Thursday, 4 August 2016

SUICIDE SQUAD - Review By Greg Klymkiw - David Ayer Delivers Pure Comic Book Joy

Suicide Squad (2016)
Dir. David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne,
Karen Fukuhara, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman,
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, Aidan Devine

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Oh, to be a kid again! What pure, unadulterated joy! And I have writer-director David Ayer to thank for this happy blast into my past. Having discovered both DC and Marvel in the 60s, their true golden age, my memories were tweaked by Ayer's snappy, colourful, darkly funny, occasionally nasty and wholly exuberant dive into everything that made comics so special for me.

Suicide Squad has cool heroes, even cooler villains, high stakes for the world of the film (and its characters) and most of all, it's infused with sacrifice, sentiment and a big heart. It's also gorgeously shot, snappily edited, overflowing with a great selection of immortal classic songs, an original score that pounds with power and replete with a juicy ensemble cast.


What's not to like? Or, for that matter, love?

We all remember that Superman died like a Jesus made of steel at the end of Zack Snyder's epic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and this is the milieu greeting the American government at the beginning of Ayer's film. Sans Christ Kent's powerful alter-ego, the powers-that-be are quaking in their boots that alien hordes and super villains will wreak havoc upon the earth.

Tough military strategist babe Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has an answer - collect the nastiest incarcerated super villains and offer them reduced prison sentences in exchange for fighting on the side of all that is good. The Pentagon balks, but eventually, even the most vocal balking General (Aidan Devine) has his mind changed with the advent of annihilation at the hands of an ancient witch.

It doesn't take long before we get a comic book remake of The Dirty Dozen - one that still manages to resonate with freshness and originality. The simple idea of villains/criminals being used to fight evil drives the picture and Ayer's wonkily wonderful script offers up a fun first third which provides lively origins for the various criminals who will make up the suicide squad of super heroes.

What a team!

Will Smith's Deadshot is a hit man with a conscience, Boomerang (Jai Courtney) is an Aussie psychopath handy with blades and the Down Under implement he's named after, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) the mutant half-man, half crocodile has a mordant wit to match his massive appetite for humans and crocodiles, El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) turns into a human flame thrower when he gets riled up, Katana (Karen Fukuhara) is the lethal samurai with a sword which holds her late husband's spirit within it, the very cool SlipKnot (a great Adam Beach, but sadly underused) and last, but not least:

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).

Harley via Robbie's nutzoid performance comes close to stealing the show, but that honour is ultimately reserved for Jared Leto as the suave, giggling madman the Joker - Harley's lover and the man responsible for transforming her (via shock treatment no less) from a prison psychiatrist into a highly skilled and dangerous psychopath. Together, this loving couple of wackos rival Mickey and Mallory Knox, Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune and, lest we forget, Bonnie and Clyde - all rolled into one.

Have I mentioned how to-the-heavens sexy she is? A deadly sexpot with a potty mouth who's handy with firearms and a baseball bat - she's as sex-drenched a film character as they come. The one rival in the ultra-sexy department is June Moone (Cara Delevingne), the honey-glazed archeologist babe who becomes possessed by the arch-villainess The Enchantress, an ages-old evil superpower bent upon the world's destruction. (Seeing The Enchantress writhe in front of her technicolor doomsday machine like some Paul Verhoeven-imagined pole dancer will inspire erections and/or love-juice-drenched putty-tats to rival those that Robbie inspires as Harley.) And no wonder the squad's team leader, the "mortal" ace soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) is all hot and bothered. He's madly in love with June Moone, but sickened he'll have to kill her when she's in witch enchantress mode.

Given the insane number of characters the film must juggle, Ayer pulls off the impossible and creates individuals we like, love and care about. Damn, even The Joker is pretty goddamn loveable. (Oh, and bothering to compare Leto with the late Heath Ledger is a mug's game. They're both great and different enough that comparing the characters/performances is virtually in apples and oranges territory.)

The action scenes are skilfully staged - perhaps a few too many closeups and rapid-fire cuts for my taste - but there isn't a single shot less than perfect thanks to one of my favourite contemporary cinematographers Roman Vasyanov. He's obviously one of Ayer's favourites since this is the third film they've worked on together.

David Ayer is one of contemporary cinema's great treasures. He directed one of the new century's best crime pictures (Harsh Times), one of the best cop pictures since the 70s (End of Watch) and one of the best war pictures in decades (Fury). With Suicide Squad, he's made a superhero picture that's up there with the best of the best (all three Sam Raimi Spiderman pictures, plus Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and Batman v Superman).

Ayer's also a great screenwriter. Lest we forget he delivered scripts for Training Day, Dark Blue and The Fast and the Furious. His writing is tough, uncompromising and often gritty to the max. He's also got a terrific sense of humour which serves him well. Most of all, he's got considerable heart. There's a sequence towards the film's final bloody climax when the heroes assemble in a bar to assess their lives and situation. Reminiscent of the great moments in the Mexican whorehouse followed by the bloodbath in Peckinpah's western masterpiece The Wild Bunch, Ayer plumbs the humanity of criminality in the face of evil.

It's here where we realize that David Ayer is the real thing and so is his movie.


Suicide Squad is in wide release via Warner Brothers.