First, the good news: “Suicide Squad” is actually less disingenuous than “Batman v Superman.” In the latter, supposed good guys act like petulant children. In “Suicide Squad,” a movie about villains coerced into being government agents, the bad guys act pretty much like bad guys.
And that’s pretty much all the good news.
Not even Margot Robbie’s enthusiasm nor Viola “How to Get Away With Murder” Davis nor professional movie star Will Smith can save “Suicide Squad,” written and directed by David Ayer, from somehow being visually unpleasant, tedious and obnoxious all at once.
In the wake of Superman’s death in “Batman v Superman” and in the spirit of assuming the next Superman will be evil, nails-hard intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Davis) assembles a black ops team of metahuman bad guys.
These are all DC Universe C-listers, but instead of dropping the audience into a world of unknowns a la the far superior “Guardians of the Galaxy” (or the 1977 “Star Wars,” for that matter), “Suicide Squad” feels compelled to kill at least the first half hour introducing and reintroducing these folks. Which is faintly idiotic, as this is pretty much “The Dirty Dozen” with superpowers — we have very literally seen this movie before.
There’s the sharpshooter hitman Deadshot (Smith), gimmicky thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), guilt-ridden flame thrower Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Slipknot (Adam Beach), who has something to do with ropes. Everyone is in muted colors. When characters aren’t in muted colors, they are sickly DayGlo. It is not fun to look at, which, hey, maybe that’s the point.
They’re led in the field by actual soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman in full glower), who was dumb enough to fall in love with one of the bad guys, a wilting flower of a woman named June Moone who becomes possessed by the ancient Enchantress (Cara Delevingne, doing her best, I suppose). And, hey, there’s someone named Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a Japanese vigilante whose sword traps the souls of people she kills.
And then there’s Robbie as Harley Quinn, the prison shrink who ended up falling in love with arch-villain the Joker (Jared Leto, looking like the singer from Buckcherry with green hair) and joining him in violent insanity.
Harley has been a fan favorite character for decades, and here she trades in her comic book jester outfit for a sort of psycho cheerleader look for maximum sexualization. If there is anything that will give this mess of a movie legs after a big opening weekend, it is a massive supply of dudes 18-35 who remember Harley from the Batman cartoon and just really, really NEED to see what she and the Joker would look like in “real life.”
Opening with some PG-13 torture porn (See Deadshot restrained and beaten! See Harley force-fed!), “Suicide Squad” barely features a word that isn’t the most direct exposition. When it does, it shoots for the sort of generic jokes that you can shove into a script in the last minute, most of which are delivered by Smith playing a version of the dude he invented on “Fresh Prince” and refined in “Men in Black.” He looks miserable doing it, seemingly well aware that this movie does not work. One half expects him to turn around and say, “Wait, isn’t this the plot of ‘Ghostbusters?’”
And the longer the movie wears on, the more noticeable its misogynist streak becomes — or as one gal in the theater said during the screening, “There are an awful lot of women getting punched in the face in this, huh?”
This is both literal and figurative. Harley isn’t a tough, independent gal — she’s under the spell of a mass murderer. El Diablo feels bad because he killed his wife and kids. Enchantress is either a wilting flower manipulated by Flag or a literal demon manipulated by Waller. Katana is a nonentity.
The biggest bummer is Waller, one of the all-time great supporting characters in comics. Davis is fine, of course, but the film’s insistence that she be as villainous as her charges sells her out in a depressing way. At every turn, “Suicide Squad” seems determined to shoot itself in the head.
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language
Running time: 2 hours 3 min
Theaters: Alamo Lakeline, Alamo Slaughter, Alamo South, Alamo Village, Barton Creek, Cedar Park, City Lights, Evo, Flix Brewhouse, Galaxy, Gateway, Hill Country, Lakeline, Metropolitan, Moviehouse & Eatery, Round Rock, Southpark, Stone Hill, Tinseltown, Westgate. 3D: Alamo Lakeline, Alamo Slaughter, Alamo South, Barton Creek, Cedar Park, City Lights, Evo, Flix Brewhouse, Galaxy, Gateway, Hill Country, Lakeline, Metropolitan, Round Rock, Southpark, Stone Hill, Tinseltown, Westgate. IMAX: Barton Creek, Gateway.