In Suicide Squad, a group of super-villains is harnessed by a covert government organization to fight superhuman threats—to begin with, a pair of brother and sister Elder Gods trying to kick-start the apocalypse. David Ayer, the talented director of the WWII film Fury, has to mix styles and flavors. In an atmosphere-free cocktail lounge, loud music is used to set the mood. Needle drops plague the beginning: “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals for rainy exteriors of a super-ultra-supermax prison in the Louisiana swamps. Then comes “You Don’t Own Me” for our first view of the caged and dangerous Harley Quinn (the overexposed model Margot Robbie). Killer Croc—Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, playing the man-reptile as Mike Tyson with leprosy—isn’t actually introduced with “Crocodile Rock,” but it’s a near thing. Most uninteresting is the human-sized lead, Deadshot, the helmeted mercenary played by Will Smith; as usual, the Smith character just wants to go home and be a daddy.
As voiced by Arleen Sorkin on Batman: The Animated Series, Harley was a beguiling Brooklyn ditz in a fine toxic Krazy Kat and Ignatz romance. Who could love The Joker more than himself? In buttfloss rollerskate shorts, and a kinderslut outfit, complete with bubblegum and pigtails, Robbie wobbles between daft child and supposedly irresistible femme fatale.
The promotional pictures of Jared Leto’s Joker were worth the thousands of words by outraged fans; the steel teeth look like a sixth-grader’s braces, and the fussy forehead tattoo reading “Damaged” in a copperplate script is about as redoubtable as a fancy Williamsburg beard. Suicide Squad isn’t the Joker’s movie any more than it is Batman’s tale. But Mr. J could have been the cold mad eye of this digital hurricane. As it stands, he’s a pesky performance artist with no jokes.
What’s surprising is that there is some good acting in this rote super-melodrama; the military liaison Rick Flag (the Keith Carradine-like Joel Kinnaman) has an attractive mildness to go with the macho certainty. Similarly authentic is the fire-cholo El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), in mourning from having immolated so many people. He brings the suicidal qualities to this movie: he’s grave and sad, but he still amuses himself by making a tiny dancer out of a flame in his hand, as a barroom trick.
PG-13; 130 Mins.