Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad ★½

Where Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was monstrously misconceived on every narrative level, David Ayer's Suicide Squad was formed from the nugget of a great concept: a group of incarcerated second-string D.C. villains are dispatched on a suicide mission under threat of death for the small possibility that their sentences may be commuted. And to its credit, the film goes through a lot of work in filling out the details of its setting; the costumes and shticks of the characters feel amusing and lived-in, and the overall grubbiness of the world is a nice touch. But in practice, Suicide Squad is a tonal mess, a jumble of competing emotions that are never given full time to develop.

The biggest problem is the atrocious editing. As a result, the fight scenes are coherent but rendered pretty dull (the movie also lacks a genuine set piece). The punchlines, so many of which are rendered in A.D.R., mostly fall flat. And the first half-hour is filled with onscreen splashes of text introducing the characters that appear for about half-a-second, straining interest in the process. The hyperkinetic editing never gives the movie time to breathe, and the best moments of the film are when it finally grinds the plot to a halt and lets the characters hang out. The performances of the film are its main draw: Will Smith is charming in new duds, Margot Robbie is inspired, Jai Courtney is hammy fun, and Viola Davis pulls off a steely badass very well. Jay Hernandez is a great addition as the regretful El Diablo, but when his cliched backstory is fully explained some of the character's poignancy is lost. Jared Leto and his much-discussed take on the Joker comes off as a complete nonentity, another victim of the movie's poor pacing.

Watching the movie, you can almost see the behind-the-scenes anarchy at WB, the executives restructuring the tone and pacing of the movie as it progresses. Some of the infectious fun still remains in the film, giving you some sense of an action movie that was genuinely exciting behind the whole mess. The recent D.C. movies lack any sense of internal logic, and there's no sense that any of the filmmakers had a strong enough sense of what this movie should be to follow through and make it a reality.

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