Bad guys have all the fun.
The post-Christopher-Nolan take on the DC universe of superheroes has been clunky and uneven at best (“Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman”) and outright disastrous at worst (“Green Lantern”).
This deficiency is made all the more apparent as the Marvel universe cranks out movies superior in quality and box-office totals with assembly-line efficiency.
So who would have thought a group of C-list supervillains would be the ones to provide a glimmer of hope for the struggling DC movie franchises.
“Suicide Squad” is a rowdy, rambunctious, entertaining flick that strikes the perfect, slightly-darker tone the DC movies have been grasping for to set them apart from Marvel.
The premise involves a top-secret project helmed by the absolutely-no-nonsense government agent Amanda Waller (the great Viola Davis in an inspired piece of casting). Her bright idea is to take an imprisoned group of expendable supervillains and properly motivate them to take on oversized threats to humanity.
With the valiant special-forces officer Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) there to keep them in line, these baddies muster up whatever nobility they’ve got left to save the world.
Some introductions are most definitely in order.
The most well-known villain here is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the off-her-rocker girlfriend of The Joker (played here with club-kid flamboyance by Jared Leto). Harley is as lovesick as she is crazy and the biggest wildcard of the bunch thanks to her boyfriend floating around in the periphery (and fortunately for the movie, in small doses).
Next up is Deadshot (Will Smith), a supremely accurate hitman who fits the classic mold of an anti-hero.
Rounding out the group we have the monstrously strong Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Aussie jewel thief and aptly named Boomerang (Jai Courtney), pyrokinetic gang leader Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and mild-mannered archeologist June Moone, whose body is host to a powerful, millennia-old witch known as Enchantress.
This movie has its share of problems. The script isn’t as tight as you would like and there are plot holes and underdeveloped characters scattered about, and even Michael Bay would find the number of soundtrack cues to be excessive.
But there is an undeniable freshness and energy here and I think it is because we are dealing with a singular creative vision from writer/director David Ayer. Because the stakes are so much lower with these lesser-known characters, Warner Bros. threw the keys to Ayer, a dude known more for gritty, realistic films like “Fury,” “End of Watch” and “Training Day.”
The cast features a few standout performances. Robbie doesn’t seem to have a total grasp on Harley Quinn, but at least she is game and throws herself at the part with gusto. Davis is great as the morally ambiguous Waller and brings quite a bit of depth to a two-dimensional character.
But it is Smith, who turns in one of his most charming performances in years, who pushes this movie into the realm of respectability. He’s playing a bit against type but is still having enough fun to pull you in.
Since it is hellbent on duplicating Marvel’s cinematic universe building, DC should acknowledge it can never catch up in terms of consistency and prestige and should be willing to take more chances and be a little bolder. “Suicide Squad” is a step in the right direction.
“Suicide Squad” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content, and language.