‘Suicide Squad’: Review

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For a movie that suffers in literally every aspect it might be kind of weird to say, but the chief overshadowing problem of Suicide Squad is that everybody is just trying too damn hard. Every aspect of this film is just lambasted in trying to make everything so “cool” and “different” that is just becomes so muddled that none of it work. One of the biggest problems for me was the dialogue, this movie is literally written seemingly in the hopes of making every line stand out as some kind of meme-y flip on standard dialogue. Nobody just talks normally with basic word choices and phrases (that’s not a bad thing!), nope, every line has to be flipped into some cutesy little saying because this movie needs to remind you at every second how “edgy” and against the grain they are. None of it works and it backfires amazingly. This is the through line of the entire film.

The plot suffers from the same thing, it’s actually pretty simple at the base of things, but because this movie can’t do anything straight it makes it into a confusing mess that never really makes sense. An archeologist gets possessed by a witch after touching some funky idol, then said witch flips on everybody, holds the city hostage and unleashes a bunch of monsters. That’s it, I mean the story doesn’t mean anything, because the whole point of this movie is just to watch the “Suicide Squad” do crazy shit, crack one-liners and kill people.

The most amazing thing about the plot of the movie is the whole acquiring and purpose of the “Suicide Squad” in the first place. Alright, so, get a load of this, the government wants to assemble a group of metahumans to protect against other metahumans and superheroes in case any of them go bad, so of course they decide to pick a bunch of criminals??? It’s never outlined why they decided to pick criminals, people who would have no reason to want to help the government (besides sentences reductions that are minimal), is there not other “good” superheroes you could’ve rounded up. And not only that, it’s not like they train these dudes or let them in on anything, god forbid they plan for these people and set out plans. Nope, when shit goes down they just break them out of their jail cells throw them into the wild and go “save us, guys!” and then wonder why everything goes to shit. The greatest example of this is why the hell is Harley Quinn in this group, she has no special powers or anything like Deadshot’s amazing aim or El Diablo’s fire or Killer Croc’s strength, nope, she’s just a crazy girl with a baseball bat. It makes zero sense why they would field a legit crazy person with no discernible “superhero” advantages when literally any basic human solider would’ve been a better option. She literally becomes one of the major downfalls and distractions of the group with her all Joker business. Viola Davis is terrible at her job, basically, is what this paragraph is getting at.

This, also, might be the most on-the-nose movie I’ve seen in recent memory, especially when it comes to its cliched jukebox of a soundtrack. Right from the outset its song after song that seems like it was placed in the film after someone googled “what are the most popular rock songs that have been done to death in movies over the last 50 years” and just compiled them all in one place. You got The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, CCR Black Sabbath, The White Stripes, Queen etc. etc. that all come in places that just blatantly seem like the director screaming at you “Hey! Isn’t this sooo cool and badass, like, the lyrics and song titles completely fit what’s going on on screen!” It’s hilarious and I could foresee a dangerous drinking game where you take a shot each time an on-the-nose classic rock choice pops up.

Let’s wrap up and talk about the performances for a minute, which, yep, were pretty uniformly bad. Actually, let’s start with the good, Will Smith was fantastic in this, without a doubt. I don’t know if it was that Will Smith was doing such a great job or that everybody else was so terrible, or both, but it was so painfully clear watching him in this that he was actually trying and so much so that he seemed like he was in a completely different movie. Margot Robbie was even worse than I expected as Harley Quinn to the point where I physically cringed whenever she came on the screen, especially with her one-liners in her horrible accent that always featured a second or two pause at the end like she was waiting for the audience’s laughing reaction that never came. Jared Leto as the Joker is another prime example in this movie of trying to hard and coming out on the opposite end of making this crazy person seem so try hard that he wasn’t even scary or “crazy,” just laughable in what he thought that meant. I’m a big Joel Kinnaman fan, but unfortunately try as he might the script and what he was asked to do didn’t really do him any favours and he suffered under the might of it. Jai Courtney has my favourite performance, not because he was good or anything, but because he literally plays a stereotype of an Australian complete with a boomerang weapon and rampant alcoholism and even greater than that his character literally contributes nothing to the movie in plot, character or worthwhile comedic way.

I’m a gigantic David Ayer fan and have love everything he’s ever done, but dude ripped off all the chains and delivered this over-saturated mess that plays like your 13-year-old brother’s favourite video game. It’s actually kind of amazing that this film of this magnitude fails on so many levels where eventually it just becomes a snowball effect with everything latching on and just building in how bad it is with everything coming together in a giant mess that was telegraphed from the opening frames of the movie. The greatest strength of this movie is Will Smith acting and portraying a real person amidst the chaos of all this pageantry, it’s just too bad that everything else was more concerned with the flash and pomp of creating a cool-looking 2 minute video game trailer than an actual movie with purpose and motivation.

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‘Prisoners’: Review

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And we’re off! This is the start of my favourite time of the year. Summer’s ending, fall’s starting and all the Oscar hopeful movies are being rolled out from now until early January. What a time to be alive. If you read my The Avengers review, you’ll know I don’t visit the theatres in the Summer, but September through January I more than make up for it. I can’t to watch them all, with a few major ones I’m looking forward to seeing, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave the most notable. So, here’s to another year, it’s always arrives quicker than I think, and goes away just as fast, but I enjoy it all the same.

Prisoners is the lucky film to kick things all off, and I’d say a very solid entry into what will hopefully be a great season. I’ve been looking forward to this film throughout its iterations of stars and directors, combined with my love for mystery/suspence/crime/detective or whatever you want to call them films.

Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a devoted Christian and family man, “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” is his motto. His basement is filled with survival necessities, and food, for whatever earthquake, hurricane or disaster event turns people mad and to fend for themselves. He knows what has to be done, and he does it, for his family, no matter what he has to do, or how it makes him look. Thanksgiving, with his wife (Maria Bello) and their neighbours down the street (Terence Howard, Viola Davis), turkey on the table, wine in the glass, football on the TV. A perfect night turned to horror, when both couples daughters, off on an adventure, disappear into thin air, no trace of them to be seen. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki is assigned to the case, he’s solved every one of his previous cases, a 100% record, and he’s not about to let that change. A slow in the head Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is the first suspect, and remains a connector throughout the whole case, as things slowly spiral out of control. Dover gets in over his head, Loki gets in over his head. Everything hits a boiling point until all the secrets slither out, and the answers click into place, the maze gets broken through and all into plain view.

I’m dancing around things, because I like to keep my reviews relatively spoiler free, and especially with a film that is so dependent on the twists and turns of the story. It’s a well plotted out mystery story, if nothing spectacular, but director Denis Villeneuve and legendary cinematography Roger Deakins elevate it to a whole new level beyond the surface level with their ability to create suspense and mystery out of the minuate. A simple push shot into a tree creates a haunting sense of what’s to come, every little small detail is slowly simmered into what it could possibly mean for who’s behind everything, who knows the truth, and who’s lying. These detective mystery films always work better in a fall season setting, leaves rustling, a rusted out look to everything, rain, cold, uncertainty, all symbols of the case at large, obvious and easy themes to mirror, but constantly effective nonetheless. Creating a feel for this world is just as important as the twists and turns of t your narrative, and can oft elevate a sub-par story, a good and serviceable one here, where the weight doesn’t solely have to be picked up elsewhere, but noted all the same. I felt at times for the murder/mystery story to stop and stall a bit, especially with the pursuit of the kidnapper, where it seemed like they were biding time with other things until they continued on with who obviously was the prime suspect to follow. There are only really two suspects ever considered and the length it takes the film to follow these obvious leads suffers, as they delve into other, granted fascinated and rewarding, elements of the story. The climax is a bit of a let-down, and the resolution to who is behind everything leaves a bit to be desired, considering what all came before it, but it’s fine enough that everything before it doesn’t fall apart.

Where I might have some qualms with how the mystery story wraps up, what I don’t is with the performances by all the name actors. This is my favourite Hugh Jackman role, and the best work he’s ever done. I’ve never been a huge Hugh Jackman fan, not because I don’t like him or his acting, quite the opposite, but just that he hasn’t really ever picked the dramatic roles to truly test this and show off his skills. Hugh Jackman is a fantastic actor who’s been living off being Wolverine with the occasional dip into other roles that still never fully fleshed out himself as an actor. Especially here, where he plays a character type that he’s never even approached before, long been the good guy or the stoic hero, here he’s a devouted family man, yes, but a troubled man doing everything he can to see his daughter again, falling back into drinking and committing unfaithful acts because of the situation he’s been thrown into. There’s a weird, like, commentary on religion in the film, Jackman’s character being heavily religious, and the intent of the kidnapper driven by religious awakening methods, it’s never fully fleshed out and kind of hangs randomly, dipping in and out at random times, but Jackman makes it feel real within his character, where even though he’s a man of God, he commits acts for himself and his family that otherwise might seem ungodly to him, without the situation at hand.

Jake Gyllenhaal is great as well, and it got me thinking about his public perception. I can’t remember if people don’t like him, or what, but I have a hard time trying to think of a role of his that I haven’t liked. I feel like he gets a pretty boy image, but he’s a solid, solid actor and should really be considered one of the better actors of our generation, among the DiCaprio’s and Damon’s, even while he doesn’t have the filmography that they do. Brokeback Mountain, Jarhead, Zodiac, Source Code etc. etc. he’s got some great films on his resume, and I still need to see End Of Watch. As weird as it may sound, I’m a huge fan of actors’ faces, I love watching how their faces act, rather than the words they say. Anybody can spew dialogue, but matching that with facial mannerisms and creating a true character by how your face reacts and contorts really makes me feel like I know a character. See Denzel Washington in Flight for a perfect recent example. Gyllenhaal’s thing here is that he blinks, noticeably and often, it might seem small, or annoying as I’ve read some have said, but it perfectly encapsulates his on-the-edge character, living and breathing only to solve his next case, he’s high strung and focused on one thing, where everything else falls to the wayside. It’s something that adds another dimension to the character, and something I’m betting Gyllenhaal added himself.

Maria Bello is good, although she kinds of just falls into the role of the shrill wife who is psychically incapable of going anywhere but her bed because here daughter is missing. The biggest and most welcoming surprise is the work of Terrence Howard. Every since all that behind-the-scenes stuff went down with his demand of equal money to RDJr. for Iron Man 2 and his subsequent recasting, he seemed to disappear and threatened to fall out of A-list roles. I watched him in Law & Order: LA, and he wasn’t that great, and looking at his IMDB he hasn’t been in much of any notice, and that’s a shame because he’s a great, great actor. Thankfully, here in Prisoners he gets to flaunt it. He’s in the same boat as Jackman, his daughter is missing as well, he feels the same pain as him, but has more of a moral compass that forgives him from doing some of the stuff that Dover ends up doing. He provides a great counter-balance to Jackman, and someone who finds himself in over his head just as much, but has a much harder time rationalizing everything.

Prisoners is a really good film, not a great one, but it’s cinematography and acting lift it to something that could sniff some awards during the season. It doesn’t completely work as a whole, it’s mystery story leave much to be desired in the end, but its mood and performances lift it to a knowing level. I’ll come back to the film for the performances, Jackman’s best work, Gyllenhaal building up the resume, Howard back in full force, it’s an overwhelming blitzkrieg that creates this mood.

8.5/10