Suicide Squad

Posted on August 3, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers

I always say that the success of a superhero movies depends on the bad guy. So, shouldn’t a movie that is all bad guys be really great? That’s the idea behind “Suicide Squad,” a sort of “Avengers” (all-star hotshots who don’t play well with others have to work together as a team to save the world) crossed with “The Dirty Dozen.” And it kind of works. On the one hand, it is an August movie, the cinematic equivalent of the shelf in the back of the grocery story with the dented cans, irregulars, and day-old bread. On the other hand, it approaches a nicely messy, authentically amateurish, form equals content vibe that suits the subject matter. If these guys made their own movie, they might overlook some of the fine points, too.

Our scrappy little band of anti-heroes live in one of those “lock them up, throw away the key, throw away the Constitution, and any record of their existence while you’re at it” sort of prisons. Will Smith plays Deadshot, an assassin with a young daughter he loves. Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn, a psychiatrist turned psychopath with the demeanor of a school girl, locked in a romantic tangle with the Joker (Jared Leto) so twisted it makes Sid and Nancy look like Dick and Jane. Somewhere behind full-face tattoos, Jay Hernandez is Diablo, a gang-banger with the power of fire. Somewhere inside a reptilian rubber suit (maybe it is CGI, but it looks like rubber) is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, and I never quite figured out what he could do besides fight and swim. Jai Courtney plays the Aussie thief Boomerang. Neither one of them is intelligible.

They get a chance to escape the abuses and isolation of prison life when national security expert Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) says that their special skills make them the world’s only hope against the terrorism threat that entities with supernatural powers will pose. “The world changed when Superman flew across the sky. It changed again when he didn’t.” (Cut to super-coffin)

Waller is certain she can control them. Whether she can or not, there is no alternative. And so they are assigned to Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who informs the motley crew that each of them has an explosive injected into his/her neck, and that he will not hesitate to blow their heads off if they disobey or even if they vex him. “I’m known to be vexing,” Harley Quinn pipes up helpfully, well aware that saying so she proves her point. And then it’s off to the big confrontation with some moments for (1) some bad behavior, (2) some exchanges of confidence and bonding to let us see that these guys may be bad but they have their good points and while they may have made some poor choices, they have feelings, too, (3) a few reminders that these are the bad guys, (4) some setbacks and death of a tangential character to show us how serious this is, and (5) weaknesses becoming strengths, strengths becoming weaknesses, a chance to see that some of the good guys aren’t so good and some of the bad guys aren’t so bad (and deaths are not necessarily deaths).

Here is what the movie gets right: B**** please. Margot Robbie is a huge movie star who owns this film and every moment she is on screen in “Suicide Squad” you get your money’s worth and then some. Anything else that works in the film is an extra cherry on the sundae. #imwithharley so give HQ her own movie PDQ.

Smith and Kinnaman are also excellent. Most of the best of the rest was in the trailer including one exchange which inexplicably was cut from the film. In fact, given the many evident recuts and reshoots, Warner Brothers should just have turned the footage over to whoever made the trailer and let them control the final print.  The soundtrack veers into Spotify playlist mode but there are some good choices.

Here is what it gets wrong: Writer/director David Ayer, whose speciality has been military and law enforcement stories, does not understand the right tone for a comic book movie. Compare Marvel/Disney, which managed to create distinctive and right-on-the-money tones for Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Deadpool and yet make us believe they could exist in the same universe, and made that work in the “Avengers” movies without shortchanging anyone. Second, note the reference to the evidence of reworking above. Third, note the very first thing I said. Comic book movies are all about the villain. In this case, with villains as the the good guys, they really need someone specially evil for us to root against. The villains in this film are terrible in every category, starting with the special effects, which should be primo, right, Warner Brothers? But most importantly, a movie that spends too much time introducing us to the Z-team’s backstories never provides us with the basics about the powers and threat of the bad guys so we have no way of knowing what we are hoping for (other than obliteration) from the final battle. Wait, so this and that didn’t work but this and that do? Really? And what happened to those SEALS?

It is good to see more than one female character and this film has four strong and powerful women of different races. But the gender politics of the film are less than one might wish.  Both female Suicide Squad members are there because of the men they love, and the female villain is alternately weak around the man she loves and strong but not as strong as her brother. Viola Davis, as always, is sublime as a woman who may be only human but is in every way a match for anyone, superpowered or politically powered.

It’s better than “Batman vs. Superman” and “The Fantastic Four,” but it falls frustratingly short of what it could have and should have been.

NOTE: Stay through the credits for an extra scene, but you don’t have to stay after that.

Parents should know that this film includes extended sci-fi/fantasy violence with some graphic and disturbing images, torture, abuse, many characters injured and killed, skimpy costumes, sexual references, some strong language

Family discussion: Who was the worst villain in the movie? Who caused the most harm? What could “bad guys” do that the “good guys” could not?

If you like this, try: “The Avengers” and “The Dirty Dozen”

Related Tags:


Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Fantasy Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel Superhero
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik