Both frustrating and engaging, “Suicide Squad” is a mixed-bag entry into the DC Comics film universe.
It’s overstuffed with a rather conventional villain and story, yet it also manages to build up enough good will thanks to three standout performances. It’s a step in the right direction for DC but still a long way from being in the Marvel league.
“Suicide Squad” is a team of super villains assembled by intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to execute black-op missions. They include hired assassin Dead Shot (Will Smith), former psychiatrist turned Joker’s girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).
When one of the recruits – a witch known as the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) – goes rogue, the group is forced to go into action and teeters on the fine line between heroes and criminals.
Even with a team of heavies as the subject matter, “Suicide Squad” opts to take a much lighter tone than some of the previous DC films. It takes on a snarky “Deadpool”-type vibe (albeit in a much more kid-friendly PG-13 rating) and the lighter tone fits the cast.
Smith captures a bit of his mid-1990s action star swagger, showing the charisma that made him a star in “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.” Robbie’s manic Quinn is also a lot of fun, a showy kind of role that the Australian actress tackles with delight.
The biggest surprise is Davis, who brings a hard-nosed approach that I wasn’t expecting.
“Suicide Squad” isn’t without a lot of baggage.
It feels like about four or five movies stuffed into one, with director David Ayer desperately trying to hold it together. I feel like this could have easily been a third or fourth in a series of movies that set up these characters and if that time had been invested to fill in the edges it could have given the audience a little more to invest in.
Then there is Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker, which is sure to garner a lot of attention (and likely some criticism). I’m still not sure what I think of Leto’s work, but I will say that he’s in a tough spot following the gold standard work from Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight.”
The Joker is ultimately a small piece to a much bigger puzzle that is “Suicide Squad.” It’s a puzzle that works well enough to continue the franchise, but it still needs a little polish around the edges if it wants to maintain my good will.
Also in theaters
The summer of the female comedies continues with “Bad Moms” (B), a surprising mix of raunch and heart that proved to be a pleasant surprise and is much more enjoyable than the horrendous trailer led me to believe.
In “Bad Moms,” Mila Kunis plays Amy, a mother of two whose life comes crashing down when her marriage falls apart and her mom duties become nearly unbearable.
After a PTA meeting, Amy finally snaps, joining forces with fellow moms Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) to enjoy freedom from responsibilities and take time to take care of themselves and not worry about taking care of others.
“Bad Moms” was co-directed and co-written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who helped pen “The Hangover” trilogy. The duo bring plenty of the same kind of raunchy humor from those films to “Bad Moms,” and for the most part it works. Hahn gets to have the most fun and she runs with it quite well, but Kunis and Bell also have their moments, as does Christina Applegate as the head of the PTA who becomes Amy’s chief rival.
What I wasn’t expecting from Lucas and Moore was a script that was really insightful into how much of an unsung job it really is to be a mother. That element gives “Bad Moms” a bit of a heart between the laughs.
In a summer that has already seen a female cast shine in “Ghostbusters,” this group of ladies also prove that the women can be just as funny as the men – sometimes even funnier.
“Bad Moms” is rated R for sexual material, full frontal nudity, language throughout, and drug and alcohol content and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.