Director: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Margot Robbie
3 (out of 5) Globes
“Suicide Squad” is a renegade superhero movie, but not in the way you’d think. It’s been sold as the one where the heroes are baddies, just as “Guardians of the Galaxy” was the one that was kind of weird, “Ant-Man” was the one that was (sometimes) a comedy and “Deadpool” was the one that pretended to make fun of comic book movies but was still a comic book movie.
But what’s really unusual about “Suicide Squad” isn’t that it pushes the villains to center stage. It’s this: It’s the rare one that truly feels like it came from one person’s wackadoodle vision. In a genre all about protecting the brand and continuing increasingly convoluted mega-stories with too many moving parts, it plays more like the next film by David Ayer (“End of Watch,” “Fury”) than a franchise-builder — though, of course, it’s that, too.
Whether that’s a good thing is another question. Ayer, who also wrote “Training Day,” makes macho movies that are sometimes so macho they become toxic roid rages. With “Fury” he seemed to finally calm down, refining his approach, finding a voice that wasn’t imitation Sam Peckinpah and other alpha male directors.
“Suicide Squad” continues this streak. Our crack team of second-tier DC Comics villains — ranging from Will Smith’s mega-hitman Deadshot to Margot Robbie’s super-psycho Harley Quinn to a guy who looks like a crocodile (Adewale Akinnyoye-Agbaje) — aren’t a blob of interchangeable, obnoxious hotheads, as in Ayer’s admirable yet unbearable “Sabotage.” Considering the horrific set stories — group therapy! shrooming actors! mailed live rats! — it’s amazing that they’re far from totally annoying.
Their adventure is simple, almost minimalist, at least for a comic book movie. It’s a badasses-on-a-mission romp — “The Dirty Dozen” only with a dude who can shoot fire (Jay Hernandez’s Diablo) and a swordswoman with a kintara that absorbs souls (Karen Fukuhara’s Tatsu). The team assembles, but only by force. They’ve been rounded up by Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, a manipulative government goon who wants to fight potential evil with actual evil. She has to keep them in check; before they’re dropped into an abandoned city to battle an honest-to-god witch (Cara Delevingne), they each have explosives implanted in their heads, which can be set off with an app should they prove “vexing.”