Suicide Squad is essentially a remake of 1967's The Dirty Dozen, with two key differences. Firstly, it uses comic book villains instead of WW2 soldiers as its heroes. Secondly The Dirty Dozen was actually good.
On premise at least, the two films are identical: in order to defeat a great evil, the US Government takes the worst of the worst from its own prisons and sends them on a suicidal mission with the promise that – should anyone come back – their sentence will be reduced. In substance, though, Suicide Squad is such a red hot mess that all other comparisons to Dozen only serve to highlight the anti-superhero movie's countless, crippling flaws.
Start with the characters. Dirty Dozen's dozen were legitimately bad people: rapists, murderers and certifiable psychopaths who never hesitated to indulge their predilections whenever the opportunity presented itself. Suicide Squad purportedly boasts similarly terrifying evildoers, but its cushy M Rating (PG-13 in the States) results in almost all instances of their villainy either being spectacularly watered down or the cameras cutting away just before shit hits the fan. Worse still, they're all ultimately presented as inwardly decent souls seeking redemption and a close-knit family unit, rendering them more babysitters club than actual suicide squad.
The best of the worst is Margot Robbie as fan-favourite Harley Quinn, aka the Joker's girlfriend. Decked out in a 'Daddy's Lil Monster' t-shirt like some sort of terrifying by-product of a BDSM fantasy taken to its nightmarish conclusion, Robbie's Quinn is the only character to gleefully embrace the chaos, making her the only one worth watching for most of the movie. Even then, the majority of her few good lines (as with the rest of the film) were given away in the trailer, leaving little else to celebrate.
Alongside her stand some genuinely bargain-basement bad guys. There's Deadshot (Will Smith), the hitman who never misses; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the guy who's kind of a crocodile; Slipknot (Adam Beach), the guy who is good at climbing things and Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the Aussie who…well...uses a boomerang. The only other one to hold court with Robbie is Jay Hernandez's character Diablo, whose incendiary powers are almost inevitably untouched for most of the movie because of his determination to never again use them. Together, they battle waves of literally faceless henchmen with all the vim and vigour of a second-rate video game as they come up against Cara Delevingne's Enchantress, whose legitimately spooky behaviour is tragically reduced to stock-standard 'Big Bad' status just as she's hitting her straps.
Then, finally, there's the Joker, arguably the greatest villain in comic book history. Played by Jared Leto, his screen time is limited, but that can't hide the fact that the actor's performance is inescapably dull. Compared to Jack Nicholson's whimsical psychotic, or Heath Ledger's unhinged anarchist, Leto plays the character like a pantomime gangster whose only threatening quality is the possibility of more scenes.
Everything about Suicide Squad feels rushed, underwritten and overproduced. Additional characters pop up like afterthoughts (most notably Karen Fukuhara as Katana), scenes come and go with neither purpose nor continuity, and the stakes are so absent you don't even know when to be concerned, or what to be concerned about. Don't let the trailers fool you: this is one of the biggest disappointments of the year.