SUICIDE IS PAINLESS
Main Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto
Director: David Ayer
After having a lovely nap on one of the fainting couches in my home theater, I decided to check and see how Mr. Mike and Tangina were doing with the house cleaning. Casa Maine has been infested with hordes of ghastly monkey ghosts from dear Norma Desmond’s pet cemetery. She must have had some sort of odd fetish as she buried scads of them in the garden back in the days when she owned this Sunset Boulevard mansion. I emerged from the theater to find some sort of pitched battle going on. Leah, my gal Friday, had called in reinforcements and I spotted all of my various retainers and employees throwing household objects such as tennis balls, the holiday china, and even my Oscar, at the spectral forms. I was appalled. I was not going to have my house laid waste in this way. I grabbed Captain Drew from my yacht, who seemed to have cornered a particularly obnoxious ghost of an orangutan in the broom cupboard, and told him to use his military training to marshal my forces. Soon he, Madame Mimi, my vocal coach, Lulu Pigg, my tap therapist, Leah, my gal Friday, Kim Dee and Mary Gee, my seamstresses, Peter Lovejoy from my publicity department and a few others were gathered in the great hall.
I ascended the stairs and told the assembled crowd that our current techniques for subduing the problem were obviously not working and we must come up with a new strategy. Little Tangina came up beside me and told me that she thought that the best thing to do would be for us to give the ghosts some other purpose in their afterlife. Give them raison d’etre and they would leave Casa Maine, me and Normy in peace. This seemed like sound advice to me so I told everyone I would treat them all to food and beverage if they would simply call a truce and stop tossing the household furnishings around while I came up with a clever plan for repurposing several dozen simian specters. Normy emerged from his studio and made everyone generous limoncello fizzes while I asked for several hours to go and obtain food as the kitchen was a bit of a wreck after someone had lobbed every spare bit of crockery and most of the silverware at a phalanx of ghostly gibbons.
Leaving everyone to their libations, I nipped on down to The Ivy to order take-out for twenty. The staff there informed me it would be about two hours (one does have to wait for quality) so I decided to nip into the nearby Cineplex while waiting and catch a quick matinee. My choice was the new film, Suicide Squad, one of the entries in the DC comicverse pantheon. This one seems to have borrowed its basic plot from The Dirty Dozen. A roster of supervillains, usually being battled and offed by Batman and Superman, are gathered together from their top security prison cells and formed into a brigade to battle an even worse supervillain under the directorship of a morally questionable bureaucrat (Viola Davis) and a straight arrow soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). The bowels of the Belle Reve black ops prison vomit forth the worst of the worst and off they head to Center City where a brother sister pair of ancient villains Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and Incubus (Alain Chanoine) are busy wreaking havoc.
The squad is headed by Harley Quin (Margot Robbie), the Joker’s (Jared Leto) psychotic girlfriend. Ms. Robbie played the role in The Dark Knight, tying the film into that earlier trilogy. It’s tied into the more recent DC comicverse by taking up right after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and having cameos from Ben Affleck as Batman and Ezra Miller as The Flash. Other squad members are the assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), bad ass Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), firebug El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a big guy with a bad case of ichthyosis cutis called Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a displaced ninja Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and a soldier specializing in scaling buildings Slipknot (Adam Beach). After brief introductions and backstories, they are all gathered together and soon are helicoptering into chaos to free an asset trapped in a Center City high rise and to take down the evil pair. Things are complicated by the fact that Enchantress is occupying the body of Rick Flag’s lady love, archeologist June Moone.
The idea of a superhero film from the supervillain’s point of view is a nifty one and there are things to enjoy about Suicide Squad but it ultimately becomes a bit of a muddle due to unclear writing and plotting. There are so many principal characters, most of whom are unfamiliar to those of us not immersed in the minutia of comic lore, that not enough time is spent giving us information about our purported heroes. Poor Adam Beach had better have a long talk with his agent as he is barely in the film and therefore his story arc has no impact when it should be a defining moment. The only members of the squad to make a significant impression are Will Smith, not for his performance but because he is the only one allotted adequate screen time as he is, after all, Will Smith, and Margot Robbie. Ms. Robbie jolts the film to life every time she appears. She is by turns kittenish, villainous and riotously funny, often in the same line reading and if the rest of the film had lived up to her energy and performance, it might have been something indeed. She plays well with Jared Leto’s joker, who is a very different take than that of Heath Ledger. Apples and oranges, but Ledger was better.
The weaknesses of the film can be laid at the feet of writer/director David Ayer. He obviously knows how to structure a screenplay (he wrote the screenplays for the original The Fast and the Furious and Training Day) but his outings as a director, especially working from his own writing, have been lackluster at best, one of his last outings being the Schwarzenegger dud Sabotage. Ayer the writer seems to be sacrificed to Ayer the director wanting to get in one more action set piece with explosions, bullets and bodies flying, and an audience thoroughly confused as to what’s going on. He does have a nice use of neon hued colors throughout and some of the special effects are quite fun. I especially liked the transformations of Enchantress.
Marvel, DC’s great rival, has gotten its cinematic universe down to a science with new releases every few months. (There have been so many, that I have somewhat lost my taste for them as they all blend together – my favorite piece of the last few have been the Stan Lee cameos). This may have been in part due to Disney’s acquiring of the Marvel franchise. DC is still trying to find its vision. It seems to want to go darker and moodier than Marvel which is fine but they need to find a better cadre of writer/directors to work on the properties. Even comic book movies need to be character driven, not special effects driven, if they are to succeed.
Fancy nightclubs. Open sewer dwelling. Daddy issues. Gratuitous Jim Parrack. IT worker executions. Pudding buckle. Subway attack. Roast inmates. Energy field of death.