More trifle than triumph, “Suicide Squad” lacks the humor and exposition of its motley crew to elevate it to the blockbuster status audiences were expecting. However, it’s a decent enough diversion to occupy the time of rabid fans stuck in Gotham City awaiting the return of Superman and the formation of DC comics’ Justice League after this March’s Zach Snyder film “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
“Suicide Squad” takes place after “B v. S’s” finale battle with Superman villain Doomsday. With Superman gone and Batman busy cleaning up Gotham City, FBI agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) devises a plan to recruit a special black-ops squad of super-criminals to do the job an absent superhero can’t. While there’s no immediate need for this squad, Waller wants it in place as a preemptive move should an extraterrestrial enemy invade and there’s no superhero around to fight it. To convince the federal brass her plan has promise, a meeting is held to demonstrate the ability of Waller’s first squad test subject, Dr. June Moore (Cara Delevingne). Moore, an archeologist possessed during one of her digs by an ancient witch dubbed the Enchantress, is able to summon the Enchantress’ spirit at will. During this federal meeting, Moore does just that: becoming the Enchantress, Moore acquires long sought-after foreign intelligence for Waller’s assembled superiors. Enchanted by Moore’s Enchantress, the federal brass gives Waller the go-ahead by approving her project.
Conveniently, Waller’s handpicked group of goons resides at the same Louisiana maximum security prison. In addition to Moore’s Enchantress, the squad consists of Batman nemesis Joker’s girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), ultimate sharpshooter/hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), a reptilian Hulk/Thing called Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an Australian jewel thief with an unexplained pink unicorn plush toy fetish named Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an ex-gang banger/pacifist who can shoot napalm from the palms of his hands called Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and a rope expert named Slipknot (Adam Beach). Once Waller’s squad is assembled, they are put under the command of Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who Waller has deviously devised to have a vested interest in the squad as Dr. Moore/Enchantress is also Flag’s girlfriend. Once the squad is assembled, they are implanted with small explosive capsules via vaccination gun to the neck (a la “Escape from New York”) to ensure the squad’s complicity: the capsules can be remotely detonated by Waller or Flag with handheld devices.
Unfortunately, the squad is needed sooner than expected when Moore’s Enchantress decides to go rogue. Not implanted with a capsule herself, the Enchantress is controlled by Waller’s possession of the witch’s enchanted heart (yes, the actual body organ that sits behind your sternum). Showing she’s just as agile as she was for the federal brass, the Enchantress slips into Waller’s room, reclaims her heart, and resurrects her brother’s spirit in a bid to control these pesky humans. With the Enchantress’ brother now running amok in Gotham City creating an army of his own and the Joker (Jared Leto) entering the picture to put an end to his “puddin’s” (Quinn’s) participation in any suicide mission, the squad is called into action.
If the Enchantress sounds hokey, she is. If you’re wondering why I’ve given the Joker the short shrift, it’s because his amount of screen time is short (the Joker probably appears for no more than 15 minutes of “Suicide’s” two-hour running time). However, despite these shortcomings, “Suicide” does have its standouts.
The “Suicide” characters given fuller expositions fare better than the others. Of these characters, Harley Quinn is the highlight and Margot Robbie’s perfect in the part. Appearing in dyed pigtails and glitter short-shorts, Robbie exudes Quinn’s qualities of the manipulative naughty girl with the moxie of Joker’s gun moll. In both speech and movement, Robbie’s got the most to work with in Quinn’s character, and she runs with it. As Quinn, Robbie conveys enough crazy that you don’t mind the Joker’s absence but, when Leto’s Joker appears, the two have a great chemistry together.
Will Smith’s Deadshot character also fares better: captured by Batman (in a cameo by Ben Affleck), Deadshot wants nothing more than to provide for his daughter Zoe’s (Shailyn Pierre-Dixon) well-being. For Smith, who was Oscar-nominated for caring about the welfare of his child in 2006’s “The Pursuit of Happyness,” this emotion’s a no-brainer for him, so you know he’s good. As are Viola Davis as squad starter Waller and Hernandez as Diablo: Davis does tough and devious well, making Waller a force to be reckoned with, and Hernandez admirably acts out Diablo’s internal struggle to control the unleashing of the fire within.
Yet despite director David Ayer’s (“Fury,” “End of Watch”) decent action scenes, “Suicide” is devoid of more of the humor you’d expect to be generated by this eccentric band of baddies. This missing humor, paired with some of the squad members’ slipshod character development, gives you a real disconnect- by not caring or feeling more for the squad as a whole, you’re not as invested in the squad’s camaraderie as you should be. Denying its audience a chance to connect with its characters through more humor or more of its characters’ back stories may be this film’s only real “suicide.”