Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Suicide Squad (David Ayer)
The wurst is yet to come
David Ayer's Suicide Squad comes with the tagline: 'The Worst of the Worst.'
Would that that were true. Considering that the previous movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was criticized for being too dark (I'd disagree and say it was too dark in a boring way), that the movie is yet another step towards establishing the DC Cinematic Universe (DC! Marvel! Anyone considered looking at the works of Art Spiegelman?), and that the movie has to earn at most a PG-13 and not an R to recoup its $175 million investment--given all that, calling this team of supervillains 'The Worse of the Worse' might be a misnomer; 'Best We Can Do From a Mediocre Lot' might be better instead.
Consider Deadshot (Will Smith): right after his first onscreen kill we see him talking to his beyond-cute daughter (Shailyn Pierre-Dixon)--how can you call anyone 'worse' when he's being such a good father to his precious little girl? Shame on you.
Consider Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje): a beast, an animal who lives in the sewers--but look into his eyes and you know he's a soulful beast (Jean Cocteau was already using this tactic back in 1946), his 'worseness' if you like mostly skin-deep.
Consider Slipknot, a convicted serial rapist--ah now we're talking. Unfortunately (skip the rest of this paragraph if you haven't seen the movie) he's killed right off so we don't get to know him much; probably why he's allowed to be a serial rapist in the first place.
Then there's Harley Quinn who's demonstrably crazy and swings a baseball bat--but she's played by Margot Robbie in extremely tight shorts, so even if she were pounding our nutsacks with aforementioned bat we'd still probably give her a pass, on the basis of 1) she's blonde 2) she's gorgeous and 3) them shorts.
It might help to compare the movie with some of its source material. The idea of tiny bombs in the neck to keep a convict from running is as old as Escape From New York over thirty years ago. You wish Ayers took more than the idea though--Escape is the ideal example of lean clean action filmmaking, of violence so superbly timed and precisely staged you know exactly where Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) has to be when, how, and why; the little bomb dissolving slowly in his neck is just a nice little reminder that everything is slipping inexorably out of his grasp.
The idea of gathering the villainous and irredeemable for a suicide mission is even older, probably Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen nearly fifty years ago--Aldrich took the time to have Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) interview most if not all the recruits. If I remember right two are guilty of homicide, two of murder, one of rape and murder.
But let's not rely only on records ("I'm accused of being a killer sir but really it was just an accident"): during their suicide mission (and it was a suicide mission--unlike in this movie nearly everyone dies) Maggot (Telly Savalas) attempts to rape a woman, wrests control of an assault rifle and attempts to shoot down his fellow soldiers. As far as villains go Maggot makes every member of the Squad look like emasculated kittens on Thorazine. Even his laugh is scarier.
But that's what the bad bad guy does; the good bad guys (skip the rest of the paragraph if you haven't seen Aldrich's movie!) drive all the Nazi officers and their wives to the wine cellar, bolt the door, pour gasoline down the vents, drop a few grenades, and light everything. Aldrich shoots the Nazis from the Dozen's point of view, as frightened men and women pleading helplessly for their lives; the Dozen are seen from the Nazi's point of view, as merciless executioners looking down at the coming hell.*
*(Impassive efficiency is what makes that ending so disturbing--unlike the massacre in say Quentin Tarantino's ripoff misfire Inglourious Basterds, which let us off the hook by 1) making the Nazi victim Hitler himself (who doesn't hate Hitler?) and 2) having the participants laugh maniacally. Real maniacs don't waste their time laughing; they're too busy getting the job done).
Back to the Squad--say for the sake of argument they did do something terrible; we probably wouldn't be able to see it anyway. Ayers' editing is so ADHD they could be showing the Second Coming and we wouldn't know it. Worst of the worst? Would that that were true.