Saturday, August 13, 2016

Big Three shine in fun 'Suicide Squad'

"Suicide Squad" is the first time since Joel Schumacher's two Batman movies that DC Entertainment has had fun with its characters on the big screen.

DC's heroic Big Three are Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. In the Suicide Squad, it's Deadshot (Will Smith in the greatest costume of the bunch), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and her "puddin'," the Joker (Jared Leto). That being said, it's no surprise those three actors are the highlight of the film, which is at its best each time they're onscreen.

Smith's Floyd Lawton is more than just a deadly accurate mercenary "who takes credit cards;" he's a father estranged from his honor-roll daughter who wants her to see the good in him. Deadshot and Harley Quinn drop the most memorable lines, ones that consistently get the biggest laughs.

The script takes advantage of Smith's natural comedic timing and his action-movie experience. He plays Deadshot as a tough guy with a secret heart of gold. Smith brings a true humanity to the assassin, giving meat to the idea of the movie that it's time to root for the bad guys.

Jay Hernandez's Diablo is the most compelling of the villains. His back story will break your heart. (If it doesn't, you have no soul.) Of all the Suicide Squad/Task Force X members, Diablo is the one character truly seeking redemption — not just time off his prison term for being forced to do the government's dirty work. To say anything more would ruin it.

Robbie's Harley Quinn is nothing less than bat*** crazy. This isn't necessarily "my" Harley, but as trashy as she is, it's a joy to see Robbie having so much fun with a woman who literally is a wild card. 

There's no doubt the costumers take full advantage of accentuating Robbie's, uh, assets, but there's more to her performance than her curves.

Robbie owns every scene she's in. Robbie goes all in without every going too big. Her Harley voice is just the right homage to Arleen Sorkin's original from "Batman: The Animated Series." (There are two short, marvelous homages: in the Joker-Harley montage and when Harley chooses her skanky "Daddy's Lil Monster" costume with the short-shorts over the classic bodysuit.)

The adorable actress masterfully balances this femme fatale take on the Joker's nutty girlfriend with Harley's lovable, nut-job behavior and the damaged psyche of former Arkham Asylum psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel. She makes it look so easy. And with a lovely, mischevious smile on her face!

For feminists and even "BTAS" fans like myself, the biggest challenge of "Suicide Squad" is the Joker-Harley Quinn dynamic. They have a sick relationship that defies explanation. But then again, one of the foundations of Harley is she's incredibly attracted to a psychopath.

And while that's played out in "Suicide Squad," unlike previous incarnations, this Joker is just as passionate about his loyalty to Harley. In the animated series and pre-New 52 comics, "Mister J" wants his dependent girlfriend around — but only when it's convenient.

Leto is memorable as a very creepy and expressive Joker, whose contribution to the film is more of a supporting character than the extended cameo some fans have been saying. This "Mister J" is more gang-banger than Clown Prince of Crime. You can smell the crazy in Leto's dead-eye stare. His Joker laugh is just as maniacal and memorable as other onscreen personifications.

(Go to my "Tattoo you" op-ed back from late April 2015 for my initial thoughts when we saw our first look at Jared Leto as the Joker. And here is my updated tribute to the late Heath Ledger. Finally, here's my Jack Nicholson vs. Joker "battle of the Jokers" op-ed from 2007, which is posted and was written for

It will all come down to preferences when choosing your favorite big-screen Joker. Honestly, I want to see him go toe-to-toe with Ben Affleck's Batman before I can make anything close to a final judgment; there's just not enough in "Suicide Squad" to make a fair assessment.

Speaking of the grim guy from Gotham City, Batman has about two minutes of total screen time in a couple memorable cameos.

As a lifelong Batman fan, I am pleased to see a much more humane take on the Dark Knight, one who is less brutal than in the related (and much less fun) "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." (Yes, my work schedule has kept me from posting my review of the so-called "Ultimate Edition." Be patient, CCCers!) This is a hero who doesn't want Deadshot's daughter to see her dad resist arrest. This Dark Knight is a man concerned about life who dives into the water to save Harley Quinn from drowning. This is much more "my Batman."

As far as the rest of the Suicide Squad members go, Captain Boomerang does very little with his namesakes. (On the other hand, what about that Flash cameo?) I also wanted to see more from Katana, but Karen Fukuhara makes you believe this intense warrior is deadly with her soul-stealing samurai.

Killer Croc is a lot of fun. A major shout-out goes to the makeup and costume team for a great design. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje gives the right kind of grunt to the way Croc speaks. Again like Leto's Joker and Fukuhara's Katana, he makes the most of every scene.

I saw "Suicide Squad" twice in four days, so needless to say I enjoyed it. (How could I pass up $5 all day Tuesdays in the new recliners at Norwalk Premiere Theatre 8 for my encore viewing?)

David Ayer's film isn't without its problems — mainly Enchantress and her demonic brother being non-compelling villains with equally "blah" motives. But "Suicide Squad" is a brainless good time with simple yet solid action sequences and Viola Davis as a badass Amanda Waller that might make her comic-book inspiration take notice. Don't believe the rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Grade: B

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