Machiavellian government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has a plan to deal with the sudden, Superman-heralded “metahuman” threat to the world: coerce the globe’s deadliest bad guys into an emergency super-team. And when Midway City becomes the ravaged heart of a plot to extinguish humanity, that’s exactly what she does, with expectedly unexpected results.
If Marvel has the best superheroes, so the prevailing geek-logic goes, then DC has the coolest villains. So it’s only sensible they’re finally placed front, centre and in the firing line. Filling its entire super-team with previously unseen antagonists, Suicide Squad represents a Flash-speed sprint of a catch-up for the rapidly forming DC Cinematic Universe. And, on that front at least, it’s a real hoot.
It's a real hoot.
Deadshot, “the most wanted hitman in the world”, is delivered with heat-of-the-action poise and a generous side order of sass by Will Smith, who couldn’t look happier stepping back from his above-the-title dominance to join this motley ensemble and coolly put bullets in brains.
Then there’s Harley Quinn, the Jokerette, if you like; though “crazier than him, and more dangerous”, we’re warned. Margot Robbie, skipping daintily about in pants hotter than hell’s sauna, isn’t quite allowed to completely steal this show — but she certainly borrows it from time to time, and repays you with enough interest to make that mooted Harley stand-alone an enticement.
Plus, among others, we have the tinnie-swigging, stick-hurling Captain Boomerang, which finally sees Jai Courtney flexing his rough charisma on screen; and flame-moulding gang-banger Diablo, the team’s unlikely conscience in the impressively intense, tat-etched form of Jay Hernandez.
Margot Robbie isn’t quite allowed to completely steal this show — but she certainly borrows it from time to time.
It’s quite the roll call. And, despite the rich material, director David Ayer is a brave man to marshal this Dirty Half-ish-Dozen. Thinking he was making the “funny, smart-talking, cool little brother” to Batman v Superman, he found himself tasked with turning back the wave of negativity that smashed Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of Justice.
More used to spelunking in the man-caves of the testosteronic psyche with the likes of End Of Watch and 2014’s underrated war movie Fury, Ayer might seem an unlikely candidate to rescue a comic-book blockbuster series, but, like his unpredictable, mismatched characters, he pulls it off with gritty-flashy aplomb.
Well, for the most part. Whatever the truth behind the reasons for additional shooting (standard procedure, or last-minute Deadpool-style humour injection?) you can’t help but inhale the sweaty waft of 11th-hour scrambling in what proves to be a scrappy final edit. False starts, oddly placed flashbacks, clunky cameos (Ben Affleck’s Batman, Ezra Miller’s Flash) and a muddled chronology detract from the grungy, kooky DayGlo-splashed fun, and it takes a good 45 minutes (plus the mystifyingly late introduction of what turns out to be one complete non-event of a character) for the set-up to stop flapping and the action proper to kick in. Also, in striving to find a threat deadly enough to warrant asking bad guys to save the world, the film’s answer is less than satisfying. We get little more than just another posturing villain with vague plans for world domination via a big, swirling mass of CGI.
Still, at least elsewhere there’s a proper bad guy to chew on. Though only a wild card, occasionally capering in and out of the main plot, Jared Leto’s incarnation of the Joker is essential to its success. Where Heath Ledger’s version was scarred, shabby and countercultural, Leto’s has a smooth, blingy gangsta swagger; a modern take on the way the original comic-book creation riffed on ’30s mobsters. But it’s not his swish, purring style and elegant, slo-mo cackle that really hooks you, it’s something we’ve never seen before: the Joker in love. Here’s a fascinatingly jagged new angle (cinematically at least). It’s unsettling and compelling — almost enough to make you wish it were more than a subplot.
But there’s more to come, surely? Judging by what Ayer’s pulled off here, you can bet there will be.
Like Avengers Assemble forced through a Deadpool mangle, Suicide Squad gives new life to DC’s big-screen universe. So bad-to-the-bone it’s good.