A collection of DC Comics’ finest villains are liberated from their high-security prisons – on the condition they join an off-the-books Suicide Squad to take on highly dangerous missions on behalf of the US Government, providing the perfect scapegoat should anything go wrong. The squad, including the Joker’s paramour and fan favourite Harley Quinn and super assassin Deadshot reluctantly agree to take on their first task, putting them up against an otherworldly foe.
The Suicide Squad is the latest offering in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe for the uninitiated) and was long promised as a darker, more audacious and delectable fan offering to please loyal audience whilst bringing in the box office dollar via star turns, namely from Margot Robbie as the delightfully deranged Harley Quinn and Will Smith as wisecracking, fast-shooting Deadshot. Rumours of reshoots and reshuffles in the edit room have worried those who saw such promise in early casting announcements and plot point reveals. The current promotion onslaught has certainly offered up a more cartoonish, heavily soundtracked version of the much-teased black action comedy.
The film is serviceable and unsurprisingly at its strongest when focusing on Robbie’s Harley, be it in her quietly self-aware off kilter moments or her backstory as the psychiatrist Dr Harleen Quinzel, ending up in a sadistic relationship with Gotham’s famous terrorizer the Joker (Jared Leto) while treating him at Gotham Asylum. Unfortunately most of Robbie’s brilliant lines are given away in the trailers and TV spots. Will Smith as Deadshot expertly balances the ruthless nature of a man who kills for the highest bidder, yet is ultimately ruled by his love for his young daughter. Viola Davis is another highlight as squad puppet master Amanda Waller, in some ways more unscrupulous than her criminal marionettes.
Unfortunately, it feels like a better film was left on the floor of the editing room, as Suicide Squad lacks the pace, timing and chemistry of its Marvel counterparts, relying too heavily on one-liners that don’t always land and a plot that seems to steam roller towards the upcoming Justice League film (Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne makes more than one appearance). Leto’s Joker is a carefully studied psychopath with a clear lineage from previous performances from Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger gets nowhere near the screen time or character development of his predecessors, and is rendered an extra who could have been cut out completely.
There may be a film on the horizon for the Squad that packs a real punch, but sadly this isn’t it. It’s a decent effort from DC but not enough to take on the mighty pull of rival superhero fare from Marvel.