RECAP: Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad (2016): David Ayer

On the heels of Superman’s death in Batman v Superman, Warner Brothers gave us a team-up movie featuring lesser known DC characters.

Suicide Squad introduces a team of baddies locked away in a black site prison. Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, El Diablo, and more are introduced to the film audience.

Fearing these to not be enough of a cinematic draw, Warner threw in appearances of Batman and Joker to anchor this puppy. The film also adapted a Neon Demon color scheme that appears in the opening and closing credits and whenever Joker is around.

ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: Some real bad ladies and dudes join to fight for America against a badder lady and dude. 

Hero (6/10)

Deadshot: Will Smith plays the world’s deadliest assassin, or at least its most accurate. We first meet Deadshot in the Louisiana prison where he and other terrible criminals are kept. “Floyd,” as his friends call him, punches a heavy bag when not being tortured by his guards.

Perhaps the most normal of the members of the Suicide Squad, Deadshot becomes the group’s de facto leader. He has a daughter to fight for, one we see in a flashback. Eleven years old, the child is wise beyond her years. She knows her dad is a murderer.

Will Smith as Deadshot
Will Smith as Deadshot

One night Deadshot walks his daughter through a Gotham alley when the renowned killer and wearer of full-brimmed hats is struck from behind by Batman. They tussle a little bit, until Deadshot has a gun pointed at the Caped Crusader.

Deadshot’s daughter, tears on her face, steps in front of the gun, begging her father to not kill Batman. This act would make the daughter the hero of Suicide Squad, but she doesn’t have enough scenes.

All this murder doesn’t keep Deadshot from wearing a crucifix pendant. He fancies himself a religious crusader, I guess? Were fewer character present in this movie we might have learned more. Instead we get this mystery.

Deadshot wears a creepy white hood when he’s doing his most important murders. People die when he puts that thing on, and the government is asking him to do it.

Deadshot competes with Flag (Joel Kinnaman) for alpha status throughout their mission. Flag leads the Suicide Squad and a team of SEALs, and he believes Deadshot will cut and run at the first sign of trouble.

Deadshot proves to be too smart to run. He knows that Flag must be kept alive. “He dies; we die,” he says. He and the other criminals are injected with a capsule that Flag can use to kill them if they cut and run. Deadshot figures out that Harley Quinn’s lover Joker has a scheme to deactivate them. He also loves Phil Jackson, the NBA’s Zen master coach.

By movie’s end, Deadshot is giving Flag orders. He’s the most sane member of the team and most able to blend into society. All he gets for that is a few minutes with his daughter to do math homework.

Smith is on point as a wisecracking ne’er-do-well, the type of role he seems born to play. He’s locked up for life and endures random beatings, yet he enjoys being the funny guy.

Contrast Deadshot’s normalcy with Harley Quinn’s (Margot Robbie) insanity. Once known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, she had to drop the “Doctor,” I guess, because then there would be two Dr. Quinn Medicine Women. Can’t have that.

Harley Quinn is presented in Suicude Squad as Joker’s paramour. With cotton candy-colored hair and fishnet leggings, it’s easy to see what the Joker likes about her. It’s also easy to see what he’s done.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, using that M.D.
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, using that M.D.

We are told that Harley fell in love with Joker during his turn in Arkham. When he breaks out, he electroshocks her. That’s what (likely) made her insane. She’s portrayed as a victim manipulated by Joker. This is the guy who convinces her to leap into a vat of acid.

Trusting Harley is a tall task. She texts with Joker during their mission. She’s ready to see Flag killed, until she recalls that she will die if he dies. Fighting people and pretending to be a nutcase appears to be Harley’s raison d’être. For those reasons she endears herself to the audience, but her friends keep their distance.

Harley once was in the circus. When introduced to her she’s wearing Tarzan rags and wrapped amongst cloths hanging from her cell. Later she’ll leave the Squad by leaping onto and dangling from a rope tied to a helicopter. She uses her gymnastic skill to break a bad guy’s neck with her legs.

Robbie seemed like the only person to enjoy making Suicide Squad. It’s a grim film, and many characters needed extensive makeup, but Robbie’s character was right at home in chaos. As for her skimpy costume…more later.

Villain (5/10)

Trapped in a Mayan temple for centuries, the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) was freed by archeologist Dr. June Moone. Enchantress possessed Moone’s body, but she forgot to pick up an important item–her heart.

The villain, Enchantress
The villain, Enchantress

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), founder of the Suicide Squad that will oppose Enchantress, found the mummified heart, and it’s the only thing keeping the witch in check. That doesn’t prevent her from using her powers to try to reconquer the world.

Enchantress can teleport anywhere, can inhabit anyone’s body, seemingly can do anything. She’s more a goddess than a witch, and in the past people worshipped her and her family as such.

Once she learns that Waller has her heart in a secure case, she tries to extract it. One night the Enchantress teleports to Waller’s apartment, finding the case on the bed, a handgun atop it. Waller’s security protocols confound her, so she searches the other rooms and finds her brother, releasing his spirit into a poor soul using the Midway City subway, proving once again that public transportation will get you killed.

The brother turns the city into a war zone. He shares power with his sister until she can get her heart back after capturing Waller.

Suicide Squad‘s villain was underdeveloped. As she speaks to her brother we learn that in the past humans worshipped them as gods, which seems about right. Now “they worship machines.” *** So she decides to build a machine. I like this logic. She’s a character that wants one thing and goes out there to get it. Good for her.

Her downfall occurred because she admired too much the Squad’s fighting skill. For someone who can supposedly see into the minds of anyone, she should have known Harley Quinn would cut out her heart. However, Harley is insane, so perhaps she didn’t know she would do it until the last moment.

No, I don’t buy that either.

Action/Effects (3/10)

With countless characters in play, Suicide Squad leaves little room for action sequences.

Outside of the climax, the film offers one large gun battle, in the streets of Midway City. The team members, about evenly split between Navy SEALs and Squad members, find a street littered with cars and other detritus.

At the intersection is a group of soldiers. These aren’t the terrorists the Squad members were looking for. The troops carrying rifles are all black. Deadshot scopes out a few with his red reticle, and we see through it. The soldiers are not human. Where their heads should be are pulsing black blobs covered in blisters.

Blister-encompassed heads don’t prevent the blobs from spotting the humans. They charge down the street, firing the guns they got from who knows where.

Flag, Deadshot, and the SEALs let bullets rain on the street. Body shots appear to slow them, but only head wounds finish the job.

Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a criminal-hating samurai avenger (Japan’s version of Batman), who joined the Squad late, slices off some heads. Deadshot scores head shots. Boomerang (Jai Courtney) has knives and beers. Enter slow motion, the better to see the choreography.

Harley Quinn draws her revolver. LOVE and HATE alternatively emblazon the gun barrels. She pops a few bad guys in the head before resorting to her weapon of choice–a baseball bat.

Flag's in there
Flag’s in there

Croc is the only person having any fun. He tosses some pus soldiers into windshields 20 yards away, showing some of that strength he is allegedly famous for. Diablo, a man, not a weapon, continues his conscientious-objector status.

Flag is struck by what appears to be a frying pan and is dragged away by four baddies. Harley Quinn is excited by this. “He dies; we die,” Deadshot points out. Harley aids in Flag’s rescue.

The SEALs pop off a bazooka shot. As a filmmaker, any time you can work in a bazooka, you do it.

Deadshot, sick of this shit, runs ahead and stands atop a cop car. He kills dozens of enemy soldiers, without missing, of course, as the other commandos watch in awe. He returns to the group to tell Flag, “That’s how I cut and run.”

Not long after this the team enters the office building holding the high-value target, their objective. Suddenly another group of pus-faced soldiers surrounds them. There’s more fighting similar to the scene we just saw. The Squad protects Flag by surrounding him, not letting him fight. He dies; they die.

This scene ends faster, when they find more bad soldiers outside the office in an atrium. Diablo, still not unleashing his power, listens to Deadshot annoy him. Diablo doesn’t like to be touched, so Deadshot taps him on the head. Remember when you would take someone’s hand and slap them with it, saying, “Stop hitting yourself”? Deadshot’s taunting is like that.

Diablo, agitated, hulks out, torching two floors worth of goons as the commandos watch in awe. That’s two characters now watched in awe. This makes sense, because the Squad members have only heard of their teammates, if at all, and not seen what they can do.

These two action sequences were either too close together or too similar in action and result to mean much.

As for the effects, they were hit and miss. Noticeably bad was the sorceress version of Delevingne. The actor’s face seem plastered atop the fake, snake-like body. The sorceress looked better in her sparky black appearance. The sparks surrounded her like fireflies attracted to her person.

Most impressive were the calcified goo starbursts plastered across Midway City. These were remnants of the Enchantress’s brother’s attacks. They appeared to actually exist on set, twinkling like dark amber.

Sidekicks (2/8)

Flag: Kinnaman is an actor who succeeded on TV’s The Killing. Since, he’s appeared in the Robocop reboot and Suicide Squad, and both were dud roles for him. He seems overmatched on screen.

Flag was certainly overmatched. He’s America’s most patriotic patriot, a man who so loves his country that even his hat sports the American flag. His name is Flag, for God’s sake.

Flag falls in love with Dr. Moone, the archeologist housing the spirit of the Enchantress, the world’s most powerful witch, a fact Flag learns much later.

America’s best commando believes himself better than the members of the Suicide Squad. As the mission breaks down, as Deadshot continues to challenge his authority, Flag realizes he has done much to allow his girlfriend’s spiritual inhabiter to bring the world to the brink of annihilation.

Kinnaman is stuck with the movie’s worst line. Read more about it in the climax section.

Diablo: Here’s a guy with some backstory. Blessed/cursed with the ability to make pyrotechnics on demand, Diablo joins the Suicide Squad while refusing to fight. He’s concerned about losing control. The last time he did he burned his wife and children, a fact we don’t learn until very late.

No character surprises the viewer more than Diablo, who transforms into a fire god to battle the Enchantress’s brother. That was the one scene in Suicide Squad to make me say, “Wow.”

Katana: Here’s another character underdeveloped. Katana is the only team member going along for fun. A widow, Katana uses the sword that killed her husband to avenge him against the criminals of Japan’s underworld. That sword also contains the soul of her dead husband. So she has that going for her.

The movie had no use for her, except to add some flavor to the non-criminal element of the Suicide Squad. She needed more or less development, not what she got.

Boomerang: This guy was useless. Something about Jai Courtney I find distasteful, so when I see his name in the credits I get a bad taste in my mouth. His Captain Boomerang showed up long enough to crack as many jokes as beer cans, and to provide us with Shameless Plug of the Year, an extended shot of a Samsung phone. His speech was often unintelligible to me.

Croc: This guy had maybe three lines. They were funny, but with SO MANY CHARACTERS we could have lost this one.

Poor marks in this category for focusing on the lesser sidekicks and not on the more interesting ones.

Henchmen (7/8)

Waller: Look out for Viola Davis. Amanda Waller has some job in the US government that gives her a ton of power and more gumption.

It’s Waller’s idea to form Task Force X (doesn’t Marvel own rights to the letter X?), and she won’t let anyone stop her. Superman’s arrival and death sparked her to consider outside-the-box solutions to alien problems. After all, the “next Superman might not share our values.” ***

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller

How is Waller going to control the most dangerous criminals, so-called metahumans? Dangle freedom in front of them. Most of the members of the Suicide Squad have reasons to leave their black site prison.

The only one who doesn’t is the Enchantress. Don’t worry, Waller carries her heart around in a secure case, fingerprint locked, and capable of detecting the witch. Waller feels nothing for the witch. At one point we see her stab the heart (which resembles a brown corn husk) multiple times, the only way to control the Enchantress.

Waller is about the only person in Suicide Squad to enjoy herself. Her obsession is studying metahumans, and in observing the Enchantress in Midway City she gets trapped, requiring her assembled Task Force X to rescue her.

When the Squad get her, Waller kills all the agents helping her. “They weren’t cleared for any of this,” is her justification. And why was she studying the witch? For her ability to make anyone into a killing machine with only a kiss. Despite all this, Croc likes her.

For saving her life and the world, Waller threatens to kill the Squad members and only subtracts 10 years from their sentences. Could anyone be more ungrateful?

Davis is stellar in any role, this one not excluded. She projects every bit of toughness her character required. She exudes an endearing self-assuredness, despite being perhaps the biggest psychopath in the film.

JokerJared Leto is the latest bold soul to play Joker. Wearing slick-backed green hair and metallic teeth, this Joker is a far cry from the makes-his-own-clothes version Heath Ledger played in The Dark Knight.

Using Joker in a Gotham movie is a hard temptation to resist, but Ayer and company made the right move in relegating him to henchman status.

Joker first appears in Harley Quinn’s backstory. Locked up in Arkham Asylum, Joker discovers the gullible traits of Dr. Quinzel, his psychiatrist in Arkham.

When Joker’s masked friends break him out of the asylum, Joker takes time to lay Dr. Quinzel on an examining table and shock her brain.

Jared Leto as Joker
Jared Leto as Joker

Later, Joker asks Harley if she would die for him. Of course she would. But, “would you live for me?” Harley would, and Joker convinces her to jump into a vat of acid. *** Joker leaps in after her, and they embrace in a swirl of paint, their bodies bleached white.

Joker is one of cinema’s most popular and reviled villains. He’s the only comic villain on AFI’s 50 Villains list. He’s #2 on IGN’s list of all-time best comic book villains. And he’s the only character to carry actor to an Oscar nomination (Heath Ledger’s 2008 role and Oscar victory).

Leto has much to live up to, and he succeeds. This Joker is every bit as creepy as Ledger’s. The film’s comic style saps only some of the gravitas from Leto’s Joker.

It’s not fair to compare Suicide Squad‘s Joker to Ledger’s, but it’s also impossible not to. That Leto succeeds in frightening us at all, especially in a diminished role, is a testament to his skill.

Stunts (1/6)

With so many effects-driven characters, it is hard to discern real stunts. One stands out, though, in the second Squad fight with the pus-faced soldiers.

Harley Quinn battles one goon. She leaps onto its shoulders and swings around its head several times. ***

Harley has the best gymnastic skill of the Squad members. She actually was in the circus, and her skills with a rope confirm that. Her first appearance is in her cell, dangling from the cloth hanging from the bars. Watching her fight was the best treat of Suicide Squad.

Another possible stunt of Harley’s occurred in one of Suicide Squad‘s many flashbacks. Batman attacks her and The Joker as the latter drives through Gotham. The Joker drives the car into water and escapes. Harley flies through the windshield. Batman swims down to save her unconscious body, only to find that she was faking it as she slashes at him with a knife. Gotcha, Bat!

Climax (2/6)

The Suicide Squad takes a break in Midway City. They’ve just learned about who they are actually after–Flag’s girlfriend, or at least the witch using her body–and they aren’t pleased about it.

They invade an empty, upscale bar for some drinks. Diablo tells his tale of woe, perhaps the Squad’s worst, the one where he kills his family. Harley Quinn tells him to “own that shit.” Was he expecting a life of soccer practices and filing 1040s? Doubt it.

Flag shows up to deliver mail to Deadshot, letters his daughter wrote him, every day, for years. Flag destroys the device that can trigger the neck implants inside each Squad member. He admits his mistakes and asks for the criminals to join him in ending his girlfriend’s threat, not out of duty, but because they want to.

As usual, Deadshot has the most to say. He’s going in, and he wants the world to know that he did. “Shit is going to be like a chapter in the Bible,” he says. His daughter will know that he’s not a walking turd. The others join him.

The Squad members walk toward the expansive transportation building where the Enchantress builds her doomsday weapon. It’s an energy beam that spreads across the world destroying what the Enchantress wants. Makes sense. The thing does what it needs to do to seem menacing.

The Enchantress is shaking her hips like a snake. She’s adopted green as her color–bra, head adornment, eyes–and speaks to hiding members of the Squad. They can’t sneak up on her.

She promises to give each person what they want, and we get to see their visions. Deadshot wants to kill Batman, Harley wants to marry a normal Joker and have two kids, and Flag wants his beloved Dr. Moone back.

Diablo sees his family returned to him, but he also knows it to be a trick. He convinces the Squad to keep fighting. First they must kill the brother, who is 20 feet tall.

Flag hatched some plan a while back about a bomb in the subway. They needed to get the brother into a certain corner, where a SEAL would activate the bomb and kill the orange guy.

Seems like a dumb idea. Katana cuts off one of his hands, which regenerates immediately. How is this bomb going to work? Each character attack at the brother. He kicks and slaps them away.

Diablo shows his true colors. He flames the brother first, but that works not well enough. He transforms into some kind of fire monster, matching the brother’s size and strength.

They battle evenly until Diablo begins to melt the brother’s chest, weakening him, though Diablo also loses strength. Now in the correct corner, Flag orders the SEAL below them to detonate the bomb. In a heroic moment, a nameless warrior kills himself in the bomb’s explosion.

It did what it was meant to do. The brother dies and weakens the Enchantress, though she has her heart pumping inside her, so I don’t get why.

Her laser is still taking out key sites worldwide. In the movie’s funniest scene, a beam destroys an array of satellite dishes. Cut to a guy in the Pentagon who can’t comprehend how she discovered the place. It was a SECRET FACILITY! This coming from a guy who earlier saw the Enchantress steal weapons specs from Iran in about two nanoseconds.

The Enchantress returns to her dark spark form and wields a pair of swords. I liked this part. She fights the remaining Squad members, but for fun only. After the fight she uses her magic to disarm them instantly.

“Join me, or die,” the witch says. Harley Quinn likes the idea. “What’s the world ever done for us?” she asks Deadshot, who opposes the idea.

Harley approaches the witch. Can she bring back her beloved Joker? Yes.  But, Harley says, there’s one problem with her. “You messed with my friends.” Harley takes Katana’s sword and slashes out the witch’s heart.

Seems like it’s all over. After Harley cuts out her heart, Flag leans toward Deadshot and goes, “Her heart’s out.” Pity Kinnaman for having to say that, the film’s most unnecessary bit of dialogue.

Croc throws some explosives into the energy beam still raging into the sky. Deadshot takes aim with Harley’s gun. The Enchantress has one final trick. Deadshot’s daughter appears before his eyes, begging him not to pull the trigger. Wisely, Deadshot ignores this faux plea and shoots the bomb, ending the threat of the mystical space laser beam.

Seems like it’s all over. Except the Enchantress is still alive. Flag has her heart and begs her to return Moone to him. The witch won’t, and questions Flag’s manhood, taunting him. He crushes the heart, knowing it will kill his girlfriend.

Seems like it’s all over. But wait! Moone’s alive. She pulls off the mud caked over her and kisses Flag. And now Waller shows up from wherever the hell she was hiding during the shooting. She’s still got that killing device (probably a Samsung) and is ready to use it.

For their efforts, Squad members will receive 10 years off their sentences. Boomerang has three life sentences going, so that will hardly help. Yet, when he confronts Waller, he stands down from her amused gaze.

Back in prison, Harley Quinn reads while drinking from her espresso machine. She’s visited by an unregistered guest–Joker. Bring on the sequels!

Jokes (3/4)

Suicide Squad is a departure from DC’s other comic book ventures. The opening credits are full of gun mosaics plastered in all the colors of a found in a Sherwin Williams store.

Expect silliness. Boomerang is aboard chiefly for humor. I think he said some funny things, but I couldn’t penetrate his Sydneysider accent to find the comedy. Croc’s one character trait appears to be a humorous lack of self-awareness.

You can't unsee this
You can’t unsee this

If a character is named Joker, you expect him to be funny. Joker is a creepy cat, first and foremost, but I laughed at him, too. In one scene we find the Joker brooding in his apartment. “HA!” is spray painted on most of the wall space. Joker sits on the carpet, surrounded by dozens of blades and, because why not?, baby clothes.

Joker’s henchmen are the best. They wear silly masks, and one character dons a full panda suit while toting a machine gun.

Will Smith is a great comedian, and his Deadshot is no exception. He teases his client into paying him $2,000,000 to kill a mob stool pigeon. He explains trigonometry to his daughter using terms only he understands–ballistics.

Harley Quinn takes the comedic cake. She’s insane and loving it. When not blowing gum bubbles she teases her friends. Her t-shirt says “Daddy’s Lil Monster,” a Halloween staple in future years I am certain.

In a flashback, she yells at Batman for “ruining date night.” Later, she gets the best line of the movie. When a criminal named Slipknot tries to escape, Flag touches his phone screen, which triggers and explosion in Slipknot’s neck. He dies, dangling from a rope. Harley says, “Now that’s a killer app.” It’s too perfect not to use.

The comedy and color palette ensure Suicide Squad won’t be like its bleak brethren helmed by Batman and Superman.

Setting (0/4)

The Louisiana black site prison containing Squad members doesn’t seem too bad. At least the criminals don’t have to worry about seeing their fellow inmates. Their cells are spacious and clean. The color scheme of gray and puke yellow begs for Martha Stewart’s touch, but having a punching bag to wail on can alleviate much stress.

Midway City, site of the Enchantress’s war machine, is a war zone. burned hulks of cars litter the streets. The Squad even passes a downed A-10 jet. The goal was to create an ugly space for ugly people. They succeeded.

Commentary (0/2)

Suicide Squad needs about 40 minutes to assemble its squad. After brief introductions to Deadshot and Harley, Waller sits in a restaurant with America’s top brass to bring the plot to a screeching halt. She delivers backstory on every criminal member of the squad, a process that lasts far, far too long. She tells us more about some characters than we see.

Suicide Squad does ask one important question, the entire reason the movie exists. Superman was (remember, he’s dead) a great American, but what if “the next Superman is a terrorist?”

Waller preaches the “lesser of two evils” mantra for national defense, and thus is born Task Force X. Perhaps we’ll see further exploration of this in later films? Maybe Superman will turn bad when he comes back to life? He is coming back, right?

Offensiveness (-2/-2)

Harley Quinn’s character runs the gamut of respectability. Knowing little about her character excluding Suicide Squad, I found her a tragic character. She was a practicing doctor until Joker shocks her brain. Seems like that act made her insane, though she definitely had a thing for Joker before the electrocution.

Harley leaps into an acid vat, to “live” for Joker. She rides shotgun for him. She might love him, but it’s clear to me he doesn’t love her back. Joker is willing to give her to a rival Gotham criminal (played by Common). When Joker’s car crashes in a river, Harley flies through the windshield. She lives, but only because Batman saved her; Joker fled the scene.

Harley's baptism of acid into the church of Joker
Harley’s baptism of acid into the church of Joker

Harley is hyper-sexualized. Take one look at her costume of choice. Fishnet leggings, ripped t-shirt, and shorts that cover only half her ass, Harley is a textbook case of sexual exploitation in cinema.

Perhaps Harley wears what she wears to confound men. If so, that’s a terrific trait for a villain to have. Problem is, in Suicide Squad she’s not presented that way, instead portrayed as a creature of Joker’s construction and obsession. Throw in the moment where she’s putting on her shirt and the brief shot of her butt filling the screen and you have Bond-level female body usage here.


  • The baseball bat seems to be 2016’s weapon of the year. The villain in Hardcore Henry used it to make a statement about the type of violence preferred in Russia. Harley Quinn likes hers for bashing opponents. And The Walking Dead‘s Negan made his barbed-wire-wrapped bat history’s most famous item named Lucille that’s not a stringed instrument.
  • (-1) When Harley Quinn envisions herself as a mom married to a normal Joker, the first image of this vision is literally touching a button on a dishwasher.
  • Dasani is the official water of the Pentagon.

Summary (26/68): 38%

Suicide Squad tries to mimic Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: unite a band of misfits to fight a greater evil. Squad‘s problem is having too many characters. One guy shows up to join the team and is killed minutes later, just to show that no squad member was safe.

A narrower focus on its two best bad-guys-turned-good-guys Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and less time with Flag would have done this movie worlds of good. Seeing the Gotham/Metropolis universe appeals to me, and I want to see more, but not all at once.