah."

"And there's a scene where he gets to show his toughness?"

"...yeah."

"Right. Okay, shall we score that scene with 'Black Skinhead'? By Ye? You familiar?"

".........yeah."

"You sound unsure. Well, it's about a black skinhead who's really tough and stuff. Really punchy song, don't think it's too popular either; really had to do some digging to find it."

"..."

"So shall we go for that?"

"...............yeah, fam, whatever."

But what is Ayer's fault is Jared Leto's incarnation of the Joker. Trying to update the most iconic comic-book villain in history after Heath Ledger was always going to be a hard job, but goddammit, Ayer falls at the first hurdle, which is...my god...wait for it...the Joker isn't funny. He doesn't tell jokes. He exists in a liminal space between Ledger's legacy and James Franco's Alien, and falls into the endless chasm of cringe in between the two. Domineering without being charming, he embodies something resembling a blinged-up clown get-up and sinks so deep into the role that he bounces back up again so all you can see is Jared Leto begging for attention in a film that refuses to give him it. It's almost as if the studio is embarrassed of Ayer's groundwork and has tried to snuff out Leto's/Ayer's take on the character by physically removing him from the proceedings and glossing everything over with musical pop-culture diversions.

Which is even more bizarre when you consider the light in which the Joker and Harley Quinn's relationship is examined. Romanticised to the point of absurdity while skipping over the far-more fascinating themes of abuse and domination, it's an icky, sticky part of the film that really undermines Margot Robbie's extravagant turn as the Clown Prince's damaged sidekick/lover. Robbie is unfortunately as good as the material she's given, which is poor, but she manages to shine through the eye-rolling male gaze and irritating character contrivances along the way.

In unexpected news, Jai Courtney was good. Shock horror. Whilst everybody else's reputations have sunk (whether that be a little or a lot), Courtney has climbed to the top, kicking and screaming as he pulls off a character whose main characteristics are a pink unicorn fetish and a bizarrely-inconsistent use of boomerangs and, of course, boomerang drones.

Viola Davis is sturdy as DC's very own self-serious Nick Fury too, but she's not enough to save the film from a winking smugness that doesn't derail the film entirely, but niggles and irritates throughout. Bits and pieces of this kind of irreverence work when lining up the characters in the exposition-heavy opening act (hey, I'm a fan of the title cards; shoot me), but overall, it's an unearned smart-ass move that fails more often than it succeeds.

Oh, and Batman? Preferred him in this to Dawn of Justice. Ta-ra, and shut up.

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