Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bad to the Bone; Margot Robbie Is a Delight and Jared Leto Looks the Part as the Joker -- but This Super-Villain Movie Fails to Get the Party Started

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bad to the Bone; Margot Robbie Is a Delight and Jared Leto Looks the Part as the Joker -- but This Super-Villain Movie Fails to Get the Party Started

Article excerpt

Byline: Ellen E Jones

SUICIDE SQUAD Cert 15, 123 mins WERE you expecting a wild party from DC's latest superhero movie? A heart-pumping bacchanal that would swallow up bad memories of Batman v Superman into a neonhued oblivion of quick cuts and gangsta rap? Bad news, then.

Like any practised host, Suicide Squad's director David Ayer takes his time over the introductions, but once we're done shaking hands in the foyer you'll find yourself stuck at the cinematic equivalent of a community hall bar mitzvah, with two deflated balloons and a bowl of Twiglets for company. Warner Bros' marketing campaign promised us wall-to-wall puckish party-starters but where Suicide Squad's Big Bad should be there is only a Big Narrative Hole.

This is not for a lack of pretenders to the supervillain's throne. Viola Davis is both admirable and morally ambiguous as Dr Amanda Waller, the shady government operative responsible for bringing the worst of the worst onto the government payroll. "What happens if the next Superman becomes a terrorist?" is a pretty flimsy hypothetical on which to base either a top-secret military programme or a major Hollywood blockbuster but never mind. Waller's realpolitiking suggests parallels with hawkish Hillary and perhaps even a subtextual criticism of US foreign policy. Could she be the evil antagonist that unites the Suicide Squad's members? No, not her.

What about Jared Leto's muchanticipated Joker? His look, inspired by smart Seventies pimps and the Instagram feeds of Mexican drug lords is just as eye-catching as Heath Ledger's but there's not much more to it than that. His relevance to the plot is tangential and his growling, prowling psychopathy is really only a return to Jack Nicholson's interpretation, minus the witty one-liners.

That just leaves the evil Enchantress, played by Cara Delevingne, to provide the Suicide Squad with a mission and the film with some structure. Does it need spelling out that this is far too much narrative responsibility to place on Delevingne's perfectly pointy shoulders? On some level, the filmmakers must have appreciated their mistake. How else to explain the choice to artfully obscure both Delevingne's face and voice in every scene which requires some proper acting? By the time the climatic confrontation arrives Enchantress is projecting to the back row like Brian Blessed's long-lost sister. Or rather her vocoder is.

At least Margot Robbie never lets us down. As charming chatterbox Harley Quinn she's a gum-snapping, emojifluent injection of energy. It's a nuanced performance too, despite the camera's determination to reduce Quinn to the sum of her body parts. Her bottom part, to be specific, which jiggles back and forth across the screen so many times it becomes a kind of moronic leitmotif. …

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