‘Suicide Squad’ Review

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Director: David Ayer

Writer: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, Scott Eastwood, Common, Jim Parrack, Ike Barinholtz, David Harbour, Viola Davis, and Ben Affleck

Synopsis: A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a mid-credit scene.*

 

Here we go again. Warner Bros. released their newest film set within their DC Extended Universe, but this time it follows villains instead of heroes, and it has been making fans and critics butt heads. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say some of it is just crazy. However, Suicide Squad isn’t just free and clear since some of the negativity is warranted, but not all of it. The film itself isn’t all that great, but isn’t terrible either. So let’s get to reviewing the worst heroes ever.

Suicide Squad is set after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and sees government agent Amanda Waller (Davis) who has an idea to bring together the, as she puts it, “worst of the worst.” The plan is to make a task force called Task Force X, filled with villains like The Man that Never Misses, Deadshot (Smith), Joker’s girlfriend Harley Quinn (Robbie), the monstrous Killer Croc (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Australian diamond thief Captain Boomerang (Courtney), pyro-kinetic Diablo (Hernandez), master rope man Slipknot (Beach) and June Moone (Delevingne) who is possessed by the witch Enchantress. The idea is that Waller wants a task force to fight off any other meta-humans – a term many comic books fans will know – threat that come their way.

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The government, not so sure about Waller’s plan, is suddenly left to go through with it when a supernatural event occurs in Midway City. Considering the task force is filled with villains, Waller and the government have their easy out if things go wrong. To make sure things go smoothly, Waller makes solider Rick Flag (Kinnaman) her man on the ground, with his bodyguard and right-hand woman Katana (Fukuhara) to protect him in case the team gets any ideas – there’s also an explosive implant in the neck. However, when the team finally arrives to Midway City, they soon realize things are way worse than they thought.

Suicide Squad has been highly anticipated since the first teaser that came out last year after Comic Con. But again, with all the craziness that came out before the film’s release like competing cuts and all the early negative reviews, the film went even more under the microscope. I personally wasn’t sold on Suicide Squad for awhile, but as it got closer to the release, I was looking forward to it and hoping it was good. Then I saw the film, and I have to say, it isn’t what I thought it would be. Even with the early negative reception from critics, Suicide Squad was always going to be a risk for the DC Extended Universe. It’s following villains that maybe some casual fans don’t know, it’s expecting you to root for them from the get-go, and it’s following Batman v Superman. Also, no matter what you thought the film was about, we had no idea what to expect.

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I did want to like Suicide Squad, and for the most part I liked it more than I thought I would. However, there is no denying the film does have a good chunk of issues. One of them is, unfortunately, an issue that Dawn of Justice had in editing. Thankfully, the film’s editing is better, but not by a lot. Deadshot and Harley Quinn are introduced at the beginning of the film, and then are reintroduced when Waller is making the rundown of who she wants on Task Force X. The introductions to the characters are a bit wonky, as it quickly rundowns what makes them so bad and then either jumps to how they were captured, or gives each other them – expect Slipknot, but come on, that’s not a spoiler – a vignette. I don’t mind the way they did it, but there were probably better ways of introducing the characters.

The pacing for the film is fine as it drives forward with action, expect there’s a random flashback that Harley has that derails the pacing the film had going. The other thing that pretty much kills the thin story, is Waller’s plan for the Suicide Squad, makes no sense. I won’t obviously spoil what her plan is, but once you see the whole scheme of things, you are left wondering what the hell was the point? Combine that with some of the other issues the film has, you start to see that there was some behind-the-scenes juggling going on. It also doesn’t help that film moves from set-piece to set-piece.

Once the Suicide Squad makes it to Midway City, the action kicks in. The action is great to watch, and besides the cast, is one of the best parts of the film. Seeing all these villains comes together and essentially be the good guys, or at least anti-heroes, to take down literally faceless monsters is a sight to watch. I would have liked to see the group go at it themselves, but they just kind of agree to be grouped together. The only ones that really go at it is Deadshot and Flag. Also, it would have been nice to see some of the action scenes that were cut, well any of the scenes really, from the film.

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Speaking of the cast, the majority of the cast really works. I’ll admit, I had my doubts about Will Smith playing Deadshot. Not because I don’t like Smith, but because I don’t see Deadshot as a Will Smith character, but boy did he prove me wrong. Of course, Deadshot is played by Will Smith, so you just see Smith, but he’s still great in the role. Margot Robbie is one of the highlights of the film. Although it really is hard to judge considering this is Harley Quinn’s first time on the big screen, but Robbie is really great at Quinn. There were moments where I thought they took it just a notch over, but overall Robbie has set the bare high for any future Harley Quinn actresses.

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is, arguably, one of the most frightening characters in the whole film. That’s saying something considering what the film is filled with, but you believe Davis as Waller as this cut-throat, no nonsense agent who wants things done her way. The other highlight of the film for me is Jay Hernandez as Diablo. The character doesn’t do too much, but when you find out why it makes sense and makes him probably one of the most well-rounded characters in the film. The problem is that it takes time see what makes him tick and why he is the way he is, and it’s really disappointing.

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The other characters really don’t do much. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is okay, but it’s hard to see him taking command of a bunch of supervillains. Killer Croc, although looks great in the practical make-up, all he does is grunt and snarl at his team. He does speak in the film and it’s pretty humorous when he does, but still. Captain Boomerang is essentially the comedic relief of the film, and while I’m not a fan of Jai Courtney he does a pretty decent job here. Kudos does go to Karen Fukuhara as Katana, because this is Fukuhara’s first film and her Katana has some cool scenes in the film, but her character doesn’t do much in the film either. Cara Delevingne as June Moone/Enchantress is meh We don’t spend any time with June Moone, so we don’t really have any sort of connection to her. When it comes to Enchantress, the best scene is her first scene when she is formally introduced in a room full of government officials. That is saying a lot since she plays a very vital role in the film.

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Finally, Jared Leto’s The Joker. I know a lot of people were looking forward to Leto’s Joker from the first photo that was revealed. It also goes without saying that Leto’s Joker was always – no matter what anyone says – going to be judged against other Joker’s that came before him. It’s also unfair that he’s the first Joker after Heath Ledger’s great performance as The Clown Prince. I had my doubts about Leto’s Joker, and I hoped that he’d pull it off, but sadly he didn’t for me. Leto tried to do his own thing, while looking to pay some little homage to the Joker’s before, but it didn’t click for me. His little ticks and nuances came off as a little over-the-top, and ultimately doesn’t really do anything worthwhile in the film. We know now that Leto filmed more scenes as The Joker for the film that were cut – some even appear in the trailers, but not the film – but that isn’t a justification for shoehorning him into the film.

All in all, Suicide Squad isn’t a bad film like some critics are saying, but it isn’t a great film either, and you can see that Warner Bros. did have a hard time deciding what this film was going to be. Smith, Robbie, Hernandez and Davis are the highlights of the huge cast that could have gone wrong. There are some nice surprises in the film as well, but overall, Suicide Squad is really going to be one of those movies you either like or dislike. Personally, I’m indifferent to the film. I liked most of the film, but the issues of the film make the film bit disappointing as a whole because there was potential.

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Suicide Squad

3 out of 5

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‘Run All Night’ Review

Run All Night

Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer(s): Brad Ingelsby

Cast: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Common, Vincent D’Onofrio, Genesis Rodriguez, and Bruce McGill

Synopsis: Mobster and hit man Jimmy Conlon has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, Mike, whose life is in danger, or his longtime best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire, who wants Mike to pay for the death of his own son.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

We have grown accustom to seeing Liam Neeson kick major ass and shoot people in the last few years. I know that sounds like there is a “but” coming, but I assure you, I love watching Neeson beat the crap out of people half his age as much as the next person. The nice thing though is that Neeson tries to bring something – if he can – new to every role. In Run All Night, he does it again and we better enjoy it if Neeson’s claim about hanging up his action film boots in the next couple of years is true. If they are, Run All Night will be one of the great ones we can look back on.

 

Run All Night follows aging hitman Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) – once known as the Gravedigger – who is a bit down on his luck, a drunk, and is forced to taking some handouts from his best friend, and mob boss, Shawn Maguire (Harris) and Shawn’s son Danny (Holbrook). As you have seen in every ad for the film, Jimmy ends up shooting Danny when he was going to shoot Jimmy’s son, Michael (Kinnaman), for reasons I’ll leave out of the review, and after the events they are put on Shawn’s hit-list. The estranged father and son must outrun Shawn’s men, the cops, and a hitman named Price (Common).

 

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Overall the story is simple, but it does have some layers to it which is welcomed because otherwise it wouldn’t be as good as it was. The film takes a bit to get moving, but it serves to set up the relationship between Jimmy and Shawn, which is one of the strongest components of the film. However, director Jaume Collet-Serra fumbles other aspects of the film that either slows the film down or some really questionable decisions that can irritate you.

 

Collet-Serra tries to make New York City its own character in the film, but at the same time makes it feel cheesy. When there is going to be a new scene, the camera zooms out and makes a CGI transition to the new location where it will zoom in. That kind of thing works better in a video game and not in a film. I don’t want it to sound nitpicky, but it is does feel out of place here and distracting, the good thing is it doesn’t happen every time.

 

The action is fine, Neeson changes up his usual fist fights for shootouts, expect for a bathroom brawl. The set-pieces work well enough, although Collet-Serra messes around with the editing at moments that make it hard to know what’s going on or see the action. The highlight of the film is definitely an early car chase and a burning building action sequence.

 

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As for the actors, Neeson as Jimmy is always reliable and is again here, although he will probably play his least sympathetic character here for some. Jimmy does love his son, even though Michael wants nothing to do with him. He also doesn’t want his son to end up like him and constantly tells him not to fire a gun. Joel Kinnaman does okay as Jimmy’s son Michael. Kinnaman balances some lack of sympathy for Jimmy and danger as he is being chased down by every hitman and cop in the city.

 

Ed Harris as Shawn is great and it’s kind of a shame he’s not in it more, but his scenes with Neeson are the best scenes in the film. They play well off each other and you can really scenes the friendship, brotherhood, and history they convey in those scenes. Common pops in as hitman Andrew Price, who is this unstoppable force in his very limited scene role. Common has shown he’s a good actor in the right role, but anyone could have played this role really even though he handles himself well.

 

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The rest of the cast is filled out by Boyd Holbrook who plays Danny, who has a significant amount a screen time before he bites the dust. Bruce McGill plays Shawn’s right hand man and even though McGill is a great actor he is heavily underused, to the point that I think he only has a few lines of dialogue. Genesis Rodriguez plays Michael’s wife Gabriela who doesn’t really add much to the story and finally, Vincent D’Onofrio plays Detective Harding, who is trying to get Jimmy to confess to his crimes and make a deal with him. There is also a cameo appearance by a well-known actor that really comes out of nowhere and I was left wondering why there weren’t more scenes with him in the film.

 

All in all, Run All Night stumbles a bit when it slows down, but when it comes the action and the cast, it is a great time to watch.

 

 

Run all Night

4 out of 5

‘Robocop’ Review

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Dir: Jose Padilha

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis:. In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer

 

*Reviewer Note:  This is a spoiler free review, as always.*

 

The original Robocop wowed moviegoers back in 1987 with its heavy blend of hardcore violence, state-of-the-art special effects, and social satire, all wrapped in the hugely entertaining film of a police officer who is fatally wounded in the line-of-duty and reborn “part-man, part machine, all cop.”

Well let’s fast forward, yes forget the sequels and I’m looking more at you Robocop 3.  We have a loose remake that pays the original homage here and there, but does the best it to make the movie stand on its own. It doesn’t take the full satire route that Verhoeven did but instead tries to make its own point about what it means to be a man and or a machine.

Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is a detective who ends up in critical condition after the arms dealer he’s investigating tries to blow him up. The timing works out for the robotics company Omnicorp, which is run by Raymond Sellars (Keaton), who has been trying to figure out a way to get the American people on board with the idea of robotic law enforcement. Omnicorp has robots policing the entire world, but can’t deploy in America as Americans don’t trust robots to make life or death decisions. They want a human element, or as Sellars puts it “a man inside a machine.” Enter Alex Murphy

The actual man responsible for putting Alex in the suit is Dr. Norton (Oldman).  Norton is convinced by Sellars but unlike Sellars’ lawyer Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle) and marketing man Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel), Norton knows that this isn’t completely going to work. Norton knows that the human part will always beat the mechanical at the end of the day but all Sellars wants is his cash-cow.  Nevertheless, Norton goes against his better judgment and gives Alex his “life back.”

But where the original movie merely touched on the moral issues of turning a man into a machine before murder and mayhem took center stage, the remake make the issues the prime idea. In fact, unlike the original RoboCop, Kinnaman plays a much larger role. He brings the character of Alex Murphy out more with family, which is another thing the original only touched on briefly. The family situation digs only a little deeper but gets pushed to the side once again for the action sequences and its moral question.

Since I’m talking about Kinnaman, he does a pretty descent job in the lead role. It’s almost hard for me to judge since he does most of his acting with his face. But, there are certain scenes where that’s all he needs and he really makes you feel sorry for him. His best scenes are those shared with the always dependable Gary Oldman, with Dr. Norton the film’s most interesting character, as he wrestles with the consequences of his actions. Michael Keaton’s bad guy is okay, he’s not over the top but not very menacing either. I’d say the best villain is Jackie Earle Haley, whose Maddox – a former soldier now working for OmniCorp – entertains whenever he appears. He really deserved more screen time.

The only real satirical elements to the movie is the news show called The Novak Element, in which Samuel L. Jackson character delivers agenda-heavy monologues that are pro-robot and anti-freedom.  Other more nods to the original are hugely effective, from the music to the taser gun emerging from Robocop’s leg and of course some line from the original.

The action sequences are scattered throughout the movie in order to give the drama center stage. But, when the action sequences kick in they’re highly entertaining to watch. One of my favorites comes at the half way point of the movie when Alex gets a lead on the people that wanted him dead.

Besides its missteps, Robocop suffers from being named Robocop and trying to follow in the footsteps of the original. I know people won’t look over that fact and people will probably be disappointed that it isn’t satirical enough but truth of the matter is, director Jose Padilha isn’t trying to do that. Padilha is trying to make another statement. Verhoeven’s movie worked back then, and for the most part still holds up today, but this version isn’t trying to be that.

All in all, this new version of Robocop works on some levels and fails on others. While some might see it as trying to compete to the original, it is truly trying to make its own point in today’s society. It’s not a great movie but certainly not a bad one.

 

Robocop

3 out of 5