Even the detested Ben Affleck’s presence can’t hurt this exquisitely sadistic, ultra violent “metahuman” (DC comics word for mutants one would think) flick, Suicide Squad. And any hope that they kill off Affleck somewhere in the enhanced military program is pushed aside in the “bonus track” after the credits where he and Viola Davis have a little tête-à-tête. The film does include the funeral of Superman and – in what could have been a eulogy for DC Comics attempts to get it right in the world of superhero movie making (outside of Christian Bale’s wonderfully developed Batman Begins trilogy which resurrected a franchise that had already bit the dust time after time ) – by not just emulating but pretty much copying Marvel/Disney – is actually a jump start that was desperately needed in light of the debacle that was Batman vs Superman.
“Borrowing” Norman Greenbaum’s classic song for the soundtrack from Guardians of the Galaxy just one case-in-point. Even funnier is that a 2014 website begs for “Ballroom Blitz” by the Sweet to show up in Guardians 2 and – lo and behold, here it is in the trailer of Suicide Squad. Hollywood has always been clever about stealing ideas (The Thirteenth Floor same time and same theme as the Matrix just one glaring example) but here this intentional cloning process is just what the doctor ordered. What transpires with constant (and welcome) tongue-in-cheek humor is a very dark descent into the Avengers/Guardians worlds, only with that unique, slightly altered tinge that separated DC from Marvel when both comic book titans were going at it in the 1960s. Those 60’s comics and their stories contrasted remarkably with similar characters having similar powers. Here El Diablo (played by Jay Hernandez) is the evil doppelganger of Marvel’s Human Torch …but he – Diablo – “only” burned his wife and children to death in a rage. Just one of the murderous crew that have no reason to live, an exaggeration of the old “Dirty Dozen” movie where cons were recruited to fight with the good guys. And we all know how that turned out for the FBI and Whitey Bulger in real life. If you think there’s too much violence on the screen these days, do not take the young ones to a film named Suicide Squad, for when it comes to criminals and their ultra-ugly crimes, it’s much worse than the title suggests
Along with being Will Smith’s redemption movie after after after the forgotten (at least Will Smith hopes) After Earth, relative newcomer Margot Robbie (me Tarzan, you Jane, the Wolf of Wall Street) is a demented and delightful ramping it up with one-liners that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger blush. Jared Leto of rock band 30 Seconds to Mars fame is a marvelous Joker. No one can fill Heath Ledger’s shoes, Ledger giving a thespian template with one of the greatest acting jobs of all time in The Dark Knight, even more so when juxtaposed with his other chameleon-like performances, so Leto craftily takes his Joker into a different, but equally chilling/psychotic dimension. Leto plays it with the flair of an unhinged extra-deranged psychopath, never knowing if he is going to kiss his gal pal “Harlequin” and/or Haley Quinn, or stab her.
Joel Kinnaman playing Rick Flagg (oh how Captain America,) Scott Eastwood as Lieutenant GQ Edwards – both components of a huge cast under the direction of veteran scriptwriter David Ayer. The product looks like it will translate into a huge winner for DC / Warner Brothers, though on paper the Ayer choice is most strange as the 35 million dollar Sabotage (2014 film) he directed was a huge bomb for both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sam Worthington (bringing in about 17 million worldwide…eeek! – the film was not THAT bad!) and here Ayer is entrusted with a 175 million dollar budget just two years later to both write and direct. The always reliable Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is as determined – and deadly – as Tommy Lee Jones in last week’s Jason Bourne. Diabolically determined without super powers.
And despite the bizarre choice of a villain, and the ultra-esoteric nature of that evil entity (here we go again, Avengers, Fantastic Four, the bane of a film is not to have a handle on a great Heath Ledger-styled Joker villain, though the Avengers overcame that through sheer force of the popularity of the heroes – a rare instance,) Suicide Squad emerges as a sleeper coming at a critical time in DC’s attempt to match Marvel in the high stakes film game of billion-dollar money-making. The dodged a bullet here and topped out. If you can’t beat Marvel, join ’em, the sincerest form of flattery which should deliver at the box office. It certainly delivers on the screen.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal along with articles for the Boston Globe, Radioworld, Medialine, Arts Media Magazine, the Beat, Musician’s and a variety of other media outlets.
Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a twenty-one year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed personalities such as film director Robert Zemeckis, Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, iconic drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities. His Joe Vig Pop Explosion radio show airs on http://bostonfreeradio.com every Wednesday 1-3 pm and works hand-in-hand with the aforementioned cable tv program, Visual Radio. Contact Joe @ recordreview2001 (@)yahoo.com