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BIG-BUDGET CON JOB: ‘Suicide Squad’ is beyond flawed and below average

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Latest comic-book movie doesn’t live up to hype.

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I’m fine with flaws; perfection is rare. Glory fades. Even the Mona Lisa is falling apart. Chicks dig scars. I’m not sure when critics began to believe all films were under a creative mandate to achieve an unrealistic state of perfection. I’m still amazed how many people who write about film basically walk into a theater, take their seats, then clap their hands, as if to say, “Dance, you mewling monkeys … entertain your superior.” Films aren’t supposed to be perfect.

ANTI-HERO: Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is one of few characters that makes ‘Suicide Squad’ worth watching. Courtesy photo.

ANTI-HERO: Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is one of few characters that makes ‘Suicide Squad’ worth watching. Courtesy photo.

As someone who sees 200-plus films a year, chances are much of my time will be spent witnessing movies that struggle to be average, much less perfect. “Suicide Squad” is one of those films: a messy piece of pablum that has a harder time finding average than a knock-off calculator with a logic chip programmed by Gary Busey.

These days I don’t write about superhero films without the words, “I’m getting tired of…” preceding it. The genre is tired—like a trucker putting in too many hours, strung out on yellowjackets and Monster energy drinks, pushing open his lead-heavy eyelids with any remaining ounce of willpower. He knows if he closes his eyes and stops moving forward he will die horribly. It’s not exactly fertile creative territory for a movie. “

“Suicide Squad” is a comic book with an awesome premise: the government assembles a bunch of low-down, dirty super villains and forces them into serving their interests.  Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is a remorseless bureaucrat who believes a war is coming between superhumans and mortal men. She wants to load her proverbial quiver with some legitimate threats. Unfortunately, our villains aren’t really interested, so she manipulates and threatens death to anyone who won’t join Task Force X. The villains are an interesting collection of malcontents. There’s Deadshot (Will Smith), a sharpshooter who never misses; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the psychopathic better half of the Joker; and Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a Latin gang leader who can conjure fire. There are other characters, but most are given fractions of moments to convey what limited story they have. The ones I mention are the only characters who make “Suicide Squad” watchable. The story is a convoluted slop bucket of cliché, featuring comic-book movie tropes and incoherent writing that feels like a screenplay accidentally was put through a paper shredder and not-so-meticulously taped back together.

The premise of “Suicide Squad” is an interesting one: Bad guys are forced into doing dirty work. There are so many scenarios and potential stories this franchise could take. Unfortunately, David Ayer (“Fury”) and company decided to take a trip toward the less-than-scenic “Been There, Done That Boulevard.” They spend most of the movie stuck in traffic on a rather unremarkable journey. The word “wasted” kept coming to mind as I watched the generic adaptation plod along. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are two talented and charismatic actors who feel let down by pedestrian material. Jared Leto’s Joker is barely a character but an extended cameo that made me question why exactly he was even in the film.

“Suicide Squad” tries too hard to be the uber-hip version of a typical superhero movie, which is just the most worthless pursuit. Instead of embracing the awesome differences between heroes and villains, David Ayer merely changes the moral compass of the protagonists but ends up heading in the same damn direction. As I said, I’m fine with flaws. I can respect a flawed film. What I can’t tolerate are gaping flaws and obvious choices. “Suicide Squad” is choppy and unfocused. The movie is an assault of stimulus: quick cuts, a blaring soundtrack, frequent disconnected flashbacks, and a kitchen-sink visual style of graphics and effects that feel more like distractions than design. 

There are parts of “Suicide Squad” where audiences can almost feel things start to gel, but the characters are never allowed enough moments to breathe. The movie pulls watchers forward in the hopes they won’t realize how incomprehensible the whole sordid affair truly is.

In the hands of an editor not working through a nine-day coke binge “Suicide Squad” maybe could have been better than average. As is, it’s one hell of a big-budget con job.

Suicide Squad
Two out of five stars
Rated PG-13
Directed by David Ayer
Starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie

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