Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: Suicide Squad

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The new anti-superhero movie, Suicide Squad, hasn't lived up to the hype.
The new anti-superhero movie, Suicide Squad, hasn't lived up to the hype.

Five supervillains walk into a bar. The movie they're in pretty much stops. No, there's no punchline.

There's not even a Joker. Suicide Squad might mark the return of DC Comics' greatest villain to the big screen and Jared Leto's take on the killer clown might be impressively mad-eyed and dentally-challenged.

But the Joker doesn't figure much in any of this. When he does he's a less than memorable part of what's yet another disappointing comic book movie.

Jared Leto stars as The Joker in the movie Suicide Squad.
Jared Leto stars as The Joker in the movie Suicide Squad.

Suicide Squad promised transgressive freaky grown-up fun in its trailers. Something that might have rivalled the outlandishness of Deadpool.

But the end result is a mild-mannered play-it-safe slog of long character introductions followed by endless shootouts and a CGI-heavy finale that seems to have a Ghostbusters virus in its software.

Yes, it is also part of a bigger thing. After the dull kapow!-athon of Batman Vs Superman, this marks the second attempt at building a world in which DC characters can fight a battle for truth, justice and a grab of market share from those Avengers over at Marvel.

Given that the DC villains of old that faced Superman and Batman were always madder, badder and much cooler than Marvel's, having a movie full of them would seem a bright idea.

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It just hasn't worked out that way. Some characters do shine from out of the dull, dark action.

Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, described by one of her guards as "a whole lot of pretty and a whole lot of crazy", steals every scene she's in. Though even then, she's not really let off the leash.

And as the hot pants-wearing brainwashed plaything of the Joker - she was a psychologist who fell in love with the psycho - you would hope she's not mistaken for a new shining example of pop culture female empowerment. No doubt, come Halloween she will be everywhere.

Will Smith and Margot Robbie star in the film, Suicide Squad.
Will Smith and Margot Robbie star in the film, Suicide Squad.

But Robbie is the most fun thing here and she's good Halloween costume inspiring company in Jay Hernandez's pyromaniac homeboy Ed Diablo.

Elsewhere, Will Smith's Deadshot feels like another stock Smith character. While another calls him "a serial killer who takes credit cards", there are strenuous efforts to show he's a decent divorced dad to his daughter. That feels more like movie star brand management than anything.

This dirty half-dozen gets assembled by US government security wonk Amanda Waller (Viola Davis of How to Get Away with Murder in the best performance here).

After the supposed death of Superman, she wants this A-team to deal with the next wave of "flying men and monsters".

She's got special forces Captain Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to make sure the squad doesn't step out of line and he's armed with a kill switch on all of them.

However, the first threat comes from close to home. Flag's girlfriend Dr June Moone (Cara Delevingne) has been possessed by ancient witch Enchantress, whose dimension-shifting powers have been controlled by Waller - until they aren't.

And soon it all heads to Enchantress wanting to destroy the world for reasons unknown by building a cosmic weapon - "that swirling ring of trash in the sky" deadpans Deadshot, sounding like a man suffering déjà vu from past superhero finales.

Cara Delevingne as Enchantress in the movie Suicide Squad.
Cara Delevingne as Enchantress in the movie Suicide Squad.

As Enchantress, Ms Delevingne is certainly amusing, especially when her end-is-nigh ancient deity sermon is autotuned to "voice of doom" and her eyebrows are looking particularly apocalyptic.

Along the way, she's also conjuring up zombie-lie hoards for the squad to wade through like so many videogame levels and brings in her reanimated brother, a big guy who seems made of golden lava.

Yes, this movie of great villains doesn't have particularly good villains to do battle against.

And the execution from writer-director David Ayer (who impressed with his WWII tank battle movie Fury) feels like it's playing it safe, despite having a movie of so many dangerous personalities and possibilities.

So many, it seems that the need for an actual story seems to have got lost in the process.

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) was a psychologist who fell in love with The Jokers (Jared Leto).
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) was a psychologist who fell in love with The Jokers (Jared Leto).

Its narrative is essentially one of extended introductions followed by turkey shoot with occasional bickering and fatalities in the ranks.

While the incentives for the squad to play for the good guys are reduced prison time, some characters do have deeper motivations. Flag, of course, wants to save Moone and the Joker wants to rescue Harley.

But these twisted love stories get buried in the noise, one of relentless gunfire as well as an already overwrought score that is topped with rock anthems giving each squad member his own classic hit them tune.

So it's little wonder that, at one of the film's all-is-lost moments, the squad retires to a bar for a quiet chat about what they've got themselves into.

It may stop the movie cold. But it's one of a few scenes which engages on a character level. It's proof the film could have done with a lot more conversation, a little less seen-it-before boring action.

You kind of wish they had gone out for team-building staff drinks earlier.

Suicide Squad

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman
Director: David Ayers
Rating: M (violence and offensive language)
Running time: 123 mins
Verdict: Deathless disappointing anti-superhero flick

- NZ Herald

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