Review: Ayer's 'Suicide Squad' Squanders an Impressive DC Ensemble

August 3, 2016

Suicide Squad

Written and directed by David Ayer (of Fury, End of Watch, Street Kings, and Harsh Times previously), Suicide Squad sounds like it should be a very fun movie. A secret government agency recruits incarcerated super-villains (from DC Comics lore) to carry out high-risk black ops missions in exchange for reduced sentences? It's The Dirty Dozen with Harley Quinn and the Joker and a few other bad guys, what could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, everything. While the premise is intriguing, the movie is unfortunately an incoherent, aggressively dull mess that squanders an impressive ensemble cast of characters.

Based on the DC series by John Ostrander, Suicide Squad begins with Amanda Waller, a ruthless US intelligence officer played by Viola Davis, hand-picking bad guys from the notorious Belle Reve Federal Penitentiary, a facility designed to hold the "worst of the worst." Her team, Task Force X, includes Deadshot (Will Smith), an expert marksman and assassin; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the Joker's psychotic girlfriend; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a gang-banger who can summon fire; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a monstrous human-crocodile hybrid, and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian bank robber who — you guessed it — throws boomerangs. Plus there's also Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), a 6000-year-old witch controlled by Waller, who carries her heart around in a briefcase.

Leading this team of monsters and maniacs is military man Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and his sidekick Katana (Karen Fukuhara), an expert martial artist who wields a mystical sword capable of trapping the souls of its victims. For their first assignment, the Squad is tasked with a rescue mission, but it's unclear who they're rescuing. When we finally discover who they're risking life and limb for, the reveal is so underwhelming that you wonder why it was a secret in the first place. It's mystery for the sake of mystery, an attempt to add a few twists and turns to an otherwise empty narrative.

The real mission is battling Incubus, an ancient demon who is transforming the citizens of Midway City into an army of generic blob-monsters. Incubus, who is Enchantress' brother, is building some sort of portal to another dimension, because it's mandated by Movie Code 4101-2 that if you're a villain in a superhero movie, your plans for world domination must involve: A) destroying the planet and rebuilding it in your image and B) a big blue beam of light swirling up into the heavens. A movie about super-villains teaming up to take down an even bigger threat should have a great villain at its center. Sadly, Incubus is an uninspired CGI creation that stomps around and offers little to the story. He feels like a relic of the ‘90s, when films like The Shadow and The Phantom actually passed for superhero cinema.

Suicide Squad Review

Then there's the Joker. Jared Leto's interpretation of Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime is by far the worst yet. Since his first appearance in 1940's Batman #1, we've seen countless takes on this iconic character. What's interesting is each unique version, whether it be Cesar Romero's goofy trickster, Jack Nicholson's unhinged artiste, or Heath Ledger's agent of chaos, works within the context of the world they inhabit. Leto's Joker, however, is the equivalent of a painter mixing too many colors. This joker tries to be every version of the character at once, mixing all the greens, reds, whites, and purples until all that's left is a muddy, undesirable (and irritating) shade of brown. What's worse, you could cut the Joker subplot without losing anything. He's a total nonfactor; a gaudy, gold-plated distraction that exists only to bolster Harley Quinn's paper-thin character and set up a bigger role in the upcoming standalone Batman movie.

It's easy to see why Warner Bros thought Suicide Squad would be a hit: it's a darker, grittier Guardians of the Galaxy — minus the endearing characters, emotional storytelling, and freewheeling fun that made James Gunn's Marvel movie such a success. It seems as if the studio's biggest takeaway was, "If we include a lot of popular music, everyone will love it!" Galaxy's soundtrack isn't memorable because it's filled with beloved hits. It's memorable because it's part of the story — a way for us to connect with Peter Quill as a character. It also establishes a playful, tongue-in-cheek tone that places us firmly in one era.

Here, there isn't a tone so much as 15 different tones screaming over each other for dominance. Every time the film loses momentum, which is often, we're rewarded with an on-the-nose needle drop — like some sort of demented jukebox that takes bad ideas instead of quarters. The manipulative Waller is introduced with "Sympathy for the Devil," while Killer Croc is associated with "Fortunate Son," because he's a crocodile and Creedence Clearwater Revival sings about bayous and swamps and stuff. We get a lot of songs that remind us of Galaxy, like "Spirit in the Sky," which was used in that film's trailers and included on the soundtrack, mixed with tracks like Eminem's "Without Me" and The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," which turn uninteresting scenes into tedious music video montages.

Suicide Squad Review

Suicide Squad is a disaster, but there are a few bright spots. Will Smith is great as Deadshot, and his scene with Ben Affleck's Batman is one of the few moments that actually works. This is the best Smith's been in over a decade. As Harley Quinn, Robbie gives the movie a deranged energy with an electric performance even if the character she's portraying is oversexualized and underdeveloped. I guess the idea is that Harley will eventually become empowered, break away from the Joker, and become something of an antihero. Hopefully, someone will write a better part for her next cinematic outing — something that requires her to be more than just a "crazy bitch" in short shorts afflicted by the male gaze. Rounding out a trio of solid performances is Viola Davis, who plays the film's most complex and sinister character. She believes that what she is doing is right, and it's that conviction that makes her more dangerous than anyone else.

It's too bad these performances — and these iconic characters — are wasted on such a lackluster movie. Whether it's writer-director Ayer's fault, or the studio's fault for changing the tone of the film during reshoots, Suicide Squad is a hodgepodge of half-assed ideas and compromised visions. It's candy-coated camp drenched in faux edginess; it's Hot Topic: The Movie. It wants to be everything to everyone and ends up being nothing to nobody. If there's a silver lining, it's that Ayer's film is slightly less insufferable in comparison to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, simply because there isn't as much of it to endure — it's 20 minutes shorter, thankfully.

In their attempt to catch up to Marvel Studios' mucho-successful cinematic universe, DC Entertainment is 0-3. Just a few years ago, Warner Bros was crushing it with The Dark Knight Trilogy. They threw away the universe Christopher Nolan created for this one, and they've yet to create anything a tenth as potent. Hopefully they'll turn things around with Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman next summer, but even then, will the DC Extended Universe be worth saving? Or, like DC Comics, will Warner Bros be forced to reboot its universe all over again? Only time will tell.

To quote Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," one of the film's many idiosyncratic needle drops, until WB/DC figures out how to make a good superhero movie again, "Nothing really matters…"

Adam's Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier

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This is just disappointing. I couldn't give a fuck what RT says but I trust you guys. I really wanted to like this movie and will for sure see it still mind you.

Jon Odishaw on Aug 3, 2016


You are insufferable. You are just like the people you are criticizing. You want movies like this to fail so badly you will chastise them before you see them. Being a fucking idiot on one end of the spectrum doesn't make you better than idiots on the other end.

Jon Odishaw on Aug 3, 2016


Come, come, now Bo. You don't go around poking bears and then ask why a bear is attacking you. Let's think critically.

DAVIDPD on Aug 3, 2016


I know I am younger than you, but something I have learned about the internet is that satire, sarcasm, and rhetorical comments are almost always misread. Thusly, I have pretty much stopped using them. I am a reformist asshole, you see. Everyday, I must strive to be less snarkey and clever. You and I have had our spats before and I am sure we'll have more in the future, but all I'm saying is that you cannot say bombastic things and expect people to always understand your tone.

DAVIDPD on Aug 4, 2016


Thank you for the detailed reply, Bo. Keeping it short, I agree with you in principle. I would also point out that AB, our supreme overlord and savior, does like these to stay somewhat on point with the narrative of the article.

DAVIDPD on Aug 4, 2016


Whoa! Everyone calm down before I start deleting comments and shutting things down... Let's keep this civil and on topic! Thank you.

Alex Billington on Aug 3, 2016


You da man, AB!!

DAVIDPD on Aug 3, 2016


Sorry Alex I thought some bafoonary was tolerated. I can tone it down though.

Jon Odishaw on Aug 3, 2016


Never used that word before, autocorrect was zero help haha. Well I don't agree with anything you've ever said but I can appreciate you extending the olive branch. Consider this disagreement squashed.

Jon Odishaw on Aug 3, 2016


You guys are the worst of the worst. You need to learn to put your differences aside and fight together... That's a line from the my head

TheOct8pus on Aug 4, 2016


I laughed.

DAVIDPD on Aug 4, 2016


How about we all unclench our assholes and chuckle every once in a while? A semi-intoxicated troglodyte would have read my post as a joke - a way of lightening the mood during an apparently tense situation. I don't know you, nor do I know the other people in this thread, so clearly "Worst of the Worst" is a reference to Suicide Squad and not to you or anyone else on this site. If you refuse to see the humor (whether you think it's funny or not) - that's on you. It seems to me, Bo, that you enjoy the thrill of rebuttal, disagreement and counterpoint more than you enjoy having a conversation. You see what your long-winded response to my throw-away joke/comment did? You caused me to write SEVERAL sentences!! My fingers are tired, Bo, because I took the bait. I need a nap. Have a fun weekend.

TheOct8pus on Aug 5, 2016


you have a movie in your head? Lucky you!

tarek on Aug 5, 2016


I do. Right now I'm at really boring scene where I'm commenting on a website....

TheOct8pus on Aug 5, 2016



tarek on Aug 5, 2016


I agree. Start deleting Bo's comments.

polar_beagle on Aug 3, 2016


All the negative press this film is getting is sad and very disappointing. Can it really be this bad? Surely, not. I think it is more likely another case of fans being upset that it was not what they wanted. I could be wrong (probably am), but that is what it feels like.

DAVIDPD on Aug 3, 2016


I've seen it man, it was bad. It was only enjoyable because it was hilariously bad.

Lano on Aug 3, 2016


I just don't get how that's possible. I mean I can believe that it isn't good but I simply refuse to believe that it's that bad! Oh well I guess I will find out for myself this weekend.

Jon Odishaw on Aug 3, 2016


We'll come back here to confer, okay Jon?

DAVIDPD on Aug 3, 2016


It's a deal

Jon Odishaw on Aug 3, 2016


Saw it. Liked it.

Jon Odishaw on Aug 6, 2016


Good. I liked it enough too. As I expected it was a bunch of people who were expecting something they did not get and decided to "hate" it.

DAVIDPD on Aug 7, 2016


Yep the only two things I agree with the critics on is the editing/pacing and the Joker(who wasn't bad he just wasn't amazing like I hoped.) Otherwise it was a fun movie. Not Marvel but not as grim as BvS.

Jon Odishaw on Aug 7, 2016


I doubt the majority of reviewers are fans since this team isn't that well-known. I would say the vast majority of them went in open-minded.

Bl00dwerK on Aug 3, 2016


I shouldn't have said fans. I mean viewers.

DAVIDPD on Aug 4, 2016


I had high expectations for this film. It fell a little short. It was entertaining. It's basically DC's version of Guardians of Galaxy. Go see it anyway. Who gives a shit what some newspaper movie reviewers say. Margot Robbie and Jay Hernandez are the bright spots in this movie and what ultimately save it from complete failure.

tyban81 on Aug 3, 2016


Like the rest of DC's offerings, I'll wait 'til it airs on one of the subscrition networks.

Bl00dwerK on Aug 3, 2016


When this fanboy site gives a bad rating it's true... Sorry Ayer, i had to much confidence in you...

ari smulders on Aug 3, 2016


Yeah, I'm bummed by all these reviews. I really like Ayer, thought this would fare better. But at the same time, he did seem to be a strange choice for this type of film.

grimjob on Aug 4, 2016


I thought he was a great choice, because there is something manical in him. And not every movie is oke from Ayer, in fact sabotage was one big screw up!

ari smulders on Aug 4, 2016


I was actually quite surprised with Sabotage. As it progressed, it became a different film, and I rather enjoyed it.

grimjob on Aug 4, 2016


The man is crazy!! He is a total broguydude. It can make for an awesome director, but it goes bad like SABOTAGE, it can be bad. I am holding out hope until I see SUICIDE SQUAD.

DAVIDPD on Aug 4, 2016


His cut, which will eventually be released, will be better.

DAVIDPD on Aug 4, 2016


OK guys, now I want to know: was Leto's Joker an interesting iteration, or was he this punk junkie we saw in the trailer?

tarek on Aug 4, 2016


His laugh is fantastic and he's far more manical than in the trailers.

RAW_D on Aug 4, 2016


Did you like the movie Raw_D? ( Roddy?)

tarek on Aug 5, 2016


It was a fun action flick. The first act was solid, but the second act falls apart. I felt the pacing was frenetic and chaotic, which mirrored the characters in the movie, and I felt it worked. It wasn't boring or slow by any means (especially compared to B v S). The writing was a bit contrived and lazy, especially in the second act. Harley Quinn was perfect, Joker was interesting. Will Smith was actually really good, and I'm surprised I'm saying that. Overall, it's a fun movie, not perfect, but Idk if I'd rush out to the theater to see it. Solid Redbox or Matinee at least. I'd give it a 6.5 out of 10.

RAW_D on Aug 5, 2016


I see. Too much of a thing is basically not enough of it. It's probably the work or a writers board, where everybody tried to overbid others ideas with over the top scenes at the expense of the overall story cohesion and coherence.

tarek on Aug 5, 2016


Pretty much. It starts off great, then resorts to the same ol' paint by numbers superhero movie. Some really groan worthy dialogue in the 2nd half as well.

RAW_D on Aug 5, 2016


The bad reviews aren't surprising....what surprises me is that WB can't find a decent screenwriter and editor for its movies. Nor do they have someone in charge who knows how to make a coherent universe based on the comics....which makes me wonder - what are they spending all these millions on?

TheOct8pus on Aug 4, 2016


I think you may have hit the nail on the head: for better or worse (at least AFA Box Office numbers, better) the MCU has a single hand at the helm, helping to ensure overall cohesiveness (Fiege). It shows in the general consistent quality of the MCU films. No, not all of them are above "good" films. But I don't recall hearing of very many where most reviews/comments were "WTH did I waste my money?" Some "why did I spend that much?", yes, but not that it was a complete waste of time & money. Which I've been hearing mostly that about the DCU since Man of Steel.

VAharleywitch on Aug 4, 2016



LA Julian on Aug 4, 2016


The weirdest thing about the bad reviews for this movie is the amount of people who are shocked that it's a bad movie getting bad reviews.

tree on Aug 4, 2016


Great review, shame this sounds like a turkey.

eurogibbon on Aug 4, 2016


I have to admit I am a little surprised by how poorly it's been reviewed. Even after BvS. I had a bad feeling about the cast, such as Jai Courtney, Jared Leto's interpretation of Joker & Will Smith as a bald Fresh Prince in a Deadshot costume. I thought nothing about the reshoots. I don't know anymore. I'm a little worried for DC. At this point I feel like they should wait until everybody is sick of the MCU (which sounds like never) and then strike? They waited 7-8 years after Batman Forever to resurrect him and brought Nolan in to do it properly. I don't see the director being an issue, as I like Ayer. I don't know anymore.

ragethorn on Aug 4, 2016


I blame Warner Brothers as well. They keep messing with the directors and edits and ruining their product. Ayer's cut will be better!!

DAVIDPD on Aug 4, 2016


I still am very skeptical that Ayers cut will save it. However, I wouldn't put this even in the same league as BvS. I believe BvS was still an awesome movie!

Cyberdine on Aug 4, 2016


You have my vote on that. Very underappreciated movie, BvS, indeed ...

shiboleth on Aug 5, 2016


Those 3 people carried the movie. Jai Courtney's Boomerang was actually pretty good and I wish we got to see more of him. Will Smith was a surprise as Deadshot and Jared Leto's Joker isn't terrible. He actually played it pretty well. He definitely fit the tone they were going for and I am glad they made it different because no one can follow up Heath Ledger's effort. As for the movie itself. Seriously WTF?? is going on over at WB. Seems like studio interference to me considering the first cut they tested with audiences before the re-shoots was positive. WB/DC have been very reactive rather then proactive in terms of these movies. This is what happens when you overreact to criticism. BvS the extended edition should have been what we saw in cinemas but studio rushed to cut it down. Then they went and got poor Ayer to pen the script in just 6 weeks WTF?? Then expected him to do reshoots when BvS didn't get favorable reviews?? No wonder that movie is a total mess.

TK on Aug 4, 2016


I'll watch it for myself and see. Marvel and DC are apples and oranges. Problem is DC is rushing and trying to be apples but it ain't working. We all love Batman & Superman & some even go further than that into WW & Flash & whoever but I have a feeling it's best DC go into hibernation until people are sick of the MCU, and right now, that's not happening. Marvel is releasing KO's. Guardians of the Galaxy have the possibility of being the next Star Wars. Winter Soldier & Civil War were wet dreams. Spider-man is back and being treated like Harry Potter following Peter Parkers life throughout highschool and watching Tom Holland grow. Look at Marvels cast of female characters. Look at the actresses playing them. Stunning. It's crazy to compete. DC is still following suit with the dark tone after Nolans Batman trilogy. It's time to move on oranges.

ragethorn on Aug 5, 2016


I can understand that people have opinions but to put Jai Courtney in the same negative sentence as Will Smith and Jared Leto...I don't agree let's leave it at that.

Jon Odishaw on Aug 4, 2016


Will Smith plays Fresh Prince in every movie. Leto looked okay in the trailers and from what I hear in most reviews, I was right.

ragethorn on Aug 5, 2016


I haven't seen it yet, however I have a feeling that's now 2/3 movies I was really looking forward to seeing that do nothing other than disappoint. First one being Jason Bourne, which offered nothing new and was completely lackluster.

CShane on Aug 4, 2016


"Hot Topic: The Movie" *shudders* I'll still see it. As per usual, I'll wait for the crowds to die down. Which, with what all these reviews are saying, may be sooner than expected.

grimjob on Aug 4, 2016


I'm a fan and can honestly say that I agree with 95% of what Adam Frazier stated above. It had the right tone and had a great start but then sort of just spilled all over the place. Back to the drawing board WB.

Cyberdine on Aug 4, 2016


Just saw it and can't understand why it's so badly reviewed. The story is pretty basic , like 90% of comic book movies and the editing is a bit choppy . But the characters and action are good and it's pretty damn funny

Gareth on Aug 4, 2016


I saw the movie with my daughter yesterday and don't know what to think of it. Of course, it's nothing special. But what can it be, really? The whole story with those DC and Marvel universes is escapism. I find it funny to think that some of them are good and some are not. As true filmic experience, they are all more or less fun but mostly all of them are quite worthless as a part of filmic history. They are worth something if they have something allegorical about the world we live in and that's why I like both, CA Winter Soldier and Batman vs Superman. I don't get mixes reviews about them, they are equally bad or equally good (take your pick) but mostly, they are not trying what comics want them to be, since they are trying to be better than comics. Suicide Squad is none of this. It's just another piece of mindless fun as Nolan's Batman movies or Star Wars ones. Yeah, worse or bad in some narrative or technical aspect, but not much different from them. Am I allowed to say, those are only pieces of industry that has lost it focus for some time now..?

shiboleth on Aug 5, 2016


You lost me at Nolan's Batman movies being mindless.

ragethorn on Aug 5, 2016


Sorry about that. I know I do things like that when I get too serious about the whole thing. But I agree, they were fun to watch, definitely. Nothing more, though... No hard feelings, right? Cheers ...

shiboleth on Aug 5, 2016


I'll get straight to the point. The film is stupendously entertaining, it's bright, colourful, devoid of any sort of relevant story, put goes along at such a heady pace, full of wonderful characters, couldn't care less.

Neneng Nurjanah on Aug 28, 2016


Hey! Which is pretty much what I said. Thanks for you answer ...

shiboleth on Aug 29, 2016


Man, this one was just kind of weird. Honestly, I feel genuinely a little bad for the people involved in this one, because clearly a lot of time and care was taken into trying to make this movie fun and endearing, and in a lot of ways it was, it just sort of fell flat. After I saw Batman v Superman I was kind of enraged at the people involved, I felt like they really did those characters a disservice. This wasn’t like that. It felt like everybody here was putting in an effort, they just couldn’t quite hit all the beats right. It deserves at least a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, which isnt saying much, but still. Sort of like in Jurassic World, this movie has a bizarre amount of setups without payoffs, and vice versa. I have a feeling all the reshoots and reediting kind of tore this thing apart. (Spoilers ahead) Why have a scene where Flagg learns he may have to tear the enchantress’ heart out, even if that means killing his lover, if later on in the movie when the enchantress’ heart is ripped out, he’s not the one to do it? Why is Katana even in this movie??? That’s a very serious question. And why introduce a subplot immediately before the climax about how her lover is trapped in her sword, and then not pay that off in any way at all, even though the final villain is killed with that sword? Why does Diablo, one of the more interesting characters in the movie, suddenly believe the rest of the squad is his family in time for the climax, despite having exactly one conversation with like two of them in a bar?? And the biggest one for me, even though its not really a huge deal, it just really bugged me and seemed like such an oversight: When Boomerang gets stabbed during a battle and it is revealed that he was saved by a wad of cash in his coat pocket, WHY WAS THAT NOT THE PINK UNICORN?? Everybody in the audience laughed at that in a confused way, it was sort of funny but nobody seemed to be sure where the cash came from. But WHY make it a mysterious wad of cash when earlier in the film we see Boomerang put a pink unicorn in that EXACT POCKET 30 minutes earlier in the film, and it is never brought up again??? Why they had to make the confusing was of cash the payoff when the payoff was literally already there is beyond me. Also, I was really didn’t dig Letos Joker. I wanted to so bad, I have been defending the direction of that character since the first poster came out months ago, but man, he was just no fun! He seemed angry and stressed out to me the whole time, where is the care free, loose canon Joker we’ve always seen? Maybe that one was just me.

jay on Aug 8, 2016

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