Star Rating:

Suicide Squad

Actors: Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Cara Delevingne

Release Date: Friday 5th August 2016

Genre(s): Action, Crime, Fantasy

Running time: 130 minutes

A government operative (Viola Davis) has, in the wake of Superman's death, come up with a way to defend America - recruiting the most dangerous criminals on the planet and blackmailing them into service. However, when an experiment goes horribly wrong and a city is threatened, the plan gets put into action and it's up to Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, El Diablo and Captain Boomerang to save the day - even though they're all actually criminals.

It's fair to say that Summer 2016 will go down in history as the worst blockbuster season on record for quite some time. There's been a number of critical and commercial misfires, beginning with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a lacklustre commercial performance for Warcraft and Independence Day: Resurgence and now, finishing it all out is Suicide Squad - DC / Warner Bros.' misguided attempt at being an edgier Guardians of the Galaxy.

The two beasts, Marvel and DC, are different enough in the sense that, for a time, there was a distinctness between them. Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy was a welcome antidote to Marvel / Disney's more crowd-pleasing fare. However, when Nolan finished it all up and handed it over to Zack Snyder, the hope was that it could continue in another fashion. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a mess of a film and didn't come close to living up to its potential. With Suicide Squad, it tried to rectify itself along the way and, in doing so, drives the whole thing further into the ditch.

The plot is threadbare, to say the least. Following the death of Superman, the US government - personified by an embarrassed-looking Viola Davis - comes up with a completely daft idea that's destined to fail, but hey, it's a comic-book movie so we go with it. By planting a small grenade into the necks of super-powered criminals, she can bend them to her will and make them play nice. The cast of criminals is led by Deadshot (Will Smith), an assassin who never misses and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a former psychologist who was driven mad and falls in love with the Joker (Jared Leto). They're sent off to fight an evil witch, played by model Cara Delevigne, who was previously under their control - but now isn't. That's pretty much the size of it, really.

A lot of noise was made about David Ayer's intensity when directing this, how he apparently sent the cast to therapy and then used the notes against them so as to illicit a better performance. The truth is, right around the table, they've all barely registered. Margot Robbie's performance is nothing short of cartoonish, Will Smith's just playing a "badass with a heart of gold" whilst Jay Hernandez's Diablo is just moping around in the background. Joel Kinnaman has nothing to do other than to literally explain what's happening in the middle of action sequences - no, really - whilst Jared Leto's Joker is forgettable. One of the most iconic villains of our generation and he managed to make him forgettable. That takes effort. Cara Delevigne, meanwhile, is reduced to special effects while Jai Courtney and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje barely register. The only one who's remotely interesting is Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, the morally ambiguous government agent behind it all. However, David Ayer's truly awful script has her tied to spouting trailerspeak, e.g. "I put them in a hole and threw away the hole..." without a shred of irony or awareness.

David Ayer bares a huge amount of responsibility here. You can't pawn this off on a bad screenwriter because, well, he wrote it. When you consider that Ayer wrote and directed the excellent End Of Watch or the surprisingly-decent Fury, you'd think he'd be able to get to grips with something like this. We're supposed to take these characters as supervillains being forced against their will. Yet, there's nothing in the film - really, nothing whatsoever - to suggest that they are. One of them's got a daughter he's just trying to get back to, another's moping over his dead family, one of them just wants to be married with children and the others aren't even important enough to be developed enough to understand their motivations. So they're not villains, they're just anti-heroes. Yet, they are consistently referred to as villains. They even call themselves villains. They're not. And anyone who calls themselves a bad guy isn't a bad guy. The action setpieces are bland and uninteresting with the other-other villains being literally faceless targets to be taken down to the sounds of a Spotify playlist that's one-part obvious classic rock and one-part mainstream hip-hop.

When you look at Fantastic Four or even Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, you can see that there was a vision or an idea that wasn't executed fully for a variety of reasons - studio interference, poor directing, the usual excuses. With Suicide Squad, that's not the case. It goes through the motions, but there's nothing driving it underneath it all.

Bad, bad, bad.