We caught the last full show of Suicide Squad. We went despite knowing about the bad reviews. One reason: Jared Leto. We’re fans. Sam, most of all.
It wasn’t bad at the start. Great pace, great music, stylized violence… It had that punk rock appeal and it was working. There’s a scene where Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the government official who would later command the squad, was still explaining to her superiors the merits of creating the Suicide Squad. When the ethics of the creation of such a squad was questioned, Waller likened it to World War II when the United States government asked the Mafia for help to ensure the safety of US ships.
That caught my attention. I even read up about it and discovered that the US government did ask the Mafia for help. It was called “Operation Underworld”.
From The Money and the Power The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947-2000 by Sally Denton and Roger Morris, excerpted from The New York Times book review:
Then, at the outset of World War II, U.S. Naval Intelligence and the nation’s new espionage agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), enlisted Lansky and the Syndicate in a historic collaboration, the top-secret Operation Underworld, in which government agents employed mobsters and their labor goons in a campaign of coercion and bribery ostensibly to prevent sabotage and quell uncontrolled leftist unions on New York docks. The “dirty little secret of Operation Underworld,” as a former White House official put it, “was that the United States Government needed Meyer Lansky and organized crime to force an industrial peace and a policing of sabotage on the wharves and in the warehouses. The government turned to him because hiring thugs was what government and business had been doing for a long time to control workers, and because it could conceive little other choice in the system at hand.”
Okay, so at least something in Suicide Squad drove me to go and learn something new. New to me, at least.
Anything else about Suicide Squad that wasn’t bad?
My daughter, Sam, was disappointed that Jared Leto’s part was rather small. But although his scenes were few, I like his take on the Joker. Not as menacing as Heath Ledger’s but just as dark, more pyscho and more creepy.
Margot Robbie was a revelation. I’d seen her before (Wolf of Wall Street and Focus), I knew she could act but not until she played Haley Quinn did I realize just how good she is — despite the rather shallow treatment given to her character.
Will Smith is Will Smith, but his Deadshot character didn’t really require any acting — just some celebrity appeal. Jai Courtney still can’t act. His Captain Boomerang was a walking and talking bulk of muscles and that’s it. Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag was luckluster; Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller wasn’t villainy enough; Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress was… well, more about that later.
Schizophrenic directorial style
If the audio had not been ear-splitting, I would have dozed off soon after the squad entered Midway City. That was when Suicide Squad started to get ugly and boring. From that point, it was downhill all the way.
What went wrong? It’s hard to pinpoint, really. It was more of a perception that the director suddenly had a change of heart about how the film should be. Did some meddling producer tell him that the first half of the film was too much storytelling and not enough clanging and explosions and fire and smoke, and that the director had better make up for it in the second half of the film?
That was how it felt — that the story requirement had been satisfied in the first half and very little was required in the second half. So, it was just CGI overload and ear-splitting noise. Too bad because many of the visual effects were superlative. But too much was both overwhelming and cloying. It’s like having a fifth slice of a delicious dessert. You’re stuffed but your host is forcing the fifth slice on you and the dessert experience has gone from enjoyable to barely tolerable.
And then, there’s the matter of the portrayal of the female characters. Harley Quinn’s shorter-than-short-shorts shows half her ass cheeks, Enchantress is dressed like B-movie bride of Dracula and gyrating for more than half of the total the time that she was on screen. And Katana really has to show her navel?
Meanwhile, except in the few short scenes, the male characters were covered from head to toe. Body suit, jackets… war gear.
As for the gyrating… “To enchant” is not the same as “to seduce”. Although seduction is one form of enchantment, it is not the only way to cast a spell. The gyrating wasn’t sexy — it was ridiculous.
So, yes, Suicide Squad is mostly bad and ugly and boring. But I’ve seen much worse.