Animals’ classic hit opens with the line ‘There is a house in New Orleans, they call the rising sun.’ Suicide Squad too opens with the line, and the song, zooming in on of all things a very fortified house, in New Orleans.
Get it?! It’s the line from the song, doubling as none-too-subtle exposition for the movie? As if whacking us over the head with the bluntest of allusions wasn’t enough, the film proceeds to slowly cycle through an act-long introduction of what should have been a rogue’s gallery, for example introducing Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie as Suicide Squad’s one saving grace) swinging from her confines to Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me.
Too presuming that this was best song choice for perhaps the most gratuitously abject case of Stockholm syndrome ever committed to film, thus begins a slow descent into what was purported to be DC’s subversive, game-changing panoply of anti-heroes, instead delivering a conveyer-belt of regrettably not-so-bad-bad-guys and mind-numbingly prosaic story-telling.
Even the big-bad, Dr June Moone (a nonsensically-cast, wholly uninspiring Cara Delevingne) is only bad because she’s possessed by a demon, while there’s enough intimation that the slew of misfits are just tragically misunderstood (none more so than Will Smith’s headliner Deadshot) via a series of lumbering flashbacks to undercut any sense of tension or coherency. The only really bad guy is the Defence Department stooge/major authority figure Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), because governments are the real baddies, or something.
Of course that wouldn’t take into account the Joker (Jared Leto) who has barely enough screen time to register as anything greater than an extended cameo. Notwithstanding the widespread reports of reshoots following the backlash against Batman v Superman and Leto’s own suggestion that there are any number of scenes missing from the final cut, it is evident that the original treatment got a major facelift or was otherwise woefully inchoate, resulting in a hodge-podge of half-formed ideas and action-heavy, forgettable sequences.
An extended look at the eclectic mix of mercenaries or an extra hour of Robbie and Leto going full pelt in their roles would necessarily have proved more interesting than a film that is never able to settle anywhere or on anyone long enough to have an impact. Leto’s much-hyped performance is never granted enough of a run to make a significant impression nor fairly compare to the icons that preceded him in the role.
One day, Director David Ayer, one or more producers or even a studio set to revive interest in the picture may release an alternate version, curiosity in which will no doubt be palpable. Until then, better hold out for Justice League, because DC’s now zero for three.
Suicide Squad is in cinemas now