Movie Review: What did they do to “Suicide Squad”?


“Suicide Squad” hits theaters as the most hotly-anticipated popcorn pic in what has been a fairly disappointing cinema summer.

Hyped as this year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and positioned in that coveted early-August “Guardians” release window, a darkly-comic comic book movie about “bad guys who do some good,” it’s franchising friendly, a way for Warners to recapture the mojo that their darker-than-dark “Batman v. Superman” took away.

But they made that movie by fanboy request, to fanboy-dictated parameters. Keep it dark, because, you know, this is a comic book — serious stuff. This one? They at least tried to lighten things up. “Tried” is the operative word.

“Suicide Squad” is part of that whole dystopian DC comic universe, where Superman’s dead and The Joker (Jared Leto, more dentistry than performance) isn’t. And Batman is Ben Affleck. So the studio was hemmed in there, as well.

And what they’ve given us is a formulaic, blood and bullet-riddled David Ayer (“Training Day/Fury”) superhero thriller starring a high-mileage Will Smith and Margot Robbie‘s butt-cheeks.

There’s a big laugh, about 25 minutes in. Will Smith lands a couple more, and Ike Barnholz adds levity to a corrupt comic relief prison guard. But otherwise, this is a joyless exercise in paint-by-numbers mayhem. Bad guys are rounded up and flung against demons who have taken over some city we won’t call New York and who — like aliens and ghosts and others we’ve seen in too many  recent movies  — are dismantling the center city and spinning the debris into the clouds on an arc of psychotronic light.

Who ya gonna call? Yeah, that.

Viola Davis is Amanda Waller, the murderously unethical government bigwig who rounds up these “meta-humans” just in case there’s a situation caused by someone with Superman’s powers and without his scruples. So the ultimate sniper, Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), guilt-ridden fire-flinger Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Aussie thief Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Harley Quinn (Robbie), Joker’s shrink whom he’s made over into his demented darling of a girlfriend, become “Task Force X.”

And they’re needed right away because Waller’s already lost one recruit. The archaeologist Dr. June Moone (Cara Delevingnewas consumed by an evil witch spirit (Enchantress), and she goes rogue, the first chance she gets. The rest of the self-named “Suicide Squad” seems likely to do the same.

Joel Kinnaman is Col. Rick Flag, the Navy SEAL who has to ride herd over this mob. He’s given a meta-human ninja (Karen Fukuhara) whose sword absorbs the soul of every one she slays as a sidekick.

And there’s a LOT of slaying going on in here. Deadshot litters the streets with the bodies of people turned into zombie soldiers. Harley Quinn wields a bat, but picks up a custom pistol when the need for killing speed arises. SEALS and demon soldiers shoot it out on subways, in high-rises and on the streets.

The one-liners must have played better on the comic book page. “Nice ta’meetcha,” Robbie’s psycho-Fran Drescher burbles. “Love your perfume. What IS that? The stench’a death?”

Deadshot negotiates with the Feds for his daughter’s future, his price for becoming a good guy. Private education, all the way to the Ivy League. And if she’s not sharp enough to get in on her own?

“I need you to ‘white people’ that thing.”

Ayer is a good, gritty action director, and absolutely the wrong choice to adapt this. The action beats are taut, but the story arc crumbles under the weight of all the movies it steals from. The casting fails to pop, in most instances. The heavily-hyped Robbie doesn’t dazzle, which explains why she’s photographed from behind, more often than not.

Delevingne fails to register at all. But Kinnaman stands out as the weakest link.

Giving every character a classic rock theme song — a touch swiped from Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” — doesn’t lighten the load. It feels like a desperate retro-fit –more pandering.

“‘Normal’ is just a setting on a dryer,” Harley Quinn declares. But the “normal” the movies in this new comic universe are pushing is bleak and not much fun. “Dark” does not equal “deep,” and even if it did, you have to wonder if all this pandering will actually be embraced by the audience it is pandering to.

If not, mental health counseling for the studio execs who bet the bank on the Dead Superman DC universe is in order. They’re worrisome candidates to become the real “Suicide Squad.”



MPAA Rating: PG – 13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Joel Kinnaman, Karen Fukuhara
Credits: Written and directed by David Ayer. A Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 2:00

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Movie Review: What did they do to “Suicide Squad”?

  1. Taylor says:

    Thanks for your honest and detailed review. Shame about the movie though. Had high hopes.

    • Caden says:

      Just cause this guy doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s bad. I mean he is just someone with an opinion, but he is nothing special

    • joey says:

      Why is it a shame? Are you not expecting to have your own separate opinion?

  2. Rick Flag is a character from the 50s. Also… I keep seeing critics complain about comic book movies being “dark and depressing.” This complaint tells me you don’t know much about comic books or comic book movies. You keep trying to impose a convention that simply doesn’t exist (Thanks Joel Schumacher and Warren Beatty). Comic books, including super hero ones, are just as diverse in tone as any other art form. What some call dark and depressing, others would call an attempt at realism. The tension between realism and absurdity in these films is absolutely the point.

    • SammyBham says:

      Thank you!

    • Jamie says:

      I don’t think critcs have a problem with “Dark and depressing”. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight anyone? Both are critically acclaimed and the latter still is the most acclaimed super hero film ever. The problema with BvS is that’s just bad and the darkness/gritty just come across as pretentious cuz it doesn’t have any substance to sustain it unlike TDK and Begins

      • That’s the funny thing about pretension: just because you didn’t find any significance in the film doesn’t mean there isn’t any. People made the same claim about Dark Knight Rises, which had tons of underlying meaning covering everything from the role of the “hero,” fascism in law enforcement, to the Allegory of the Cave.

        To be honest, I’ve only seen BvS once, and I’ve yet to see the new cut. However, just from my first viewing, I saw tons of places where Snyder and Nolan were giving us more than just plot but literary/film discussions of hero worship and power. In fact, all of the Bat related films have attempted to do more than just explosions and fist fights (even the early Superman films expressed and/or presented truths about American values at the time). You can make the argument that Snyder failed at making his messages more clear, but what exactly is he pretending at?

      • Perhaps you should read my BVS review. I saw all that, because this isn’t my first rodeo. But there’s nothing of the sort in “Suicide.” And all the reviews say the same thing. There’s no there there.

  3. Matthew Huntley says:

    Just for the record Rick Flag first appeared in the comics in 1959. So M*A*S*H* technically stole from the comic.

  4. C.S.Strowbridge says:

    I was really hoping Margot Robbie would shine in her role. I want a Harley Quinn / Poison Ivy film.

  5. Jim says:

    Very thoughtful review. I feel that many fans will just be happy to get a movie that is competent from a filmmaking perspective, which they got somewhat with Man of Steel but have been lacking for several years. I found this film to have more positives than not, though it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. That was a bit disappointing because this was a new concept for the genre, but largely felt the same as other comic book movies.

  6. dw says:

    Aaand here…we…GO!

  7. deepak sharma says:

    go watch marvel . you dont need to be here .Y DNT U GO And watch avengers age of ultron loser. Paid review by marvel . ignore this review .If you woulddo some experiment which really appreciable by DC ,THan these people lost it completely .Best assemble ever of dark army…Watch this movie for an absolute delight of bad guys

  8. Leto has a moment, and interesting dentistry. Otherwise, not worth bringing up. Got to leave enough stones unturned for the audience to discover — cameos, etc.

  9. JoeInTheBigCity says:

    Marvel didn’t even embargo reviews of Captain America: Civil War. If they did, they lifted that embargo two weeks before the movie came out.

    Studios only embargo reviews, especially to within 3 days of release, when they have zero faith in their product.

    You can kill the messenger all you want, Mike, but you come across as a bitter DC fan who’s been served a big bowl of sour grapes.

  10. Benny says:

    Cry me a river.

  11. Phil says:

    PAID BY DISNEY! Hope that money was worth it.

  12. Rai says:

    Your review makes it rather clear that you were bound to hate this movie from the start, no matter what it did… Not to mention the embargo hasn’t even lifted yet.

    • You, Soccer Girl, could not be further from the truth. I needed a laugh, and want to love at least one dumb popcorn picture this summer. I’m still looking.

  13. JoeInTheBigCity says:

    I hope DC fans will just go watch the movie and enjoy it without going hari-kari, demeaning critics, or taking the usual “Marvel Sux Because DC Is Better” attitude.

    I really, really, really get tired of butthurt fanboys acting like their lives are somehow dependent upon their movies getting good reviews. Its tiresome, trite and boring.

  14. John mulvihill says:

    “Keep it dark, because, you know, this is a comic book — serious stuff.” I hate this complaint, have you never read a serious comic in your life? Comics can be like any other art for, art that is colourful and pops, or dark and horrifying. It’s like complaining that saving “Schindler’s List” is too serious because you once saw a comedy movie

  15. imran says:

    I think you’re trying too hard not to like the movie. We get it and further you don’t have to equate it to Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not the same type of movie sir.

    We will enjoy it!

  16. Jack Drew says:

    Really good review but I never agree with this guy I always think movie he gives 1/2 stars is a normally 3/4 starts for me. Great reviewer though

  17. Another reviewer trying to inject a lot of “fun” and remove “darkness” from comic book movies. and WTH are you trying to say here:

    “Deadshot negotiates for his daughter’s future, his price for becoming a good guy. Private education, all the way to the Ivy League. And if she’s not sharp enough to get in on her own?”

    You actually managed to care about what will happen if she’s not smart enough to get into Ivy League by her lonesome? Will you need a scene to prove what happens in a later film? Your complaints are childish at best lol Get out of here.

    That overly dense quote alone is enough for me to believe other negative reviewers, as long as they make sense.

    • Not a quote. The quote is, to the officials he is negotiating with, “white people that thing.” As in, my girl gets taken care of and gets into Harvard, regardless of grades/merit. Got it?

      • JJ says:

        White people never work hard, face adversity and legitimately earn anything….sure. So the movie expects us to just pretend things like affirmative action, diversity quotas etc. don’t exist? Hollywood is always dealing in tired, safe, unrealistic fantasyland narratives. Just one more small reason why they’ve become so boring.

      • It’s a joke. White people, fanboys included, are allowed to laugh at it. Enjoy.

    • Here’s the deal, Vamien McKalin. Movies that treat violence as cavalierly as this one does have to make light of that. Otherwise, it’s not “just a movie,” but a dopey, murderous piece of comic book porn endorsed by a lot of deeply disturbed video game/violent movie addicts whom we can only hope don’t collect guns themselves. The action is derivative, the characters novel only as far as that goes, the acting, aside from Viola and maybe Will, dull. And it’s no damned fun, but they have RECUT the trailers (adding the classic rock “Guardians” touches) to sell it. That’s a fib.

  18. Ron says:

    I had high-hopes for Ayer. I think he was selected because of how he characterized the ensemble in “Fury.”

    “Fury” was great, but he didn’t have to develop all of the characters, just one.

    “Suicide Squad” requires its entire team to be dynamic, something that seems just out of reach, given the tone, the universe the film is set in and knowing that WB plans for this to be the equivelant of Guardians. Let’s see something original!

    • I do wonder if they misspent their money on the cast. Will Smith cost too much, no money for an interesting Flag, a funny Boomerang, etc. They knew what they had on their hands, which is why the misleading re-cut trailers were rolled out. They realized Ayer had doubled down for them on this whole BVS gloom and that it might not sell. Thus, the new trailers and the late previews and the embargo.

  19. Newman Brown says:

    You saw a different movie than i did, I loved it

  20. Newman Brown says:

    this reviewer also gave civil war the same rating

  21. ha says:

    well whats the problem? boring or what this doesnt tell me anything and why is it 2 star review? is the screenplay feel rushed editing, or its hard to follow or the plot lines? i mean its not detailed.

  22. Takkii says:

    “I need you to do that white people thing”….really lol

    Thanks for the really good review! a lot of early ones coming in say it’s a lot of fun action but it’s nothing really ground breaking.

  23. The philanthropy says:

    Lol one hater detected. Probably a Marvel fanboy too

  24. Justa Guynamedjoe says:

    Citizens of Gotham, behold your guardians of the DCCU!

  25. So much bitterness in this review.
    I was ready to bash the author but then I saw he gave the same two stars to Civil War.
    Got my respect. Still bitter, though.

  26. Robert Kuz says:

    I Watched the movie and is very good

    What is your problem??

    Is a problem with Warner? A Love for Disney??

    • selin says:

      dude I watched too.The fun and action was all shown to us in trailers.Nothing more was in that dissappointment

  27. Skeptical says:

    I honestly don’t think you’ve seen the film. All the quotes you mention are from trailers and you don’t provide any real perspective on it. And you’ve somehow beaten every other outlet to the punch. Skeptical

    • Actually, there’s little in the review one could glean from the trailers. Because, you know, the trailers make it appear to be fun. Which it isn’t. Which is the point of my review. And the point of the vast majority of reviews (

  28. Kevin Feige says:

    Look at all these salty comments. lol

  29. Bruce clarkson says:

    Any critic, saying that a comic movie is bad cos it’s dark and gritty is just trying to act ignorant of the fact that TDK[which was immensely dark by d way] remains d best reviewed and “Critically Acclaimed” superhero movie till date. Ok, we can agree on d fact that Ayer is no Chris Nolan, Still an attempt at mixing realism[dark&gritty] with humor is a welcomed addition to d Dceu. So this review is kind of baseless, Unnatural, gloated and without rationale.

  30. Jordan says:

    Hey Rodger,

    Quick question, what are your Top 5 films of 2016?

    As I am a huge film-goer I never let another critic influence weather or not I will see a film, however, I do often look to see what elements of the film they liked. In this case i have to ask my above question because I have read through several of your last reviews and you just don’t seem to like anything.

    Thanks for your time!

  31. TheJRex says:

    Sounds like a lot of hate coming from this guy. I don’t know if I read one positive thing about the movie. What’s funny is the fact that all the other critics (even though we dislike the plot, pacing, etc,) still praised the characters. This to me sounds like it was written by a 18 year old disgruntled boy whose dad wouldn’t buy him comics when he was little and now he’s taking it out on the comic book movie community. Heres a tip for you other critics: if you dont know the source material, you dont think you’ll like the movie, and you hate the movie before it comes out, dont go see the movie. But “i’m a movie critic!” you’ll say “i have to go see all the movies and give my **itty opinion reguardless of what type of movie it is!” No you don’t. You give us critics a bad name. What did uncle Gary push your face into a suicide squad book while he butt****ed you?

    • Uh, no. Just brushing off abuse from fanboys.
      I’ve endorsed plenty of comic book adaptions. Not all, maybe not most, which are lightweight piffle. See the movie, spare the world your armchair psychoanalysis.

  32. “But they made that movie by fanboy request, to fanboy-dictated parameters. Keep it dark, because, you know, this is a comic book — serious stuff.”

    Who have YOU been talking to?

  33. frogber says:

    This review was fine dude, sorry you’re getting fan-boyed so hard. I haven’t seen the movie yet but normally if I hit up metacritic, I scroll down to you right away because your cynicism is almost as severe as mine 😀

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