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Family Movie Review: Suicide Squad (PG-13)

Kernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalhalf-popcorn-kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13       Length: 123 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 14+. Lots of violence, with many characters dying from gunfire, city-wide destruction, swords, explosions, fire, and other weapons; also some fistfights, people fantasizing about and threatening to kill other characters, and other kinds of crimes. A few scenes set in nightclubs where there is drinking, smoking, scantily clad dancers, and a threatening butcher. Some cursing; some misogynistic jokes; some sexualization of female characters; and an abusive relationship portrayed as being flawed but still romantic, which is pretty problematic.

The DC Comics universe expands with ‘Suicide Squad,’ the much-hyped film about supervillains being forced to work together to save the world. There are some astonishing visuals here and enjoyable performances, but overall the movie is a sloppy mess.

By Roxana Hadadi

SuicideSquad ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewYou can see the good ideas in “Suicide Squad,” the latest film from DC Comics: there are several well-conceived characters, some thrillingly shot action sequences, and a few moments that are so gonzo you’ll be enthralled. But much like its predecessor, March’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” there are more intriguing concepts in “Suicide Squad” than there are successful executions.

The film, based on a series by DC Comics, expands the world of “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman”: In a time when there are superheroes like Superman and Batman, there are of course villains, some of the world’s most devious, violent, and untrustworthy individuals. But for all their badness, they’re talented, too, which is why ambitious, ruthless government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, of “Get on Up”) dreams up Task Force X: A collection of villains who Waller sends into terrorist situations to protect the United States.

“I’m fighting fire with fire,” she says, and what are the bad guys going to do about it? It’s not like they can say no. So from a black site in Louisiana, Waller gathers her targets, including infamous assassin Deadshot (Will Smith, of “Concussion”); “whole lot of pretty and whole lot of crazy” Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, of “Z for Zachariah”), onetime psychiatrist turned partner in crime to the Joker (Jared Leto), who is still on the loose; Australian thief and wildcard Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, of “Terminator Genisys”); the fire-controlling and unwilling Diablo (Jay Hernandez); and the mutant Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, of “Concussion”).

The government is unsure of what to make of Task Force X, but when Waller loses control of the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne, of “Paper Towns”)—a centuries-old witch who wants to destroy humankind—they’re forced to resort to the villains, who sarcastically call themselves the Suicide Squad. And so Waller sends them in, led by her trusted Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, of “Lola Versus”) to control the group and make sure they save the world.

“Suicide Squad” is roughly structured into thirds, and in practically every section, you can tell where filmmaker David Ayer’s original vision was tampered with by outside forces. What results is a kind of moviemaking by committee, where you can see what scenes were filmed afterward (Kinnaman’s haircut keeps changing) and you can guess how the narrative was rearranged or restructured.

That leaves “Suicide Squad” feeling, more often than not, sloppy, with three different character introduction sequences, a meandering middle section, and a conclusion that gets surprisingly, unbelievably sentimental. When a character says toward the end, “These are my people right here,” you have to believe that this group of people would truly trust each other—and in humanity—but “Suicide Squad” doesn’t put in enough work to bring everyone to that level.

But what “Suicide Squad” does do well, it does excellently, and that’s mainly Smith as Deadshot and Robbie as Harley Quinn. They are both fantastic, providing some of the film’s most instantly memorable moments, and Smith’s alpha-male posturing in an ongoing rivalry with Kinnaman’s Flag delivers continued humor. When he smirks at Flag, “I’m talking to your boss,” it’s a great, self-aware moment for Smith and a nod to the power and authority of Waller; you’ll get the same joy from Harley smashing a store window to steal a purse in the middle of their battle scene. When “Suicide Squad” truly lets its villains be bad, it’s glorious.

But overall, “Suicide Squad” just doesn’t come together cohesively, and one of its most glaring problems is a lack of rhythm—it has to establish so many characters and works in so many flashbacks and tangential backstories that the forward momentum drags. And painting the Joker as a romantic hero, someone for whom we should cheer when he kills for Harley Quinn? In a sea of problematic choices, making the Joker a guy we should like when he murders countless people to reconnect with the woman he claims to love, but has abused time and time again, is not a good thing.

“Suicide Squad” has hilarious moments and horrible moments, and it’s disappointing how much more often we get the latter than the former. This isn’t a garbage fire, but between this and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” DC Comics is working itself into a thoroughly average ditch. And in this oversaturated superhero age, average isn’t good enough.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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