Back in the late Summer, this writer risked wearing the cone of shame and being shunned by his colleagues, when he gave DC’s latest film Suicide Squad, a film that was being labelled as “ugly”, “sexist” and “a catastrophe”, 9/10. Well now this very reviewer has had a few months to think on this opinion and a few more viewings of the film to conclude, this is a bloody enjoyable experience. After DC ruffled some feathers with its creative decisions in Man Of Steel and tore those feathers out entirely with Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, hopes were high for this feature - based on the comic series by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru - being a monumental success. And while the film has defied the awful reviews to make money, there is no denying the DC Cinematic Universe is in a bit of trouble. That said, what is it that makes this film so intriguing?
Cold but effective government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) tries to get her ‘Task Force X’ initiative officially approved. This proposal would ambitiously seek out “the worst of the worst” villains and assemble them, control them and use them as expendable problem solvers for the battles that the ordinary military are “unequipped” (or too sane) to handle. So, naturally it isn’t long before one of these instances arises and this “Suicide Squad” are sent in to solve the world’s biggest threat, or die in the process. That is the potentially fun set-up but be it the studio ordered re-shoots fragmenting the tone, the erratic editing, the various scenes being cut (some of which were promoted), this film had an inescapably troubled formation onscreen. And yet, while it cannot be called a masterpiece, this messy, manic and mad super villain caper remains the cinematic equivalent of punk rock.
This extended edition adds a few interesting bits and pieces, including a cameo for director David Ayer, a flashback between Jared Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn and some comedic exchanges in the bar scene (which strongly featured in one of the trailers). This said, if you hated the film before, this extended edition does not immediately rectify any problems, so be warned. That being said, a problematic and controversial movie this may have been but Suicide Squad is still an absorbing antithesis to the established rules of big budget superhero filmmaking. Instilled with rebellious personality and with a plot that veers from backstory building to The Dirty Dozen ensemble film to Escape From New York post-apocalyptic actioner, this is a film that is weirdly distinguished by its roughness and its jumpy presentation. In many ways a signal of how we are becoming a music video culture, this riotous piece of entertainment is filled with genuine creative risks and audio-visual oddness.
If you care to look for a message, there is much here akin to the way the world is heading with institutional abuses of power populating the early half, extreme rightist politics being brought to task and original super villain aspiration intercutting a finale that threatens to succumb to third act syndrome and cliché but somehow works. This writer has not been able to shake the film from the mind since viewing it and one wonders if it will be re-evaluated someday or whether it is forever to be a chaotic ballroom blitz that fails to fit in with a crowded genre. From its unhinged soundtrack (consisting of some uniquely chosen songs from Queen and AC/DC to Eminem and Kehlani) and retro score by Steven Price to its Punkish dress sense, this is a film Ayer has made stand out and while polarising, is a hell of a lot of fun.
The characters showcase more charisma than those in the greyly gravitas strewn Batman v. Superman, with Will Smith being the best he has been in years as assassin Deadshot and Margot Robbie stealing the show as Harley Quinn, in a physical and deeply committed (pardon the pun) performance. And her drip fed relationship with Jared Leto’s curious and compelling gangland revamp of The Joker gives a whole new meaning to My Chemical Romance, as their abusive stockholm syndrome roots are not shied away from. Jai Courtney is shockingly funny as Captain Boomerang (complete with a unicorn fetish), an unrecognisable Jay Hernandez enjoys his own arc as twisted firestarter El Diablo (with New 52 influence). While Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) provide the more silent and ferocious element to the Squad. Joel Kinnamen’s military ace Rick Flag and his romance with Cara Delevingne’s Dr. June Moone / Enchantress is also an interesting human element. True the real villains of the piece are hardly groundbreaking but with so many bad ‘uns in one film you are spoilt for choice for antagonists, plus the scene thieving Viola Davis is arguably the biggest baddie in the entire film and she is a casting ace as the woman with a plan and unshakable commitment Amanda Waller.
After all these months, David Ayer’s artistic statement has inspired some pop cultural kick back (did you see all the Joker and Harley’s on Halloween...slightly disturbing) and despite what is structurally wrong with the film, it all somehow still ends up as joyous. Like a living breathing comic, watching this is like flicking pages, and throughout you are entertained by the sheer madness of this amalgamation of promotional narratives, music video and comic book mythos. This is a film this writer is still seeing messages and meanings in and whether David Ayer intended so or not, he has crafted a truly unusual film with unexplored depth and that one minutes sees Batman drive right into a scene straight out of Batman: The Animated Series and another minute sees a villain sipping an espresso.
Suicide Squad ain’t pretty in some ways but it is seriously frantic and frankly unfathomable fun. This Extended Cut adds a few interesting things but if you loved what hit cinemas, you’ll love this, likewise if you didn’t, well you won’t be buying it will you? Nor reading this review. So does this writer stand by the rating? Yep, well “You know what they say about the crazy ones...”
Special Features: Extended Edition / Featurettes / Gag Reel
SUICIDE SQUAD / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DAVID AYER / SCREENPLAY: DAVID AYER / STARRING: MARGOT ROBBIE, WILL SMITH, JAI COURTNEY, VIOLA DAVIS, JOEL KINNAMAN, JARED LETO, CARA DELEVINGNE / RELEASE DATE: 5TH DECEMBER