Friday, August 05, 2016

Film review: SUICIDE SQUAD (David Ayer, 2016)

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a shrewd government official, opines that in the case of the recently deceased Superman, they'd gotten lucky, as he was a superhero who shared their ideals, thus, played on their side. The next time, she argues, the superhero might not be so compliant with them.

A master tactician, she plans several moves ahead: assemble a group of metahumans, 'the worst of the worst', to do the government's dirty work for them. If they fail, they die. If they succeed, these individuals can have some time off their prison sentences.

This motley crew, the titular 'Suicide Squad', includes Will Smith as Deadshot, a paid for assassin who's accuracy with a rifle is unparalleled; Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joker's girlfriend who's even more mental than he is; Jay Hernandez as Diablo, a man blessed/blighted with pyrokinesis; Jai Courtney as a mercenary robber Captain Boomerang; and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, a human-reptile hybrid.

The Suicide Squad are headed by a surly, non-nonsense soldier who holds his criminal squad in utter contempt, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, quite the babe *swoons*). Rick won't take crap from anyone, but unfortunately for him, Amanda Waller has his balls in a vice due to Rick's girlfriend, archeologist June Moone, being the host body of a 5000-year-old witch called Enchantress (Cara Delevingne, living proof that partying with celebrities and nepotism can get you places). Waller has Enchantress' heart, and Enchantress possesses June's body, who in turn possesses Rick's heart. Phew!!!

The convoluted plot setup is reflected in the first act of the film, which takes rather too long to get to the action, and under-develops several character's story arcs, preventing the audience from forming an attachment to them. But that was always going to be an occupational hazard of translating such an ambitious, multi-faceted comic book to the screen, and at least the overarching message, of that of the blurred lines between good and evil, has been retained.

Suicide Squad makes for a very entertaining watch, even if the over-reliance in CGI is at times a little distracting. The occasionally over-done visuals are enhanced, however, by a slick soundtrack, featuring everything from Queen to Eminem. Two songs which play over the credits, “Heathens” and “Sucker for Pain” will go down in pop culture folklore, for how well they were employed in the advertising for Suicide Squad (the latter, on a Snapchat filter!). The watchability of the movie as a piece of entertainment is also largely thanks to the ensemble cast, who are, bar one jarring exception, all pretty great.

The star of the show is Viola Davis, whose superior acting and Juilliard credentials lends gravitas to even the corniest of Hollywood lines. She's a natural, and Davis completely embodies Waller's Machiavellian personality and her cool-as-a-cucumber demeanour. Her formidable screen presence carries her throughout, and even when her character is in danger, Davis never lets even an inkling of fear creep into her visage.

Will Smith is also very good as Deadshot. He's never not been cool, even back in his Fresh Prince days, but it's his scenes with his cute daughter, his one weakness (and his justification for only accepting hits on men, never women or children) that ground his character. Similarly, Jay Hernandez as Diablo illustrates how his skills with fire aren't so much a gift as an affliction, in a tragic subplot which I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear over.

Margot Robbie is deliciously nutty as Harley Quinn. Much has been made of the update in her attire from harlequin outfit to stilettos, a ripped T-shirt sporting 'Daddy's Little Monster' and the shortest of hotpants, but it's not what she wears (or doesn't wear) that lingers in your impression as Harley. What I'll remember is her mannerisms, ranging from the wicked cackle to the sly winks, as well as the casual panache with which she beats up the badder baddies with her trusty baseball bat. Adding to the element of girl power is Karen Fukuhara as Flag's personal bodyguard, a samurai sword-wielding lady who takes no prisoners. As an actual martial arts champion, Fukuhara makes a fierce impression, doing her east Asian sisters proud.

Unfortunately, Nepotism Delevingne proved my doubts about her suitability for the part of Enchantress completely correct. Not content with having stunk the place out in Paper Towns (voted my second least favourite performance of 2015, holla), her performance here is a bad conflation of flared nostrils to emote, a weird, booming voice, and, in the last act, gyrating so earnestly you'd think it was tryouts for a hula-hooping contest. Her terrible acting even impairs other performances: because her and Joel Kinnaman had such stunted chemistry, you just weren't engaged in their relationship, which is problematic as it represents one of the main incentives of one of the characters.

I feel it may be a tad rich to criticise someone for getting where they were through their connections, given one of my friends, Dominic, liked to joke that the only reason I got accepted on my Masters was because my father used to work at the University.

Regardless of the veracity of that claim, at least I worked hard on my Masters once I got in. I'm not getting that vibe from Delevingne, an individual who's modelling work I am actually a great fan of. There’s no denying she’s a striking girl; it takes something special to out-shine even Margot Robbie at the London premiere of Suicide Squad. But Cara, honey, in movies, it's not enough just to be pretty.

So you wore a bikini and showed gameness for writhing around. There's way more to acting than that. Compare Delevingne's wooden acting here to that of Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch in the Marvel movies. Both played comic book witches, but whereas Olsen was convincing, injecting humanity and depth into Wanda, Delevingne brings nothing to Suicide Squad other than maybe Taylor Swift or the Jenners doing an Instagram post about it, if she's lucky, and detracts from the overall quality by being in it. #SayNoToCaraDelevingneInFilms

That gripe aside (and it's a pretty big one; Cara is so poor it's hard to focus on any scene she's in), I can see what David Ayer was trying do with Suicide Squad. Due to the sheer volume of ambition, he didn't achieve all his aims. But a couple of bombastic set pieces, witty lines of banter between members of the squad, an onrunning kid-unfriendly tone (still celebrating that 15 certificate) and the entire cast bar that blonde model woman bringing their A-game, makes this a thoroughly silly ride.


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