In storytelling, it is commonplace to pit good against bad in order to create conflict in the narrative, whether it is cowboys versus indians or cops versus criminals. DC Comics offer a twist in the formula when bad meets evil in Suicide Squad, the latest cinema adaptation written and directed by David Ayer. Following on from the events that unfold in Batman v Superman, government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) compiles a motley crew of supervillains to protect the world from powerful metahuman threat. Among the dirty-dozen-esque collective are hitman Deadshot (Will Smith) and former psychiatrist Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who join forces with elite soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and are deployed to a supposed terrorist attack at a subway station.
Before the ludicrosity gets into full swing, the opening forty minutes or so are spent introducing the wide array of bad guys, the sequence choppily edited and accompanied by a drag-and-drop soundtrack that feels like a dated house party playlist. Some characters are treated to in-depth introductions kitted out with intriguing flashbacks, while others are simply given a name and tossed into the mix. Between them all nobody is really developed enough for their fates to matter. When the gang finally get together, the entertainment value is lifted by fun action scenes and occasionally witty banter, as they stumble through a plot with more holes than Harley Quinn’s fishnet tights.
As the script and visuals falter, the core performances really do their utmost to paper over the cracks. Will Smith settles into the superhero genre rather well, suiting the material and enjoying the best of the dialogue on offer. Margot Robbie, despite between objectified throughout, is the stand-out performer, and her take on Quinn is full of confidence and assurance. In contrast to this, her partner in crime Jared Leto totally overacts his portrayal of The Joker, cackling maniacally through a metal-capped grin in a tick-heavy turn akin to Jesse Eisenberg’s interpretation of Lex Luthor. He avoids the less-is-more approach in the iconic role and instead gives far too much, cramming his limited screen time with irritating eccentricities.
As the superhero movie onslaught continues and Marvel carefully build their cinematic universe over a number of filmic chapters, DC Comics have opted to throw everything at us all at once in the hope that something sticks. Ayer’s overly packed Suicide Squad is a severely flawed, but bold and brassy addition to the franchise, taking the reins of comic-book absurdity to a new level of silliness. But then if you’re telling a story that involves a talking reptile, a human flamethrower and a psychopathic clown and jester power couple, why would you be so serious?