Every now and then, a bad movie comes along that is just as enjoyable as those that are actually worthy of merit. Such a film also doesn’t have to fit into that cult-born mold of ‘being so bad it’s good’ either. Sometimes, movies that don’t hold up to any kind of critical evaluation are good fun due to a number of unforeseeable - and unexplainable - factors. Suicide Squad, Warner Bros’ latest attempt to add some momentum to DC Comics’ creaking blockbuster vehicle, is just that kind of movie. It follows in the same vein that Batman v Superman established before it, in that it is a random hodge-podge of scrambled ideas, which is then further scribbled upon with last-minute production changes that were clearly (and frantically) thrown together in the wake of the rampant success of Marvel’s Deadpool. It’s lack of planning and the self-doubt of its producers are both awfully evident - but this has culminated in a result that might just be the catalyst for better things on the horizon for DC. Even if it is through botched execution alone, it is the chaos and confusion that makes Suicide Squad - a movie both thoroughly imperfect and at times, utterly random - much like the very characters it is trying to tell a story about, and thusly, a worthy watch.
Following on from the events of Batman v Superman. the pitch of this instalment - if you can call it as such - is that in a world without the Man of Steel, Earth’s population is completely unprotected from the threat of any new, emergent supervillains that could rise up to reign havoc upon them. Sure, there’s that Batman guy, but he’s tied to Gotham City only. And unlike the now-deceased Superman, he’s also unable to be the prompt global defense system the human race had grown so reliant upon.
High-ranking US intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) intends to do something about this rather massive security hole, and she intends to plug it by assembling a new squad of defenders whose combined abilities are fit for such a gargantuan task. This time around though, the world won’t be dependent on clean-cut heroes. Instead, she has a collective of villains in mind. The one downside is that this menagerie of miscreants is currently locked away within the confines of maximum security prison Belle Reve Penitentiary - and both society and the facility have had very good reasons to keep them all there. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), deranged sidekick to the Joker and a character who needs no introduction to those even vaguely familiar with the comic book world, is one such inmate. Ruthless mercenary hitman Deadshot (Will Smith) is another - and he has his own fair share of personal problems too. Joining them are the fire-wielding ex-gangster Diablo (Jay Hernandez), boomerang-flinging super-thief “Digger” Harkness (aka Captain Boomerang, played by Jai Courtney) and the monstrous half-reptilian cannibal, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Confined and segregated, these criminal outcasts are nullified and safely shut away from society. Together though, they would make an unstoppable team for either bad or good - and the latter cause is exactly why Agent Waller decides to pull out the stops to get them released.
Waller also has one more candidate on her list too - Dr. June Moone (Cara Delevingne), an archaeologist who’s found herself in recent times suffering from a bad case of spiritual possession - notably involving an ancient, omnipotent, Central-American witch-goddess known only as ‘Enchantress’, whom the luckless tomb raider accidentally set free from her cursed idol figurine during an expedition. The kind of supernatural sorcery that Enchantress wields would be a useful asset to Waller’s new team - if at least, the spirit wasn’t more interested in exacting revenge on humanity for the imprisonment of her (and her brother) within the aforementioned figurines centuries ago. With Moone growing continuously powerless at preventing her from assuming control of her mind, Enchantress has no intention of joining up with any kind of plan Waller has in store for her. Instead, she takes it upon herself to find her brother’s idol and resurrect him from it. Together, the pair of them then get set to unleash their full fury upon an unsuspecting America, assembling an army of faceless stone monsters and overrunning Midway City by force.
All in all, it’s a bit of a recruitment faux pas - and now Harley and the rest are ordered by Waller to go into Midway and take down their once-potential teammate, with the help and command of US special forces operative, Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). There is, of course, a small persuader at play to coerce these bad guys into playing nice - each of them are forced to wear a small bomb around their necks, which will be detonated upon desertion or failure to complete the mission at hand. It’s a job with slim odds of success - a suicide mission, if you will - and even slimmer odds of backing out of it alive. But with the Joker (Jared Leto) catching news of Harley’s release from prison and keen to get his girl back, nothing is impossible.
From the get-go of these early unravellings, it’s also obvious worth noting that the movie is devoid of any semblance of subtlety. Suicide Squad starts fast, loud and obnoxious, and then never lets up with this cacophony of brashness. Its opening scenes, involving Belle Reve prison guard Griggs (Ike Barinholtz) doing his daily rounds with each of the colourful protagonists-to-be, are both crass as well quick-fire - just what you’d expect from a film eager to tell you it can be just as raucous as Deadpool certainly was. Its soundtrack is similarly full of swagger - A-list tracks champion themselves one after another, with the timing of their entries an obvious ploy to get you to not only attribute certain anthems with certain characters, but also applaud the production team for their impeccable taste in cult music. It’d be a great idea, if Guardians of the Galaxy hadn’t already used it. Marvel’s classic pulled that off with a genuine sense of fun - Suicide Squad occasionally achieves the same effect, but also cannot lose the air of glibness that comes with it. It’s an audial backdrop to a larger-than-life movie that feels curiously akin to a poor man’s Tarantino film - and the nod to the works of a director known for his technical histrionics don’t stop there. Opening introductions of each Suicide Squad member are even accompanied with lurid, flittering text bouncing around the screen - a visual technique that is clearly trying to give the cast some kind of anarchic cred while also trying to be witty. Even if it’s disguised under a veil of darkly comedic cartoonishness, it’s still been borrowed from elsewhere - and a suspension of disbelief is often needed to feel as though all of this rebellious bluster remains rambunctious rather than desperate.
It’s an enjoyable folly, but a folly nonetheless considering it doesn’t actually need to cry so hard to be noticed, when the majority of its cast does such a good job carrying the film anyway. As Deadshot, Will Smith might ultimately fail in convincing anyone that his character is anything but Will Smith with a cool eyepiece and a sniper rifle, but he does at least instil a sense of cynically amusing crudeness into his character that conflicts satisfyingly with the commitments he has to his young daughter. Margot Robbie meanwhile lives up to all expectations as Harley Quinn, perfectly pulling off her character’s air of demented mischief with an effortless sense of glee, and most certainly justifies the hype surrounding her billing. Joel Kinnaman plays it pretty straight as Rick Flag - an essential requirement for the rest of the cast to run wild - while Jay Hernandez plays Diablo with such a sense of sympathy for his own character’s bleak past that he’s probably the one guy who deserved more screen time than what he got. And on top of it all, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang is also worth a mention - lending just the kind of likeable, brutish charisma and volatility needed for such an unbalanced Aussie crook.The movie’s initial focus on both Deadshot and Quinn, before giving the ‘lesser’ characters a chance to shine, is the major reason why it’s possible to overlook its initial forced sense of attitude and just appreciate it for the diffusive fun that it is.
For all the good work the majority of the acting talent actually do in giving a reason to watch this hot mess though, both director and producer alike are constantly on hand to thwart their efforts. Suicide Squad’s initial taste for riotous rock n’ roll is hindered by this very lust for chaos, as halfway through the film, it begins to jumps around and tell you stories that it doesn’t actually need to. Once we are introduced to Jared Leto’s Joker - a persona so disappointingly lacking in charismatic menace that he’s by far the weaker of the duo alongside Robbie’s Harley - we are then thrown into a bunch of flashbacks involving his history with her that throws the initially electric pace off-course. It’s a sidestep that the film never really recovers from in terms of story direction or, and it’s also the start of an its awkward dance with illogic until its close. A scene at a bar where the main characters discuss their plight as ‘suicide mission’ guinea pigs curiously happens right before the film’s climax, instead of towards the start. As for the said climax, Cara Delevingne, who starts off so brilliantly as the glowering, primally creepy Enchantress, is by this point reduced to a mere collection of terrible CG shots that would look ropey even for an action movie from 10 years ago. The blunders are depressingly abounding - almost to the level of the notorious Batman and Robin (and nobody needs to see that again). They undermine the central story figures the film desperately needs to build up, but worst of all, these rushed moments painfully expose the producers’ lack of faith in their own ideas. The desire to re-shoot Suicide Squad out of Deadpool’s emergence was clearly done out of panic rather than considered thoughtfulness, and it shows - Suicide Squad is a pretty bad mess at some points.
And yet.. there are still plenty of moments that show it to be a pretty fine mess as well. As the action begins to pick up towards the business end of the movie - save for the Squad’s final battle - it’s surprisingly easy for one to believe that this hastily-assorted bunch of criminal misfits can’t just work together, they’re also worth cheering for. Their camaraderie with one another grows increasingly evident as their battles go on. When they click, their dialogue and one-liners off of one another are genuinely funny. Their changing attitudes to both the mission and their own goals alike feel genuinely convincing. The special effects - again, save for the climax - also impress throughout. Amidst all the plot pratfalls and the anxiety-ridden story-telling, Suicide Squad still has a real vein of madcap fun running through it. Much like that acquaintance that drags you out too late for a wild night of partying and all the baggage that comes with that, there is plenty here to still be entertained by, and you’ll be glad you did - just so long as you treat it right and don’t take it too seriously. It is chaotic, silly and entertaining - three things that Batman v Superman hardly was. Its gang of oddballs deserve their time in the light, and a fair less harsh judgment than the critics have given them.