Suicide Squad (2016)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/7/16
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Jared Leto, Karen Fukuhara, Scott Eastwood, Ben Affleck

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is one mean bitch. Her contingency plan for dealing with increasingly dangerous metahuman threats to national security is the formation of a top secret covert "suicide squad" that consists of highly volatile sociopathic killers with exceptional talents and extraordinarily bad attitudes. The members of the team are injected with micro-explosives, which Waller or Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) can detonate at any time for any infraction or disobedience committed by the team. Trouble starts when a super powerful witch known as Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) breaks free from Waller's control, and summons her demonic brother to help build a doomsday device to rid the world of humanity. This forces Waller to assemble the team and put them into action. Naturally, the group of ill-motivated psychopaths has trouble working together, but the constant threat of death and global annihilation tends to keep them in line. Miraculously, nearly everyone survives and there are already plans for a sequel.

Unfortunately, the film is a regrettable mess of poor choices and comes across as a fetishistic celebration of stylized violence and glorified sadism. However, if you can get past the weak plot, the terrible dialog, and the deplorable soundtrack, the film offers some memorable performances and some attractive set pieces. Margot Robbie's riveting portrayal of Harley Quinn is fantastic, and she completely owns the film. Why can't we have a movie with just her in it? Everything else just melts away when she's onscreen. Cara Delevingne gives a surprisingly strong and emotionally compelling performance as both Dr. June Moone and Enchantress, and Viola Davis is dead-on as the cruel and heartless Amanda Waller. Karen Fukuhara shines admirably as Katana, but is sadly underutilized. Joel Kinnaman and Will Smith supply a heavy dose of testosterone and masculine rivalry, but aren't particularly noteworthy. The other male characters are so uninteresting that they're already fading from my memory. The real wild card in the cast is Jared Leto as the Joker, who represents the worst of the worst. He is the ultimate manifestation of mad love - a toxic, manipulative, and abusive lover, and Harley's one fatal flaw. He's a vile and disgusting creature who pushes everything to extremes, and to that end, he plays the part pretty well. Ben Affleck makes a couple of brief cameos as Batman and Bruce Wayne, which is a nice touch.

The visual effects are quite good and the film is very pretty to look at. Unfortunately, it's a narrative disaster that feels like an unfinished hodge-podge of half-baked ideas. The entire first half of the film plays out like a desperately bad music video montage and is nearly unwatchable. Thankfully, things get more palatable after the mission actually begins and the team is in action. It's apparent that the director and the studio didn't see eye-to-eye on the material, and the presentation is an incoherent mixture of dark and somber themes juxtaposed with touches of whimsical zaniness. It's an unpleasant and unsavory film, much like "Batman V Superman" (2016), but it still has enough action and eye candy to be entertaining - if you let it.