In further despatches from the Department of Faint Praise (see Star Trek: Beyond), Suicide Squad is not as bad as some reviews would lead you to think. That’s a long way from saying it’s actually good, since some of the reviews are real stinkers, but here’s what works:
* Margot Robbie is flat-out fantastic. Whenever she’s on screen, you feel anything could happen. She also, uniquely in recent DC films, looks like she’s having fun, which gives the audience licence to do so, too.
* And, actually, having set out to write a list of positive bullet points, I can’t think of another. Robbie’s performance alone is worth the price of the popcorn: her Harley Quinn is mercurial, flirtatious, conflicted, funny – and, like Hamlet, she is intriguingly but mad north-north-west . It makes you long for a Bonnie and Clyde-style spin-off movie with her and Jared Leto’s Joker (underused in Suicide Squad).
Will Smith is as charismatic as ever, but you feel his star power has got in the way: he plays Deadeye, the world’s most wanted hit-man, as a slushy sentimentalist who just wants his daughter to be proud of him – got forbid Smith should portray someone actually bad. None of the other characters are sufficiently developed amidst all the shooting and shouting to have much of anything interesting to recommend them.
You realise yet again what a great writer Joss Whedon is, to have juggled all the big personalities of the Avengers films, giving them all story arcs, intra-group conflicts, and some sense of an interior life. In Suicide Squad they are just a collection of characters in search of character.
Even by comic-book movie standards, the plot is banal: magical super-villain The Enchantress is presented first as all-powerful, but in the end is defeated far too easily. Plus Cara Delevingne, whose human alter-ego, Dr June Moon, is about as believable as an archaeologist as Denise Richards was as a nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough, is too slight a figure to carry off such a role.
And of course the film is shot in the Zack Snyder palette of dark and darker, whereas the subject matter surely called for something more day-glo.
I could go on. Bottom line, the first half of the film, in which the squad is being assembled, is really quite fun – though the imminent remake of The Magnificent Seven must be peed off at the lift. In the second half, frankly, I began to long for the closing credits to roll.