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It makes sense, I suppose, that a movie about a bunch of supervillains would be as anarchic as the society in which those villains thrive.
It's a bold gambit for writer-director David Ayer to attempt with "Suicide Squad," the bad-guy convention of the DC Comics universe, but it doesn't make this chaotic mess easy to take.
Ignoring the fact that the current DC Comics movie franchise already has a problem getting past its origin stories did we really need to see Martha Wayne's pearls scatter on the alley pavement again in "Batman v. Superman"? Ayer serves up a half-dozen montages to introduce the villains being held in a secret Federal prison:
• Hitman-for-hire Deadshot (Will Smith), who can't miss with any gun he picks up, but pines to be close to his 10-year-old daughter Zoe (Shailyn Pierre-Dixon).
• The fire-breathing Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a tattooed former gang member now trying to be a pacifist.
• Killer Croc (Adele Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a lizard-skinned sewer dweller.
• Enchantress, a 6,000-year-old malevolent spirit now taking up residence in archaeologist June Moone (Cara Delevingne).
• Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a hard-drinking Australian bank robber whose main weapon is, yes, a boomerang.
• And, lastly, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the psychotic girlfriend and former psychiatrist to the greatest villain in DC's rogue's gallery, The Joker (Jared Leto).
These six baddies are teamed up by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a ruthless Pentagon black-ops boss, who pitches the super-secret program as "some bad people I think can do some good." Waller assigns a special-ops commander, Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) who is also Dr. Moone's lover to keep the villains in line, with injected tracking devices that will kill anyone who tries to escape or rebel.
Waller sends the villains, overseen by Flag and the masked Japanese swordswoman Katana (newcomer Karen Fukuhara), into Midway City on a rescue mission. Things go haywire, thanks to villains being, you know, evil though the so-called "good guys" are nearly as bad, so it's hard to root for anybody here.
Ayer's script doesn't flow, so much as it congeals. Ayer assembles this motley team, sets them down in Midway City, sets a horde of zombie-like creatures upon them, then maneuvers them awkwardly toward a big finish. Any hope of coherence is lost in a sea of flashbacks and linkages to the rest of the DC universe. (Cue unshaven Ben Affleck.)
Accordingly, the performances are all over the map. Smith is sardonic and rather soulful as Deadshot, coming to terms with the strain his lethal profession has left on his daughter. Delevingne, Courtney and Kinnaman are waxworks lost in the onslaught of special effects. Oddly, even though their faces are obscured, Hernandez and Akinnuoye-Agbaje generate some raw feeling beneath the make-up.
Most fascinating is the offbeat pairing of Leto and Robbie as Gotham City's first couple of crime. Leto, smiling through metal-grill teeth, imagines The Joker as a sadistic gangster with a touch of Howard Hughes. Robbie dives headfirst into Harley's booty-shorted craziness but her overly manic performance suggests Ayer gave her every note Warner Bros. execs gave him after watching "Deadpool" for the fifth time.
"Suicide Squad" is a flawed movie, but it does manage to squeeze out more moviegoing pleasure than the stodgy "Batman v. Superman" did. It opens up the possibility that Warner Bros.' extension of its DC universe won't be a joyless chore.
The nastier villains of DC Comics' universe are teamed up to perform black-ops missions, in this chaotic action movie.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Friday, Aug. 5.
Rating • PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language.
Running time • 123 minutes.