Before getting into the full review in Harry fashion – If you love these characters, DC comics and the idea of seeing these characters on screen excites you down to the very sinew of your bones. Be excited. There’s lots to love here, but it’s clunky and all over the place. You’ll wish you’d see more of every character. Heroes make the briefest of appearances. The Joker is used as a defibrillator sporadically throughout the film, but in portions so sleight you’re starving for more. But here’s the thing. I came home from the film last night, committed to getting a great night’s rest with my wife who’s been doing work travel and I miss her – and next thing I know – I’m in a discussion with Paul Dini geeking out about all the things we love about the film. It’s a mess, but it’s a mess like playing in mud when you’re a kid. Or like that crazy mismatched quilt your grandmother made for you that felt so fucking good. It’s a mess like eating BBQ without a napkin. Not a mess like you shat yourself on an airplane while sitting next to your favorite celebrity. Not a mess like the current election. As a DC/MARVEL/IMAGE/CHARLETON/EC/GOLD KEY/CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED/UNDERGROUND comic fan I came away wanting to see it again, soon, but also wishing that Geoff Johns would finally do the smartest thing DC FILMS could ever do – and give Paul Dini the writing reins upon a HARLEY QUINN film starring Margot Robbie. There’s so much disconnected awesome here that fans can have a great time. But know – you’ll leave wanting desperately… MORE. Now – the long form…
Woke up Tuesday, August 3rd, 2017 with a singular thought… “Oh boy, SUICIDE SQUAD!” – Then… as I checked my phone, I got the oh so familiar fart in the face that was social media expelling it’s West Coast cinematic pheromones… and these stunk.
I’m sick of this.
Maybe, I should just move to Los Angeles. This routine of waking up excited for the next Summer Blockbuster – to only hear from a wailing wall of West Coast misery… it’s demoralizing. A Buzz Kill. Ok – have to shake that off. If there’s one thing about the West Coast Whiff I’ve learned this year… it really doesn’t mean shit to me.
Ok – ignore that noise, placing the funk in the funk case in the back corner of my whacky mind – and get genuinely excited. Fathergeek & I would be taking my nephew, Kublakhan, to see SUICIDE SQUAD at the Regal Metropolitan theater here in Austin. This is the same theater I camped with Star Wars fans for over a week in advance for STAR WARS: EPISODE 1. I smile. Ok, I should wear my silk BATMAN tie.
When FatherGeek arrives, he’s wearing one of his Heath JOKER shirts… I smile, Dad’s a huge Joker collector and has been most of his life. I decide, not to mention the online bitching. We load up and head to pick up my nephew. He gets in the car and I immediately say – “No purple or green?” and he’s like, “I know, I’ve got no Joker attire!” – Uncle thought, “This can not stand, get boy Joker attire.”
Now – this is 3:30pm, the screening isn’t until 7:30pm, but it’s clear on the opposite side of town from where we live – and starting at about 4pm, the highway is a frigging nightmare. Last week it took Dad and I an hour and forty-seven minutes to get there. Today… 15 minutes. So we decide to share a great meal at TRUDY’S – a wondrous tex-mex delight from here in Austin. Towards the end of the meal and as I was polishing off a Frozen Strawberry & Banana Margarita – Diva Del Mar arrives with a big gorgeous smile upon her face. She’s excited. SUICIDE SQUAD.
The trailers have been fantastic. However, the trailers have been fantastic because… well you put Bohemian Rhapsody and cut DC Comic Images to it – it will always fucking rock – cuz you could edit a non-stop vomit video to that music and people will still pump their fist in the air and head bang. That music simply rules.
Intellectually – I know that David Ayer hasn’t exactly blown me away yet. That Schwarzenegger film SABOTAGE had a ferocity, but was overly cute with reveal after reveal which was being used instead of simply a satisfying story. It had a great team of actors put together… just like his last film FURY. FURY, I found entirely satisfying – from beginning to end. But, I’d still prefer to watch Bogart’s SAHARA for a superior awesome Tank tale. Reporting on movies as they’re being made and going through the cinematic sausage factory that is Hollywood – we know things like… apparently there were $40 million in reshoots to make this more fun – and today’s news about editing room hijinks – confirm that there was a lot of… shall we say, back & forth between Studio & Director upon SUICIDE SQUAD.
As we arrive to the theater – those thoughts began to completely melt away as I saw the fans in line. There were Harley Quinns, a great JOKER and a ramshackled Batman peppering the line. The Texas heat was beating down upon them, but people wore smiles. That’s infectious.
We were led into the theater about 45 minutes prior to start time. I instantly felt impatient. C’mon – the theater is full, start the movie.
Right off the bat – you should know that the film isn’t about heroes. It is about SUPER VILLAINS. So if you’re going to this film looking for role models, you’re pretty fucking stupid.
Every member of the Suicide Squad has a miniature hand grenade explosive device injected into their neck to keep the members on the right track. Yes, someone will have their head blown off.
Another thing that the audience should know… This isn’t our world. This is the DC Universe – where there’s GOTHAM CITY, METROPOLIS, CENTRAL CITY, COAST CITY, STAR CITY, etc. This is taking place within the continuity of BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE – and yet, it doesn’t really move us forward – it’s just an ambient tale.
The movie is messy. Having multiple voices pulling on the editing strings – is just going to do that. The biggest problem with the film is the structure. They give too much exposition to Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller – the ball-busting Government badass that comes up with the notion of putting a bomb in the head of Super-Villains so that she can make them do her bidding. “WHAT COULD GO WRONG?” Heh. She basically gives us rundowns on the various characters – and it’s blocky. The way the film begins – is with a segment on Will Smith’s DEADSHOT that establishes his swagger and a bit with Harley Quinn… but both scenes felt out of place. By the time we meet Amanda Waller – we’ve well established an awkward film flow.
Don’t get me wrong – I quite enjoyed the movie. But the film feels clumsy and a bit drunk or high or discombobulated in some fashion.
There’s a scene, half way through the movie – or even a little further where the Suicide Squad has had some action and some setbacks in their mission – and they’ve decided to say, “Fuck it” and have a drink in a bar. You’ve seen pieces of this scene in trailers – and putting a group of coerced super-villains in an abandoned Bar to throwback some drinks and talk… that should’ve been the beginning.
You put those characters in the bar. Instead of Viola giving us their histories, have them telling their own stories – sure it’s a call back to ALMOST GOT ‘IM – one of the greatest BATMAN: ANIMATED SERIES episodes, but it allows the characters to actually connect with one another and for us to get inside their heads better.
I give two shit for Government Characters in the DC UNIVERSE – they carry zero interest to me. They’re best to get out of the way as quickly as possible. Giving the characters their own stories to tell in their own voice, would give those stories character, instead of a glib narration by an uninvested storyteller. Ayer & Warners would have done better to mimic RESERVOIR DOGS more.
Now – SUICIDE SQUAD to me, is structurally like a Mis-Matched Quilt. I happen to like MisMatched Quilts – especially if cloth swatches that are being put together are interesting. For this crazy quilt of a film, the characters that make it up… makes it a quilt worth rolling around in.
You see – while the structure is all over the place, I’m really digging the characters. So much so, that like my nephew, when I asked him what he thought of SUICIDE SQUAD, he beamed, “I love it, I just wish it was longer!”
The film is two hours and three minutes, but so much time is spent not with the characters we care about talking about the characters we care about – that we kinda feel we barely got anything at all.
Now – let’s go through the characters…
DEADSHOT (Will Smith) – I’ve never really loved Deadshot. Oh – he’s a good foil for a hero, but he isn’t a character that I’d say I ever cared for. Which is why I thought it was such an odd role for Will Smith to take in advance. That’s ok, cuz here… They give Deadshot a precocious kid to care for and kill for. Dad’s an assassin – and Baby Girl knows this because her Mom lectures her about it, but she doesn’t care, this is still her dad and she loves him. The scene of BATMAN confronting Dad & Daughter is a scene I love. All at once, it shows the good of BATMAN and the pathos of Smith’s version of DEADSHOT. Once he’s locked up and heading on his mission with the Squad – Will Smith charm is set to maximum – and the charisma between him and Harley works – probably because of the familiarity between Will Smith and Margot Robbie having worked so well together in FOCUS. It’s odd – because the way the film works it feels as if there’s a triangle with Harley at the top point and the Joker and Deadshot at the base. In the film, Deadshot has the better scenes with Harley.
HARLEY QUINN (Margot Robbie) – Paul Dini introduced me to this character months before she was introduced on the BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. I love Harley. You will see Harley in her classic attire – and you’ll see her dance with the Joker (too briefly). Margot is outstanding as Harley – so much so that you can’t help but wish there was an entire Harley film with her and Jessica Chastain as Poison Ivy – and they were having a rollicking psychotic good time on a nefarious adventure written by Paul Dini and directed by Shane Black. Every second that she’s onscreen – be it with Will Smith’s DEADSHOT or Jared Leto’s JOKER or the whole damn Squad – she steals the scene. Her eyes are flirty, maniacal, oh so innocent, passionate and ALIVE. She’s one of the most attractive beings working in film right now. Radiant, intelligent and powerfully hypnotic upon the screen – and no, that isn’t just the glitter panties. It’s the voice, the eyes, the pigtails both pink & blue, it’s her origin, the pain, the love and the crazy psycho-sexual relationship she has with the JOKER – that is not a relationship that anyone would say is healthy. It’s sick. It’s fucked up. But that’s the JOKER. Ayer has taken his lead from Manson’s Ladies. Women that came under the drugged brainwashing techniques of a psychopath. People may love the cuteness of Harley from the animated show, but this isn’t that. Sure – those elements are here, but what is also here is flesh and blood reality.
JOKER (Jared Leto) – You haven’t seen Jared Leto’s Joker in any previous adaptation of the character to film. This isn’t Caesar Romero, this isn’t Jack Nicholson, this isn’t Mark Hamill, this isn’t Heath Ledger… it’s Jared Leto’s… and Jared Leto, from accounts I’ve heard, but would never repeat in their entirety… is a bit unhinged. That’s ideal for Mister J. If you only know Joker from Cartoons… if you only know the Joker from his bachelor cinematic identity… you don’t know the Joker. The Joker here is more like the impression I get of the Joker when looking at Bill Sienkiewicz’s water color paintings and abstract inks of the Joker. Madness in brief. The Joker here feels like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein Monster… only he doesn’t need Victor to make a bride for him, he’ll do it himself. As he transforms her, he finally feels complete in his own fractured sense of madness. He wants her… needs her… Harley feels less needy. Harley is able to function just fine in her cage, with the Squad, in the midst of combat, watching the world burn. Harley is in her element at all times. The Joker wants her back and she does miss her Mr. J and wants to be reunited, but I never get the idea she’s counting the seconds or particularly missing him, until she thinks he’s gone. This Joker and this Harley Quinn could carry 30 movies. The peek at domestic bliss between Joker & Harley that the Enchantress gives Harley is a drug so powerful it sways her. A dream undreamt, but once seen… never forgot. One thing I can say with absolute certainty, no DC Fanboy will be satiated with what we’re given of the Joker in this film. The trailers try to give you the idea that the SUICIDE SQUAD is taking on JOKER – if only that were the case. I wish
DIABLO (Jay Hernandez) – love the tattoo character design, but man that third act transformation – so badass. One of the problems with the way the film is structured – trying to give background in chunks to everyone, it means short-shifting everyone. Had the film focused on the characters coming together and understanding one another and the problems they’re dealing with… it’d be better. His sob-story we get at the bar – it is powerful, but Ayer’s vignette plays to stereotype fears for the Latino community. My take on his character isn’t that he’s a gangbanger. Maybe the tattoos clearly state that to someone educated about the various Gang tattoos, but to me – I saw that as just a fascinating design. That he gives his wife a playful slap on the ass… I saw as a sign of endearment, same with his looking at his family. But this isn’t a good person, he tries to fool himself, but he does terrible things… unforgivable things, the sort of things that makes him want to be locked up forever. As we hear his tale – and if we take his character all the way through to his exit… you realize – there’s a Demon inside of him. His tattoo is a sketch of the painting he can become, each brushstroke with flame. My nephew’s last name is Ramirez – and really liked this character. In many ways, he’s the coolest of the Bad Guys power wise. He idly enjoys his power creating a dancing fiery memory of his departed wife. The nephew disliked how the character wound up, until I explained that his perception of that could easily be explained as the character… well let’s see what you come up with.. heh.
KILLER CROC (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – Amazing fucking makeup. When the character says, “I’m beautiful,” he’s so fucking right. One of the problems with the film are all the distracting narratives that pull away from the Squad. Croc is best in the bar scene and the underwater scene. He’s never given enough SUPERHUMANESS as used in the Toons or Comics. The BET thing plays to the racial identity of the actor in the makeup, but ignores the character, it’d been better to request ANIMAL PLANET. And see Crocs Mating.
CAPTAIN BOOMERANG (Jai Courtney) – I tagged this review as SPOILERED… and this is one of the key reasons. In Cap’s caught tale, we had gotten two Batman catches of criminals, but then we get Captain Boomerang in a diamond heist – that gets interrupted by the Flash. I let out a squeal of delight while echoes of “HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK” where shouting in my mind. But as quick as it takes to mentally scream HOLY FUCK 3 times, the scene was done – and I was like, “FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!” I’m a FLASH freak. I love FLASH. The TV show owns me. Yes, I know the Flash is fast, but I wanted a more sustained interaction – one, so CAPTAIN BOOMERANG wouldn’t come off as lame-ish, but also because I wanted to see more of Ezra’s FLASH against a strange and amazing classic comic combatant. Jai’s fucking insane in the role, very different from CAPTAIN BOOMERANG as appears on CW, and again entirely different from the Comic Character – but if we are to believe hype, the character was informed with psychedelic mushrooms – which pretty much explains the own world nature of the character here.
ENCHANTRESS (Cara Delevingne) – I’m swiftly swooning over Cara Delevingne. Really dug her in PAPER TOWNS, noticed her in the shit show that was PAN, but her being cast as Laureline in Luc Besson’s VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS… a character that has been the badass woman in the center of Besson’s mind since childhood.. I’m expecting and hoping for greatness. Being familiar with the Enchantress – has always made me curious looking at the trailers for this. We were being told she’s one of the Suicide Squad, but in truth – she never goes on mission with them, she’s part of the mission along with her brother INCUBUS (Alain Chanoine) – David Ayer… has no clue what he’s doing with magic. There’s only a single great moment with her, and that’s that boardroom meeting where she’s human and transforms – and the way that happens… that was her best bit of magic. Once the magic is all about what looks like Plastic Magic and Particle Simulations gone batshit – it’s lame. The thing she does to the people she transforms… frankly looks like she turns them into Dog shit Monsters. She’s magic. Turning every victim into the exact same Dog Shit Monster is fucking lazy boring bullshit. Now, the threat she presents is enormous… so much so, I’m not sure why Wonder Woman & Flash don’t arrive on scene. I do love some of the personal mysticism she has around her in the final bits, but the big trash wheel in the sky and the fountain of plastic magic… so not magic looking. And Alain Chanoine’s INCUBUS is a non-character personality wise, but never looks present in scenes. He looks like the CG construct he is.
RICK FLAG (Joel Kinnaman) - the leader of what is known as TASK FORCE X in this movie, but called “some sort of SUICIDE SQUAD” by DEADSHOT. I was underwhelmed by Rick Flag. He seemed like a mopey military man whose heart pangs for the human version of the Enchantress. Like how X-MEN movies can not seem to get fucking CYCLOPS right, this film can’t get a strong military commander like Rick Flag right. He should be, ABOUT THE MISSION. He should never be in awe of DEADSHOT – he’s just as fucking good. The character is written weakly.
KATANA (Karen Fukuhara) – in a PG13 film, you’re essentially gutting this character. Especially when you have ENCHANTRESS making Dog Shit Monsters instead of fantastical beasts and critters that can bleed whatever magical color of blood you’d want. Her character is just on the periphery, meant to be the Boba Fett of the movie, but the weepy scene with her sword… Instead, I would have loved her talking to her husband’s soul proudly stating that she’s sending him more souls to fight until they can be reunited to fight for eternity. But no, Ayer makes the character weak at the center. A real shame.
SLIPKNOT (Adam Beach) – this character is completely wasted, although Adam Beach is an amazing performer and could have done so much more. Instead, they just use him as an object lesson to the others. That kinda annoyed the hell out of me.
BATMAN (Ben Affleck) – So good. Again, leaves you wanting so much more, just like BATMAN V SUPERMAN. The total Geek sector of my brain just wants a full on Affleck BATMAN tale. Also – in the Harley & Poison Ivy buddy film that Geoff Johns is gonna get Paul Dini to write (visualize & actualize) Ivy should have Batman drugged to be their boy toy for the road. C’mon, PLEASE!!!!
AMANDA WALLER (Viola Davis) – I’m well aware of Amanda Waller’s character in the comics, I just don’t care. As I stated earlier, I hate all the time spent in boardrooms, meetings & operations rooms in this movie. Sure the flashbacks are fine, but they’re detached coming from her character. Clinical. Does she project the toughness of Amanda Waller? Absolutely – but again, this character gets waaaaaaay too much screen time compared to say… KILLER CROC or KATANA, both of whom I wanted more from as they’re better than their screentime would denote.
Part of the MisMatched Cinematic Quilt thing here is the fact that the film has characters that at their heart are built with the intent of being dark and gritty, but then there’s scenes meant to soften and endear them. Making them more sympathetic & heroic, than being badass and cool. That’s the reshoot and multiple editors at work. BUT – here’s the thing – while the film is all kinds helter skelter… I dig the hell out of it. I know, Dog Shit Monster sounds harsh, but it isn’t a dog shit of a monster, it’s a monster that looks physically like dog shit, boring – but I haven’t seen it before, doesn’t mean I had to, but now I’ve seen a Dog Shit Monster, actually a whole bunch of them. It’s like the biggest puppy shat em all over. And when you’re goofing with friends – or one’s nephew, Dog Shit Monsters becomes kinda classic.
To a degree, the film feels like a loose first draft that was trying to get fixed along the way, but the cast was so strong – and Ayer does get a great LOOK out of the film, through there’s parts where you’ll turn your head sideways, squint your eyes and wonder… WHAT IN TARNATION IS A GOING ON THERE… in that way, this is a comic by Jackson Pollock.
Keep it cool,