SUICIDE SQUAD, written and directed by David Ayer, isn’t even a mess. It aspires to be at least that organized. It doesn’t fall apart, because it was never together. In the disjointed narrative, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits Task Force X, a group of wanton, irredeemable criminals, to combat the menace of Batman and Superman—seen as vigilantes by a distrustful (and blindingly ignorant) public. The premise makes little sense regardless of one’s familiarity with the DC Comics paper or celluloid franchises, not because one can’t conceive of a world in which the actions of an individual can be spun any which way by media conglomerates (you know, like Time Warner, which owns both Warner Bros. and Rottentomatoes). Neither BATMAN V. SUPERMAN nor this film walk us there, logically. We, as the audience, still like Superman and Batman, in spite of Zack Snyder’s relentless attempts to repackage them as really bad dudes.
This is the sort of movie where the writer/director gathers a bunch of stereotypes, throws them in a blender and has somebody say “I guess we’re some kind of…” and quote the title. Yes, really. Will Smith is the someone. As Deadshot he’s the black-father-who-does-bad-things-for-a-living and has a daughter whom he placates with empty promises. Jai Courtney, whom Nick Schager tweeted was only the tenth worst thing about this film, is a rowdy Australian with a boomerang (the first zero-dimensional character I’ve ever seen). Katana (Karen Fukuhara) recycles Lady Vengeance and every other violence porn flick to come out of Asia, a character written with idiotic solemnity unlike Tarantino’s pastiches of the genre. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is Killer Croc, walking with a swagger in a hoodie, he talks in a hodgepodge of Cajun accent and urban slang—visual code-within-code for “thug”. Shouldn’t he be Killer Gator? Never mind. The flame-shooting Diablo (Jay Hernandez), covered head to toe in gang tattoos, is how I think Donald Trump’s supporters picture every member of La Raza. I could go on, but you get the idea.
What presence Jared Leto’s unctuous Joker barely has is a shabby riff off Heath Ledger’s iconic performance punctuated by a sort of Vaudevillian gangster cross between Jimmy Durante and James Cagney. He’s not terrifying or comical, maybe a little sexually confused. But I can’t really tell, because he’s out-acted by gratuitous shots of former psychologist Harley Quinn’s (Margot Robbie) ass in a costume that Debbie Harry wore better. In Ayer’s film, Quinn’s love for Joker is a case of Stockholm Syndrome, but it’s carried with the kind of tone-deafness that Stephenie Meyer has for psychologically abusive relationships.
The only moderately interesting character is Enchantress, a centuries-old deity that inhabits the body of June Moone (Cara Delevingne), an early hire into Task Force X. Waller argues each of these “metahumans” is controllable but for that ever-present possibility of misplacing the kryptonite. As with many infinitely-powerful, multi-dimensional beings who can span the chasm of space, time and reality, instead of doing something truly fascinating, Enchantress chooses to create a garbage vortex to destroy humanity for locking her up—Gozer the Gozarian much? Apropos, Enchantress’ appearance shifts from grungy goddess of the underworld to Miss Teen USA with the vaseline scowl. Revenge has seldom tasted so boring.
All of this is punctuated by such a dearth of visual style, haphazard editing and visual cacophony even Michael Bay must be wondering how cinema sunk so low. Probably every rock ballad of the 1960s is played, back to back, to distract us from the pictorial spatter buoyed only by the performances of Robbie and Smith. Even so, how can you call them a suicide squad when, like every other “save the world” action bluff, nothing of consequence is sacrificed? The Batmobile, seen briefly chasing after Joker and Harley, didn’t even lose so much as a wheel…