The film should be DC Comics’ answer to Marvel’s Deadpool. It should atone for the failed promise of Superman vs Batman with a gritty, gory, rollicking bloodbath of a movie that showcases all the magnificent scoundrels of the comic-book universe.
The first half does exactly that. The second half is a bitter disappointment.
In the opening, DC delivers exactly what we, the adult film-going public, proved we wanted by flocking to Deadpool.
It’s the story of a collection of bad guys imprisoned by Ben Affleck’s Batman who are forced, on pain of death, to help the US government fight its enemies.
As the amazing cast is introduced one-by-one – including standouts Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Will Smith (Deadshot) and Jared Leto (Joker) – the anticipation builds.
There are bucketloads of sleaze, swearing, skin, oozing sarcasm, wry wit, grime and violence – lots of violence. A pumping soundtrack of popular hits from big-name artists like Eminem, Skrillex and Lil Wayne only serves to build on the hype.
But when the camera turns to Delevingne (The Enchantress), the average viewer is likely to think two things: one, she looks vaguely familiar, and two, she can’t act.
The plot turns on The Enchantress. She is an ancient witch whose heart is kept in a box by the US government, and periodically stabbed whenever she steps out of line. She is supposed to keep the rest of the Suicide Squad in line using her dark magic. Needless to say, that plan quickly unravels.
Delevingne is a British model and “It Girl” who, after pouting her way down the runway, has decided she wants to take her posing to Hollywood. She glares. She waves her hands. She casts computer-generated puffs of magic dust. Her magical ability to disappear at will is her best trait.
In contrast, Robbie and Leto fill the screen with their wicked derangement. Collectively, they fail to eclipse Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, but only just. It is a worthy homage.
Will Smith also brings the heat. Given its array of characters, the film could easily have collapsed under its own weight, degenerating into a confused mess. But with Deadshot as the team’s de facto leader, and arguably the film’s main character, this doesn’t happen.
It’s clear Smith is desperate to cash in on the superhero franchise phenomenon. It’s also clear his agent succeeded in arguing for a lot of screen time, and a big chunk of the storyline. The film is better for it.
Sadly, Robbie, Leto and Smith can’t save the film, which fails to live up to its strong start – and the hype built up by an enormous global marketing campaign.
Deadpool and The Dark Knight are proof that a gritty superhero film can be done brilliantly. Another film from which Suicide Squad could have drawn inspiration is Smokin’ Aces (2006), which starred a similar array of big-name baddies hellbent on mayhem. It kept that pace and grittiness to the very end. Suicide Squad doesn’t.
For a film full of bad guys and gals, this highly anticipated blockbuster needed an almightily convincing arch-enemy. It didn’t get it. For much of the film, Delevingne’s voice is dubbed over, arguably for effect, but possibly because her lines are delivered so unconvincingly.
After such a big build-up, Suicide Squad needed to finish with a bang. Instead, we got more of Delevingne’s whimpering.
This review was first published on The New Daily.