Desperate “Suicide Squad” All Shock, No Awe

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“Suicide Squad” has no clothes. And I’m not talking about scantily clad Harley Quinn.

sueThis violent and chaotic placeholder between “Batman V. Superman” and “Justice League” is a desperate and derivative exercise in catchup by a DC Comics tired of eating the dust of the relatively stable and comparatively benevolent Marvel Comics universe.

Like “BvS” Suicide Squad is a journey into shadows where good and bad look and act alike. This false equivalency is dramatically exaggerated simply for effect and the result is shock but no awe.

I hesitate to call Marvel a thinking person’s universe but it is a feeling one. “Suicide Squad” is emotionally numb and narratively incoherent.

The super-villain characters, some meta-human others just good at what they do, are each broken in some contrived way designed to make them sympathetic.

They include Will Smith’s single dad assassin Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s quirky sociopath Harley Quinn in ponytails and sequin thong. They were put in prison by Batman, played by Ben Affleck in cameos – including one in the end credits – intended to foreshadow a Justice League spinoff.

They and others including a lizard, human torch, Ninja and a woman possessed by a witch are blackmailed by Viola Davis as the head of a spy agency, to defend America from attack by other meta-humans. And she can trigger explosives planted in their bodies if they defy her.

But when for some reason she and her lieutenant played by Joel Kinnaman, unleash such a threat things unravel in destroy-the-city-to-save-the-city fashion common in such films. The narrative unravels in similar fashion.

A parallel story involves the maniacal tattooed, green-haired Joker, played by Jared Leto with an Edward G. Robinson rasp, trying to rescue Quinn – the love of his life – from the clutches of the ruthless Davis.

Robbie’s gum-snapping Quinn offers comic relief while Smith’s Deadshot, who teaches geometry to his daughter using ballistics, is what passes for the film’s moral center.

“Suicide Squad” is the most violent superhero film in memory, not just for what is portrayed but because of its glorification. There is a tremendous amount of gunplay and the violence is fetishized, perhaps irresponsibly so.

But unreality is a tenuous thing. Fantasy must be anchored in an interior reality. Characters and events portrayed need to be true to the world being created. The hollow aesthetic of “Suicide Squad,” directed by David Ayer, feels designed as if by committee. And nothing about it was made with a love of the genre.

** Two stars

With Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Ike Barinholz, David Harbour, Robin Atkin Downes. Produced by Produced by Charles Roven. Written and directed by David Ayers.

Approximate running time: 123 minutes.

Rated PG-13; pervasive violence, language, disturbing behavior, suggestive content.

 

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