Movie Review: ‘SUICIDE SQUAD’ – dead on impact


Jared McMillan // Film Critic

SUICIDE SQUAD | 123 min | PG-13
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot RobbieJoel KinnamanJay HernandezAdewale Akinnuoye-AgbajeCara Delevingne and Viola Davis

By now, any fan of comic book movies is well aware of DC Films’ detriments when it comes to their formula: devoid of personality, action set pieces without continuity, lacking a cohesive story, and a moratorium on anything humorous. It’s obvious their main goal is to be the opposite of Marvel, a stark contrast that favors a dark realism over the bright fantastic. They are also stuck in this pattern, prisoners of their success from THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy.

As each movie rolls out, their box office mirrors the emotion that comes with watching an entire DC movie: It starts out strong, but eventually the audience becomes wise and the anticipation fizzles out before settling somewhere between mild success and utter disappointment. So, it was a welcomed surprise that their next endeavor would be something outside of the box in SUICIDE SQUAD, which is about a group of villains recruited by the government to do their dirty work.

The audience is introduced to the squad by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a hard-nosed government agent looking to find a solution to counteract the surging existence of meta-humans now that Superman is gone. She comes to the conclusion that using the worst villains, known as Task Force X, as a weapon gives them an advantage as well as plausible deniability… because government.

The government approves use of several of the worst in DC’s universe via video-game style statistics: Deadshot (Will Smith), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), and, of course, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). They are to be handled by Capt. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who is being coerced because of his attachment to June Moone, the human possessed by Enchantress.

Before being assembled, Enchantress goes AWOL and decides to send Earth back to ancient civilization, using her brother to keep her alive until her heart is found; a heart that is being held by Amanda Waller to use Enchantress to her bidding…because manipulative government. The time has come to put Task Force X into motion and see if they have what it takes to be heroes.

It’s here that the creative team of SUICIDE SQUAD decided to introduce a new member: Trainwreck, the worst villain of any movie, known to leave a path of audience members in its wake while destroying hopes and dreams.

L-R: Jai Courtney, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Karen Fukuhara, Joel Kinnaman and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje are a few of the stars that make up the SUICIDE SQUAD. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

L-R: Jai Courtney, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Karen Fukuhara, Joel Kinnaman and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje are a few of the stars that make up the SUICIDE SQUAD. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Before diving into the movie’s flaws, it’s important to note that it has nothing to do with the actors, who do the best with what they can. In fact, the charisma of Will Smith and Margot Robbie actually make the movie a little fun in certain parts. Deadshot is cynical and the most human of the bunch, with Rick Flag acting as the straight man to his folly. And Robbie’s facial expressions and mannerisms try to hold true to the Harley Quinn we love. There are decent action set pieces to keep the pace of the movie going, so entertaining moments do happen.

Written and directed by David Ayer, the entirety of the movie tries to rely on flash over substance. It’s edited so much that nothing ever has any actual impact. Furthermore, the presentation of the movie is accompanied with constant soundtrack, whether it be score or recognizable songs that are played one after the other.

As such, it appears most of the decisions were made by way of “things looking cool” instead of giving the story some much needed gravitas. Wouldn’t it be cool if, instead of having her in the jesterly outfit accustomed to her character, Harley Quinn looked like something straight out off of Google when we search “Harley Quinn cosplay”? It would also be cool if Enchantress were the new Gozer the Gozarian (seriously, there are a lot of shots/scenarios ripped out of the original GHOSTBUSTERS), and that she’s creating this giant McGuffin weapon of annihilation!

Because if things look cool on screen, you won’t notice that the dialogue is anywhere from generic to painstaking (Harley’s catchphrases are used so much they don’t have meaning). Or that the relationship between Joker and Harley is watered-down romantics, instead of the torturous hold that he has over her. The reason we root for Harley in comics is because we know she is manipulated into evil, and we want her to finally realize she doesn’t need him. Taking that away just makes Harley’s cinematic debut a fetishistic vision of “damaged goods”.

Speaking of The Joker (Jared Leto), there is absolutely no need for his presence in this movie. Made to look like a methed-out paramour that pines for Harley Quinn, there is nothing threatening to him and he adds nothing to the story other than quick-fills for plot holes. Although now if there were ever the question “What if Joker looked like Marilyn Manson on the cover of Smells Like Children?”, we can rest easy that there is now an answer.

We are all wanting DC to finally make its impact to help our Marvel vs. DC war come to fruition. But, much like its villain, they keep searching for its heart while juggling its creation, surrounded by so much light and magic we can’t tell what it is. Surely, this movie will have great box-office returns, and maybe that’s all they want. However, one can’t help but feel that, instead of watching DC Films’ SUICIDE SQUAD make the studio about-face, we are left possibly seeing DC Films’ suicide.

SUICIDE SQUAD opens everywhere on Friday in various formats.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.