REVIEW: THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

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THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

Sequel/reboot finds Task Force X being sent to the small South American island of Corto Maltese to destroy the ominous Project Starfish. Col. Flag (Joel Kinnamen) leads the charge, with the returning Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and a host of other freakish, reluctant heroes. They take heavy loses and some are captured, as we soon find out they were a distraction for the real squad, Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone). Now this new squad must make a few rescues along the way to accomplishing their mission.

Flick is written and directed by James Gunn and is basically a very simple plot dragged out over 132 minutes. It’s over two hours of juvenile humor, excessive gore—simply for the sake of being gory—and random action sequences, till we get to our last act confrontation with a giant alien starfish. It gets tedious quick as the colorful cast of characters meanders around for two hours before finally reaching their objective. There is a lot of blood and bullets along the way and that would be fine if it didn’t feel so made up as it goes along and rambles more than tells a story. A lot of the humor falls flat, the overblown CGI gore gets tiresome and the only thing that holds our interest somewhat is that Gunn has at least given some fairly ridiculous characters a little weight and depth. Even the climactic battle with the giant, alien starfish Starro feels like it could have used a bit more of the WOW factor. Iffy CGI blood aside, this foul-mouthed super hero flick—which wouldn’t be a bad thing if there was more wit to the vulgarity—has some top notch SPFX, some decent action scenes and a cast that is far better than the disappointing material. And speaking of that cast…

Once again Margot Robbie is the perfectly cast Harley Quinn in a sadly underwhelming movie. Harley is sidelined for a portion of the film in a silly and thankfully brief romance with a South American dictator sub-plot and once she does rejoin the squad, she is more of a second banana and seems to be written more dim-witted than her usual sarcastic cleverness. When will this actress get the flick she and her portrayal deserve? Elba is good as Bloodsport, who is basically a re-written Deadshot, as Will Smith wisely had had enough. Jai Courtney is fun as Boomerang, in a far too small part. John Cena is fun as the patriotic to the point of insane Peacemaker and one wishes he had some better dialogue and moments. KInnamen is fine as Flag and Davis is solid as a returning Amanda Waller. Real standouts amongst the new cast members are Stallone hilariously voicing the simpleton brute that is King Shark, David Dastmalchian is fun as the dour and sympathetic Polka-Dot Man and Daniela Melchior gives some nice heart to Ratcatcher 2. There are also a host of familiar faces in small supporting roles, such as Michael Rooker as Savant, Nathan Fillion as TDK and Alice Braga as rebel leader Sol Soria. A really good cast in a sadly underwhelming movie.

Overall, James Gunn writes and directs this flick like a giddy 13 year-old and, for the most part, not in a good way. He chooses vulgarity over wit, crudeness instead of cleverness and wastes a really good cast with a meandering mess of a superhero flick. As the Deadpool movies prove, R-rated superhero flicks can be a blast, but this one takes a real simple, basic story and stretches it out over two and a quarter hours. It’s tedious and rambles most of the time, with only a few standout sequences, such as Harley Quinn’s acrobatic and violent escape from captivity and Polka-Dot Man’s brief but triumphant moment in the last act. It’s a slight improvement over David Ayer’s awful original, but not by much and Gunn has shown he certainly can do better with his witty and fun Guardians of the Galaxy flicks and his gory, nostalgic Slither. Very disappointing.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 (out of 4) underused Harley Quinns

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REVIEW: BIRDS OF PREY (2020)

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BIRDS OF PREY (2020)

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The full title of this latest DC comics flick is Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, though they could have saved some poster space and just called it Harley Quinn, as it is far more her movie than the title crime fighting group’s. The actual Birds of Prey are hardly in their own flick and Huntress, especially, has extremely minimal screen time. Messy plot finds Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) having broken up with the Joker and now with a target on her back, as she’s no longer protected by being The Joker’s girlfriend. She’s particularly pissed off sleazy crime boss Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who will spare her life if she steals back The Bertinelli diamond, which is now in the hands of young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Cain is being watched over by detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), who is being fed inside information from within Sionis’ gang by his singer/driver Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Throw in a mysterious vigilante called Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is killing off mobsters across Gotham. Of course, all paths are destined to meet and we have basically the mess it sounds like.

Flick is directed by Cathy Yan, who thinks style is simply cranking out a famous pop culture song every five minutes and bathing everything in neon lights and glitter. It makes the mess of a script by Christina Hodson all the more obvious in how superficial it really is, despite all the attempts at feminist commentary about female empowerment. Messages that would be far better presented if the story or characters had any real substance or development. A good example of a film that tries too hard and gives itself far too little to work with. Harley Quinn is the only character that has some weight, but only because she was already established in another movie. Why DC can’t do anything really special with this character theatrically is a mystery. The current DC animated series with Quinn (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) is a naughty, bloody hoot with tons of sarcastic wit and delivers the girl power messages slyly along with all the fun. It’s far better written than this under-baked flick. At least if the action was fun and fast moving, it could make this more watchable, right? Unfortunately the monotonous fights wear out their welcome, just as early as the soap opera level melodrama about broken homes, being orphaned and murdered parents. Yes, these origins are comic book tradition, but come on, do something innovative with them. This is the same old tired stuff with glitter thrown over it to make it appear new. It’s a thin coat of paint over a thin script for characters and actors that deserved far better. The story is also told in a Pulp Fiction-esque habit of going back and forth, until it settles into the last act and Tarantino used it far more effectively. Here it just makes a jumbled mess seem even more jumbled. Shame, there might have been a real blast of a movie in there somewhere, but director and script let our clown queen and her new buds down.

For the most part we have a good cast, though. Robbie is simply a great Harley Quinn in desperate need of a far better movie. She’s fun, energetic and gives us a tough, sexy, smart-ass bad girl that makes the best of a bad script. She makes every line work better than it should and livens up most of the drab, cliché scenes whenever she can. A good actress and a pro. Same can be said for Ewan McGregor having a blast as the thinly written Roman Sionis. He gives the sometimes prima donna villain some menace and the right amount of-over-the-top to vastly improve what he was given to work with. Rosie Perez is good as Montoya, a cop crapped on by the system one too many times, but still trying to do her job. As for the actual Birds of Prey, beautiful Jurnee Smollett-Bell does give her Dinah Lance/Black Canary a little heart and substance and is a strong women in need of more screen time. She’s better than her thinly written part deserved. As a big fan of the versatile Mary Elizabeth Winstead (just watch her in Smashed and Faults), it’s rare to say she didn’t seem right for a part, but the actress doesn’t quite click as Huntress. Maybe it’s because she’s one of the worst written characters and has barely any screen time to be developed. Her anger issues are the brunt of jokes in a script that wants us to respect women. Rounding out is Ella Jay Basco as orphan and delinquent Cassandra Cain. She’s an annoying plot device in a flick that has enough problems without having an annoying child as a plot device. Harley gets saddled with her and it’s funny how a film wanting us to believe in female empowerment turns one of it’s strong female leads into a stereotypical babysitter/surrogate mom. At least Basco tries to give her cliché character some fire and spirit.

Sadly another wasted theatrical venture by one Harley Quinn. Another great portrayal by Margot Robbie goes wasted again with a muddled mess of a script and ‘too hip for it’s own good’ direction. Some messages about female empowerment are buried under a cliché and superficial flick that wastes a good cast, and despite a lot of chases and action, is actually very by-the-numbers once you peel away all the loud pop culture radio hits and all the glitter and neon. With a wittier script and a director who didn’t bury what could have been some nice underlying weight and substance under a lot of shallow glitz and glamor, this could have been as good as the current animated cartoon, which fires on all the cylinders that this flick fails to.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 (out of 4) anti-heroines who, again, deserved a much better movie.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

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SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

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DC Comics based flick is an awful and tedious disappointment that makes the flawed Batman v Superman look like a masterpiece in comparison. The mess of a story has a ruthless government official (Viola Davis) planning to put a squad of imprisoned bad guys together as a black ops deterrent to the rising number of meta-humans showing up in the world. This group, including assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the Joker’s (Jared Leto) main squeeze, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), is coerced into action via explosive devices injected in their necks a la Escape From New YorkThey get a chance for action when a powerful witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) revives her equally powerful CGI brother and begins to build a weapon to destroy all mankind. The team reluctantly sets out to save the world that hates them and imprisoned them.

The flick’s mess of a script is written by David Ayer (writer and director of the equally bad Sabotage) who also lifelessly directs what might be one of the dullest superhero flicks in recent memory. The movie resembles the Ghostbusters remake at times with it’s swirling energies and omnipotent villains surrounded by pulsating CGI, but at least that flick had some life to it. Despite source material ripe for a good anti-hero flick, in the spirit of the similar but far superior Deadpool, this dull mess is routine and forgettable in every way. From the dialog, to the ho-hum action to the visual design to the cinematography, there is nothing here that stands out save for Margot Robbie’s short shorts which she looks quite fetching in. Ayer doesn’t generate any suspense, energy or even attitude as the film tries way too hard to be hip by flooding the soundtrack with dozens of pop songs and classic tunes. There were about five in the first two or three minutes. It’s obvious and gets annoying after a while. There really is very little to recommend in this flick with the few effective scenes being those involving Affleck’s Batman and they are not long enough to save this overbearing bomb.

As for the cast, they are completely wasted with only Will Smith showing some gusto in his portrayal of the assassin Deadshot and he has some of the best lines…which isn’t saying much. Despite showing potential in the trailers, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is only moderately amusing and never really has much to do except for some smart ass lines and a couple of so-so fight scenes with the Enchantress’s avocado-like minions. Jai Courtney gets a scant few laughs as the deranged Captain Boomerang, but like everyone else, he just never is given any truly impressive or impacting moments. This even extends to Jared Leto as the Joker and it’s really disappointing he is never really allowed to cut loose. He’s just an eccentric thug, nothing special. He showed potential, but the material is just not there and at the moment, the late Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson have nothing to worry about…come to think about it, neither does Cesar Romero.

IMO this is the biggest dud of the summer and certainly the most disappointing. It had good source material and a solid cast, but was put in the hands of someone who had no idea what to do with it. It’s dull, lifeless and on an action/FX level completely routine. Add to that the story is a jumbled mess and there is very little to recommend here other than simple curiosity, or to witness a cinematic train wreck in motion. Also stars Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Karen Fukuhara as team members El Diablo, Killer Croc and Katana respectively.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1/2 anti-heroines who deserved a much better movie.

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