‘Suicide Squad’ – Mismatched characters fill a ragged plot

Will Smith and Margot Robbie appear as Batman villains Deadshot and Harley Quinn in a scene from director David Ayer's "Suicide Squad." (AP)

Stopping the world’s most dangerous villains falls to even more ruthless monsters in director David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad,” a fun yet cinematically scattered look at DC Comics’ more infamous “bad guys.” With a different approach than most comics book movies, the film soon descends into a world of chaotic characters and uneven plotlines.

Timothy Hogg

Timothy Hogg

When Superman flew across the skies, his presence begged the question: What if someone with malicious intent had his powers? Who could stop a villainous meta-human? The answer: Assemble a secret task force of supervillains, including Deadshot (Will Smith), an assassin who doesn’t miss, and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), girlfriend of Batman’s number one adversary, the Joker (Jared Leto), and put them on the job. In exchange for reduced prison sentences, this villainous group will become unlikely (anti)heroes and embark on a suicidal mission with one goal: Win.

After an already tepid run earlier this year with “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Warner Bros has tried once again to expand their DC Comics film universe, this time focusing on the villainous side. Off the bat, this is an interesting perspective; these films typically focus on the hero, giving little development and characterization to the villains. But here, characters who would normally be bad guys are the protagonists despite the violent, murderous psychopaths they may be.

This gives the audience a chance to relate with the villains, and character-wise this angle is pulled off rather well. Smith and Robbie display excellent chemistry alongside each other, conveying the impression that they may have just met, but they are both complex people with traumatic backstories. Smith displays his range and depth as an actor, bringing both heartfelt emotion and comedy to the film, while Robbie seems to have an enjoyable time portraying Harley Quinn.

The filmmakers attempt to give similar background for the other characters. But aside from the tragic history of Jay Hernandez’s Diablo, the remaining characterizations feel rushed and tacked on, as if the writers didn’t want to take their time. This is especially egregious for introductions that are little more than a sentence, a cheap move reserved for characters who only exist to highlight the consequences of failure by dying five minutes later. Perhaps the writers couldn’t find a way to work these death scenes into one of the by-the-books action scenes that follow.

As a result, it becomes rather easy for the audience to know what will happen to the main cast, and takes away a majority of the film’s suspense and balance. However, the editing and actual plot of the film soon becomes so incoherent and choppy, this lack of suspense is replaced by rampant confusion. The chief problem is that, despite an interesting set up, it feels like the filmmakers were too focused on ensuring they also had a complex story. The result is an over-engineered narrative that feels devoid and without purpose.

It’s flashy and fun, but director David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” is an inherently disappointing shell of candy with little true substance inside its wrappings. While some of the cast including Will Smith and Margot Robbie are able to use their talent to their advantage and create a film that is still entertaining, the characters are ultimately lost within a visual mess that merely calls itself plot.

My grade: 5.5 out of 10 stars.


(Timothy Hogg has a minor in film and media studies from Slippery Rock University. Readers may contact him by email at timothyhogg.thederrick@gmail.com.)