The film stars Will Smith as assassin Floyd Lawton, who is press-ganged into a Dirty Dozen-type strike force intended to face a rogue metahuman event. But it also stars Margot Robbie as Joker’s girlfriend Harley Quinn, who is press-ganged into a Dirty Dozen-type strike force tasked with saving a vital security asset during a rogue metahuman event. Or the film stars Smith, Robbie, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Jai Courtney as a band of criminals thrown together as the pet project of Viola Davis’ government wetworks mastermind Amanda Waller.
Any one of those prompts would lead to an interesting film. But for most of its runtime, especially in the first third, it is hard to tell which one is guiding the movie. Suicide Squad is filled with interesting ideas, like Smith as Floyd Lawton, the hardened assassin with a strict code and swagger to spare. When he was first cast, I thought it made perfect sense, as he has the big-screen persona to match the Floyd seen in the pages of Secret Six. Smith pretty much accomplishes the task, and I’d love to see him partnered with Catman and Bane in an actual Secret Six movie.
Another interesting idea is Harley Quinn, performed with occasional excellence by Margot Robbie. There are moments when she is pitch perfect and moments when it seems everyone forgot who Robbie was playing, but the throughline of Harley trying to figure out a life without Mistah J is compelling. Unfortunately, it seems the film completely forgot this concept when the Joker appears halfway through the film to take Harley back. Played by Jared Leto, he is effective as a function of Harley’s memories, but slows down the film considerably when he shows up to rescue her in the middle of the film, bringing the momentum to a halt.
Granted, the momentum has plenty of problems without Joker showing up with a giant pause button.
The group is initially sent on a recovery operation – which seems like the wrong use of their talents – but after they complete that mission, they must save that same person again, even as they decide to save the world from an ill-defined mystical opponent. By starting and stopping two or three times, and featuring three complete introduction scenes for every character, the film never moves at a correct pace - which is true of the film in both its theatrical and extended versions.
But what the extended addition does offer is more of what truly works in the film: the Squad itself interacting. Smith, Robbie, Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Hernandez, and Courtney make for a likable team. And in the extended scenes, the characters shine with more quick jabs and interactions. Diablo and Boomerang get a few extra moments together, for example, and the growing friendship between Floyd and Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag also enjoys a few more seconds to breathe. The added bonding makes the film’s key scene, the Squad explaining themselves over drinks, all the better. Those who enjoy that aspect of the film will find more to enjoy in its longer form, even as the pace is further hampered by the added moments.
Which, of course, leads to an extended cut which also almost pulls it off.
Special features like the main featurette, “Task Force X: One Team, One Mission,” hammer home director David Ayer’s wish to make the film grounded while using some of the DC Universe’s most colorful characters. At times, the material – compiled from EPK footage and on-set interviews -- suggests a more straightforward movie than the one ultimately released. Unfortunately, it appears all of the bonus material was prepared before the heavily publicized reshoots last summer, so the tweaks are never discussed. Other featurettes include looks at the stunt choreography, weapons, and visual effects. A gag reel features surprisingly funny reactions to Will Smith sneezing.
In the end, Suicide Squad almost works with its muddled story and fun core group of characters. If you enjoyed little moments like Boomerang’s constant attempts to flee the film, Floyd and Flag begrudgingly enjoying each other’s company, or Viola Davis’ near-perfect portrayal of Amanda Waller, then the extended cut Blu-ray will give you more to enjoy.