This month I had a stop-over in Gisborne for work. It was wet, I don't know anybody there and was a bit anxious about what was in store for me the following day, so rather than cooling my heels in a motel room with bad telly I took in a movie. I saw Suicide Squad in a small-town cinema at a late session with six other people including three of the local youths - loud voices, confident swagger, armfuls of candy bar popcorn and selfies galore. What the hell I thought, they may be more the movie's dynamic than I am.
But in the end I didn't mind Suicide Squad and some parts and characters I quite dug. It's certainly not the ultraviolent hoodlum gangster flick I feared it would be, and is more likeable than Batman v Superman, and though it fell a little drunkenly between stools (namely the grimy urban vision of David Ayer's original shoot and the dayglo gonzo of Trailer Parks' reworking) it falls just short of recalling some mid 80s B movie fare in giddy pleasures. Perhaps I responded to this movie from a background in comics like 2000AD's Strontium Dog and Bad Company, where motley bands of outcasts find their honour in the spurned work of normal men, and redemption the insurmountable odds of doomed battle. Truly, Squad is to date the most comic-strip looking of the modern superhero movies, relishing in its colourful grotesques.
I find my reactions are frustratingly akin to those of others. - yes Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Viola Davis carry the movie. But yes also Jay Hernandez deserves more recognition for his doomed Diablo, and Joel Kiniman does a lot with his character Rick Flagg's character - enough, in fact, that I'm sorry the movie didn't make more of Flagg and Deadshot's grudging alliance seen through his eyes; the normal man amidst Amanda Waller's crew of deadly circus turns. Jared Leto is hard to gauge - he's simply not in the movie enough, and could have been edited out for the most part, which isn't to say I wouldn't want to see his Joker return, it's just that Squad is not a Joker movie whatever the marketing and trailer might have led everyone to believe.
But, like Batman v Superman before it, Suicide Squad has turned out to be a different beast from the slick production the trailers promised. It is a little lumpy in places, and the third act looks like it's had some chops that would make F4ntastic Four snigger. The musical cues are all up the wop in places and in others are about as blurty and welcome as the soundtrack to a DIY programme. Cara Delevigne dances about as well as I do in her big scene, and there are other casualties along the way. Katana and Killer Croc hardly get out of the gate and are timidly underused, the former especially as Flagg's hired muscle. Boomerang has to feature in the Flash movie if there's any justice. We just see too little of him, and a comic foil with his rough unrepentant charm would to my mind be more fitting than Harley's "irksome" self-aware needling.
But Jeez - it's not the end of the world, and it's not cinematic trash. It's guilt-free gung-ho hooligan heroism, with a powerful foil in Davis' Amanda Waller (essentially the true villain of the piece.) Its part in the DC cinematic universe is well-earned with some fun and effective cameos by two Justic League members, and its graphics are awesome. It's by no means perfect, but I can't help liking it. Let justice be served - let's see them again.
Postscript: Justice has of course come to this movie, weirdly enough. The critics have been effectively silenced, and Squad has become the Little Blockbuster That Improbably Did. It's out-grossed Captain America : The Winter Soldier without a Chinese release, and out-profited Iron Man, its soundtrack has just gone gold, and it's Will Smith's most profitable movie. It's made a star of Margot Robbie and Harley Quinn into a future movie lead. This despite a lingering well-below-par critical score and acknowledged production and editing issues. The future for Suicide Squad looks bright, I'd say, though some of the above will assuredly make it an interesting one. And I can't wait to see what makes it onto the Blu Ray.