Having been wildly advertised pre-release and having currently been at the box office for over 2 weeks now, there’s probably only a very small minority that don’t know what this one’s about but even so here’s a quick overview: the government designs a scheme to make use of some of the villains they’ve captured by using their sinister skills and sending them off on a mission that will most likely kill them. Directed by David Ayer (Fury, Sabotage, End of Watch) and starring a fairly eclectic mix of actors that includes of course: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Viola Davis, Jared Leto, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Affleck and more.
The casting choices on this one were never in too much doubt and upon reflection some of that still stands but there sadly are those that fell short but either way there’s a lot to talk about so let’s start off with the most obvious. Robbie was a hit as Harley Quinn before the film even hit cinemas and she does not disappoint, giving Harley the massively mentally unstable yet unbelievably capable character that she deserved. Yet the same couldn’t be said about her cinematic partner Leto, all the publicity surrounding his incarnation as the Joker and his choice of method acting which led to some widely reported and slightly disturbing antics (sending a live rat, a dead hog and various other nasty items to cast members), gave hope that it would be another great turn for the actor, unfortunately it isn’t. However the blame can’t be fully placed on Leto’s shoulders, who clearly put insane effort into making the character something memorable, he simply didn’t have enough screen time or dialogue even, to flesh out the character and make it something worth of all that publicity, which wildly overplayed its hand. The real stand out however is Viola Davis as the cold-hearted, manipulative leader Amanda Walker, her calibre of acting is more than you could wish for in a film of this genre, of course anyone whose familiar with her work on How to Get Away with Murder will not be surprised by her legendary turn in this film but it is a real highlight in a film that could have used a lot more of them.
Moving on to some of the other cast members, Smith as Deadshot is relatively dependent on your opinion of the actor prior to viewing, for those who are a fan this role, it will turn out to be something memorable but for those not so convinced of his acting skills, may see several holes to poke in his performance that really is not much extended from the footage that was shown in the trailers. Though many backstories are thrown in, the one that stands out and actually creates a real arch for its character is Diablo played by Jay Hernandez (Hostel, Quarantine, Bad Moms), there’s something real to invest with in this character which a lot of the rest are missing. Despite Jai Courtney being fairly unreliable in film, here he’s some much needed comic relief and though his part to play is also relatively small, he does a lot with the little he’s given, which is a fair description also of Ike Barinholtz’s prison guard Griggs, who is quite enjoyable. Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc is sadly another misused character that from what is given on screen has potential, there just isn’t room to let him explore it, the same goes for Karen Fukuhara’s Katana who is almost window dressing and then there’s the entirely unnecessary Slipknot (Adam Beach). Lastly there’s the combination of Kinnaman and Delevingne as Rick Flag and Enchantress, the former feels about as you’d expect and gives us very little more than that and with the latter, the expectation created for Enchantress’s role in the film is much different in reality and again much too underdeveloped but respect has to go to Delevingne for being another who does well with the little she’s given. Affleck on the other hand does not really need to be discussed, he made a name for himself as Batman already and his involvement in the film was always going to be minimal but it’s still a nice addition.
Now to get into the meat of things and have a look at the film as a whole, within about 5 minutes of watching there’s a rising feeling of “What is going on here?”, in the sense of confusion at why the scenes are being put together in such a way that feels, at best, rough. There’s a lot to get into one film and so Ayer has of course jumped right in and tries to fit as much as possible but there’s simply not enough time to give due care and attention where it’s needed, the Joker has clearly been chopped and changed so much he barely becomes necessary, half his role is via text which requires zero involvement from Leto. Which is a great example of how so many aspects of the film that were highlighted throughout the trailers, were not actually of relevance to the finished product, the promise of many memorable characters, an impressive soundtrack, endless action, crazy behaviour is never fulfilled and it’s entirely incomprehensible why the advertising focused on areas of the film that were of such little importance, it was a clear setup for disappointment. The pinnacle of all disappointments however has to be that these so called “bad guys”, who actually come across quite tame, they have the basic requisite attitude but it is barely backed up by any behaviour whatsoever, it does luckily manage to avoid the fine line of falling into arrogance.
Overall surprisingly the film is not a bad watch, without any anticipation or expectations the film could be much more enjoyable but for those being an actual fan of the DC universe and having an interest in the characters, it’s difficult to get behind the film. The sad fact of the matter is, it feels as though Ayer was nowhere near ready to take on a project this vast, Fury may have been no small feat but taking on the world of comic book movies is a completely different story, it simply needed both a more experienced director and writers with a bigger background in the genre to realise its potential. Had the film gone down the route that it was offering in the first place, something crazy, fun and possibly much more adult centric with a higher rating to allow for more ludicrous behaviour, it could have been incredible but the final product is something trying too hard to be accessible to all that it forgets what it should have been in the first place.