“You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.” – some dude
Well, here we go. I knew going into this movie that I would probably fall under one crowd or the other. Either I was going to just enjoy myself and have a good time and at least walk out with a smile on my face despite some flaws throughout the film or I was going to hate it or at least dislike it like most of the other critics have been reporting in various reviews. I’m not one to follow reviews to a tee either but the overwhelmingly negative reviews had me a bit worried and I at least was able to go in with no expectations. That would ultimately end up benefitting the movie were it to be barely tolerable. Well, folks, no lack of expectations necessary because this was… not good at all.
I am pretty sure everyone knows the plot by now but I’ll humour you regardless. Basically, the government freaks out that there could be another entity much like Superman that emerges but that maybe instead of saving the world they will do something dastardly and/or destroy the planet. Naturally, they hire a number of incarcerated criminals in the form of Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Diablo (Jay Hernandez). There’s one other dude but he’s so useless that I can’t even be bothered to remember his name. Anyway, alongside commander Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), they are sent on a dangerous mission to stop some sort of entity that is laying waste to the city. There is also a character named June Moone (Cara Delevingne) who is being taken over by a witch that has broken free from the control of FBI agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who is spearheading the entire operation.
You know when you watch a movie that is fun and you never get the sense that the movie is trying too hard but that it is just a naturally good time thanks to sharp writing and good performances and maybe some exciting set pieces? Yeah, that’s not the case here. This film equates to a dopey party guest that shows up and claims to be “the fun one” or “the life of the party” and just tries way too damn hard and eventually you just get sick of him and kick him out or shut it down. I don’t mind to watch a cool movie with a rockin’ soundtrack but GOOD LORD… did we need a rock song for every montage in the film (of which there are a MILLION). Some of them were OK but a lot of them were completely out of place like the Eminem song while our “heroes” are preparing for battle. In fact, I’m convinced that when they went back to do some re-shoots recently, it was just to add in more montages with popular songs. Quite frankly by the time the fourth or fifth rock song kicked in, I almost wanted to yell out, “OK! WE GET IT! YOU’RE FUN! ENOUGH ALREADY!”
The acting is something of a mixed bag. Will Smith does as much as he can as Deadshot and he pulls it off for the most part despite his character having some major problems but that’s mostly in the writing. Margot Robbie is a highlight as well and it seemed like she was at least having fun in her part as Harley Quinn. She really goes full-tilt with the part and I at least enjoyed her performance. I just wish she had been in a better movie. The rest of the performers are pretty much a non-factor except one glaring exception which I will get to at the end. Who’s bright idea was it to waste Adewale as the heavily-latexed Killer Croc. He was completely useless other than cracking a few dumb jokes. Joel Kinnaman was a bore as our supposed sympathetic hero and Cara Delevingne tried to elicit emotion but she had to spend most of her time playing a really weak villain and chewing the scenery. I will give Viola Davis a bit of praise as she managed to make her character into a decent sort-of villain. Rounding out the squad are Jai Courtney as Boomerang (in another role that seems only to exist so that we can get another guy cracking jokes) and Jay Hernandez as Diablo, a sympathetic villain that can control fire. Jay is OK and the character is given a little bit of depth but eventually his development just completely falls off the rails as well especially as we reach the climax of the film.
And then we come to Jared Leto. After all the hype and the people worried about his performance, it has come and gone. Verdict? It was pretty bad. Leto is not in the film much but when he is there it feels like he embodies some of the problems with the movie: he seems overproduced and almost schlocky. I never felt like I was watching the Joker but rather an actor performing as the Joker and trying to be edgy and cool. Where Heath Ledger was able to disappear into the role, Jared Leto was “Jared Leto playing a crazy person and reaching for an Oscar.” The thing is that I do like Jared for the most part and his overall body of work but this just felt like a total mis-step on his part. I had heard about his method acting to prepare for this but I’m sorry to say, guys, it just didn’t pay off. It sure didn’t help that he had some putrid awful lines to spout out either though.
The tone of the film is incredibly off-center. At times it’s a big “fun” action movie with set pieces, guns and too many characters flailing around the screen while stuff gets blown up. Everyone’s cracking jokes and having a good time and then we get into some dark subject matter suddenly and without warning. This has a lot to do with the writing of the film as well, which is quite weak. The only characters we really truly are made to care about are Deadshot and Rick Flag. While I found Flag to be a very bland character, Deadshot was at least a noble attempt. The problem here lies in the writing though because Deadshot is all over the map. Sometimes he can do some pretty cold-blooded things without hesitation and then during other scenes, he thinks about his daughter and can’t commit the act. You might be thinking that it’s a normal character flaw for him to have but it comes and goes seemingly only when the screenplay necessitates it. Everyone works for the script as it were. Harley Quinn for the most part is crazy and violent but when the script needs her to be remorseful, we get her being remorseful. It doesn’t matter if these characters don’t stay true to themselves because gosh darn it, this has to happen to keep the movie rolling forward. There are insane moments that make absolutely no sense like Davis shooting a number of agents in the head and then Flag brushing it off as her being a mean person (and I mean he barely reacts) or a scene in which Flag hands Deadshot some letters that his daughter sent him over the years. So… he just had those in his inside coat pocket the whole time?
Another major problem is the action scenes themselves. I found nothing exciting in any of them. Of course, it hearkens back to the problem of having weak one-note characters for the most part that I just don’t care about in this movie. The action scenes are shot in a very stylish way but there is no substance. It feels like David Ayer is just showing what his fancy cinematographer and editor can pull off with no rhyme or reason behind it. Related to that in some way as well is the production design. Everything is almost TOO perfectly laid-out and nothing feels real. When we enter the Joker’s ridiculous room with the “Ha! Ha! Ha!” written all over the wall and the circle of knives on the ground, I just groaned.
Are there any positives? Well, like I said… there are a few performances that stand out as being good. The introduction sequences for the characters was decent but it just felt like a pretty lazy way to get everyone up to speed quite frankly and it lasted way too long. The good intentions were there though! Overall though it’s easily the worst superhero film of the year and will be a candidate for worst overall film of the year.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)