Review: ‘Suicide Squad’ (They’re Really Sorry About Batman v Superman, Folks)

Is it too late to get writer/director David Ayer to take over Justice League?

In the aftermath of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world just got a lot more dangerous, and cooperative heroes are in short supply. Shady government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has been working on a solution: repurpose a team of known bad guys to secretly take down worse threats. There’s just three problems with this. First, Waller may not have as much control as she thinks she does; cue the sinister music. Second, her “suicide squad” is looking for opportunities to turn the tables on their overlords, preferring the leadership of villain Deadshot (Will Smith) over a designated military yes-man. Third, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is on the team, and the Joker (Jared Leto) doesn’t like to share.

In a summer season full of box office misses and underperformers, Warner Bros. is still holding out hope they can get their DC Cinematic Murderverse (DCCM) buzzing by showcasing their rogue’s gallery. Based on the comic of the same name, it seemed to be a good idea, but with complaint-heavy Dawn of Justice behind them and Wonder Woman still almost a year away, the pressure is on to not only make money but create a fan base as rabid as Marvel’s to ensure future feature films have a waiting audience. While early reviews may be savaging the movie before most DC and comic movie fans can sample the goods, Suicide Squad succeeds far more than it fails, especially when compared to its 2016 theatrical peers.

Waller, Deadshot, Harley, and Joker are the featured players here, but the entire cast revels in their villainy. Lesser bad guys like Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang contribute more to the group dynamic between battles than featured in any fight (which is a bit of a shame). There’s also some superhero action, too — hey, somebody had to catch these baddies, right? The banter between characters is effective and fun, an aspect sorely missed in BvS:DoJ. The key dynamic is between Waller, probably the biggest villain of all as a master manipulator, and Deadshot, a family man who justifies his assassin status being paid by bad guys to kill other bad guys (which is still against the law). While not as front and center, the relationship between Harley and her Joker is something we haven’t seen before on the big screen: they actually need each other, so it’s not just “The Joker Show.” It provides Margot Robbie the opportunity to play Harley with a range that some actors wait their entire lives for, but it also meant holding back the Joker to an almost guest-star role; the full-on Joker will probably turn up in the first Ben Affleck Batman film to follow in the near future, and Leto looks like he’s got a good take on the Clown Prince of Crime.

Unfortunately, a good chunk of the first act is spent introducing and reintroducing these characters, and that’s in addition to the flashbacks a-plenty strewn throughout; it feels like middle managers were demanding writer/director David Ayer make damn sure no audience member was left behind. Fortunately, the back stories and character wordplay distract us from a stock plot that is practically identical to the far-less forgivable X-Men: Age of Apocalypse. (quick: everyone stand in a badass pose for the entire second act!) Even the impending-world-destruction-effect is used mostly as a backdrop; the characters even pointed out where they’ll eventually end up one way or another to fight the boss monster — in true video game fashion.

If being jacked-up with a sub-dermal remotely activated decapitating explosive to force the villains to cooperate wasn’t enough (although the Deadlock exploding neck-popper trope is getting really tired at this point), the Joker turns up periodically to save his Harley, throwing another random monkey wrench into the proceedings anytime things look like they’re winding down. If all of this seems over the top, it actually is: a simple plot overcomplicated so the main character villains can be just as surprised as the viewers and wow us with one close call after another.

In the end, each villain gets a moment to shine as well as a chance to work together before the credits roll (and stay for an early mid-credit extra scene). So why all the early hate for Suicide Squad? It introduces actual magic into the DCCM — something Marvel keeps implying is merely “super-advanced science” — as well as suggests that many other meta-humans exist for both good and evil. The plot is nothing more than a reason to get these criminals together and have something to do, and it does that well enough. With only Man of Steel and Batman v Superman to serve as examples of what the DCCM considers a compelling storyline, all boss super villains apparently have a contractual obligation to destroy the world (or convert it or pummel it or whatever). Of the three films thus far, Suicide Squad is the most interesting: a nihilistic adventure comedy. Sure, it tones the violence down for the summer carnage to PG-13, but hey, that’s what director’s cuts are for.

(a three skull recommendation of four)


  1. Due to the recent controversy of reviews about this movie, i’m going through the positives and i think you gave it a pretty fair score. I’m going to see it on Sunday or sometime this week, and expecting the best. For me, i just hope it’s a fun ride. I know most of these movies aren’t technical, but some of them, Marvel’s latest can get pretty good with actually having a good story when it counts. I think CIVIL War had a good mix of action, story and character so story is good when it counts. For this, i don’t expect much plot wise but still hoping to have a good time. If it’s at least a fun flick, and it ups the ante of being more fun than BVS, i’m all in. Batman V Superman really did lack in the fun aspect. I still consider it at best, a Batman film, and i think that’s what they should’ve done, instead of having Superman play a part.


  2. Someone pointed out that I said Suicide Squad was better than Man of Steel and yet “rated” MoS higher.

    No, actually… what you call ratings are my recommendations.

    Quickie explanation: at one time I actually aspired to rate every film I’d ever seen against one another. The problem is that “star ratings” become skewed as you add more and more films to that database. Also, tastes vary from person to person, and if I had my way about it, I would have NO ratings or recommendations. Unfortunately, I am required to use them on Rotten Tomatoes, so consider them for what they are: my earnest recommendation.


  3. I’m still reading fellow critic reviews that are blasting holes in Suicide Squad.

    It’s a mindless action-comedy flick with a ridiculous plot that the characters are self-ware enough to know it’s a ridiculous plot, so they’re trying to go “off script” at almost every opportunity. It looks better, plays better, and inexplicably makes more sense than anything DC has offered since Christopher Nolan stopped making Batman movies.

    Besides, $65 million on Friday? Pretty much makes this critic-proof if it rides out the weekend.


      • Personally, I’m judging it on the merits of how close it is to A comic book or even THE comic book, just whether or not the movie works and more importantly isn’t boring or bothersome.

        If the characters are all cartoon characters who suffer no actual damage when shot or dropped off a building, fine; stay consistant. If you create your own rule and break, you’d better have an AWESOME reason why your own rule doesn’t apply (most often during those “surprise” endings). If it’s a character piece, let’s see some characterization… and so on. On occasion I’ve chided a film for having terrible trailers or ads that didn’t promote the film they had made (I’m looking at YOU, Ghostbuster 2016), but I try to keep an open mind regarding budgets, actors, liscensing that prevents certain elements or even concepts for being used (what? No mutants in the MCU?!)

        Grading on a scale of merits or even comparing films has never worked for me, so I go with my gut recommendation. That sometimes means a “good” film gets a low recommendation and a “bad” film gets a high one, but hey, it’s my OPINION, only articulated and made public for all the world to see.

        That said, the first Nolan Batman was cool, the second was awesome, and the third was bloated but the least cool of the three… IMHO.


  4. Still not sure why I gave this a positive review? Consider the following:

    The recruiter was the biggest villain of all, so it’s hilarious she’s in charge. They also created their own situation by way of trying to control an actual goddess — cue cool effect as the mere mortal was taken over. Will Smith was Will Smith, and he brings his own writers with him contractually to ensure the WS brand remains intact… but Deadshot had no real personality before this, so I’m okay with Will’s. Killer Croc, “Fire Guy,” Harley, the ridiculous Captain Boomerang… as an ensemble piece, I enjoyed it. They were even smart enough to hang a lantern on how ridiculous the situation was! As for the Joker, this Clown Prince of Crime incarnation NEEDS his Haley Quinn, far different from Nicholson’s narcissist or Ledger’s lone wolf. It’s easy to dismiss this as a hodge podge mess, but I wasn’t bored.


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