By KARL R. De MESA
There’s a pivotal scene where the beautiful and thoroughly sociopathic Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, tries to convince the assassin Deadshot, acted by a pneumatically carved Will Smith, to hang the government agents tasked to send them into a mission of certain death as they gain a temporary upper hand.
“What did the world ever do for us, huh?” cloyingly asks Quinn. And reluctant hero, father of one, Deadshot empathically tells her it would be the more rebellious thing to do to play against expectation and actually help out the good guys to face down a greater evil; or in the words of Wreck-It Ralph’s therapy group: “I’m bad. And that’s good. I will never be good. And that’s not bad.”
As a corollary, one of those Dylan songs go “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” But you know what they say about the biggest criminals being the people in suits who actually make said law?
That truth is embodied to perfection by U.S. intelligence operative Amanda Waller (a seethingly hardcore Viola Davis). She’s the mastermind Fed in the combustible mix of killers, meta-humans and deviants eventually known as The Suicide Squad. You can see how Waller may just be the biggest villain of them from the get go, but it’s still shocking to see how she displays her extreme disregard for life in pursuit of mission.
It was 1959 when the first assemblage of the Suicide Squad debuted on the pages of DC’s The Brave and the Bold #25, by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. In this movie by director David Ayer, it’s a post-Batman vs Superman: DOJ world and the same covert black ops team, made up of incarcerated super-villains, are recruited in exchange for reduced sentences. They are forced to work together in a suicide mission for the same government that locked them away. So, in a nutshell: how all governments make your taxes work to screw you over.
Plucked from the notorious Belle Reve Federal Penitentiary designed to hold the “worst of the worst,” Deadshot and fellow inmates Harley Quinn (Robbie), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Slipknot (Adam Beach), are corralled under the command of their watchdog, Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), his lethal enforcer Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and June Moone (Cara Delevingne)—who is possessed by one of Waller’s most powerful assets, The Enchantress.
I can understand why the reviews of this movie has so far been pretty mixed, from the extremely low to the gratuitously reeking of hatchet-work. The hype for this was so high. Fanboys expect plenty of funny, fun and sarcastic moments that downright hit the nail on the head for tone and feel.
For one thing, do not expect The Joker to save this watered down villainy. I mean WTF is with the underutilized Mr. J? Jared Leto could have shined given more than 15 minutes of a virtual walk-on cameo. But having said that, what we do see of him is obviously miles away from Ledger’s own performance of murderous psychopathy.
Also expected for an ensemble cast is that there are too many glossed over characters. Screen time must be wasted on them, so the subterfuge of letting some be just sideshows isn’t too obvious at first. The pacing can really get to you, with bad segues that you wouldn’t expect from a veteran director like Ayer. You can sight the predictable, ho hum ending after the character intros end. And also: what’s with all the villains in DC movies wanting to destroy the world with a swirly, deadly display of lights that can be seen from miles away? Note to all future super-villains: It’s counterproductive!
What there is to love is the very strong opening. The character introductions, reveals, sound design and curation that go with it are spot on. It will get you truly pumped. The darn eye bleed palette with its explosion of colors is like something right out of a comic book panel on adrenaline: from the Joker’s Green hair to Quinn’s Kuya Germs as a stripper, down to Enchantress’s tree bark brown and Killer Croc’s urban decay swamp green. Every shade is on an explosive extravaganza.
We get the message that these meta-people are the ones you love to hate—easy to point to as the fault of evil in society. You can always trust them to do the bad thing, but nevertheless their one moral code makes you root for them to succeed, because, well nobody likes a bullying government.
I like the cholo vibes and gangbanger exposition of El Diablo the most, not only because he has the most plausible pathos and backstory, but because they actually relate to his tragic flaw of being a walking flamethrower. Robbie’s Quinn is a scene stealer, as expected in the trailer (this woman will definitely get her own Harley movie), and Smith’s Deadshot is basically a jacked and ripped Fresh Prince with a gun fetish—which is a good or bad thing, depending on if you remember Smith’s antics in the 90s.
Here are 8 facts and trivia about how they brought to life the mad, the bad, and the criminally exploitative to life.
50 lbs. of gear was the weight of the full armaments—including ropes, heavy duty gloves and combat vest—worn by Adam Beach as Slipknot, an expert assassin with a talent for inventing super-strong adhesives and rappelling out of any situation. Included in Beach’s training was a course of ropes the actor climbed each day wearing a 20-lb vest.
It was in the 14th Century that the Soultaker was born, a legendary Samurai sword that traps the souls of all its victims, including the beloved husband of the lethal warrior who now wields it—Tatsu Yamashiro /Katana, played by actor and martial artist Karen Fukuhara.
During a conversation conducted for Playboy’s “No Filter” Fukuhara said that she “…Always wanted to play a samurai warrior […] Samurai are almost always male, so growing up in America I had a hard time figuring out role models. Katana and I may not have the same personality, but coming from the same cultural upbringing, we share core values.”
It takes five hours for the team from Greg Nicotero’s KNB FX (Killer Croc supervising makeup artist Christopher Nelson and makeup artist Sean Sansom) to apply the facial prosthetics and two inches of foam that transformed Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje into the scaly, subterranean, meta-human cannibal Killer Croc. He also has to don 40 lbs. of the crown jewel of Killer Croc’s “sewer bling” (his crocodile leopard jacket emblazoned with golden rendering of his namesake) created by costume designer Kate Hawley. So bulky was his gear that his cast-mate Adam Beach gifted the actor with a special on-set Killer Croc recliner as a place to rest between takes.
It takes three hours for Cara Delevingne, with makeup and hair designer Alessandro Bertolazzi and his team, to be transformed into June Moone’s alter-ego, Enchantress. Included in her regimen are three workouts held daily on the production’s on-set gym. This is attended by cast and crew alike and run by physical trainer Pieter Vodden, who also put the actors through their paces during pre-production training.
Capt. Boomerang has two curved, boomerang knives wrapped with military paracord, hand-crafted by property master Dan Sissons and deployed with style and maximum menace by Jai Courtney as Australian roughneck Captain Boomerang.
There were 30 foot-long flames rigged practically on set by special effects supervisor Michael Innanen and his team for a live stunt by Jay Hernandez in which El Diablo gives the Squad its first glimpse of his awesome pyrotechnic powers. It also took 5,000 gallons of water poured into a specially created tank to illustrate the precautions taken to move the incendiary El Diablo from his cell at Belle Reve Penitentiary. Committed to performing the stunt himself, Jay Hernandez endured total submersion for the nearly five seconds it took to fill the tank to maximum capacity.
The Man Who Never Misses is equipped with two fully functional wrist magnums that put the trigger right in Deadshot’s hands. “Deadshot has a daughter he loves more than anything, and he wants desperately to be a great father,” revealed Will Smith in the production media notes. “But at the same time he keeps the lights on by being a hitman. He’s deeply conflicted by the paradox of his love for Zoe and the fact that he gets pleasure out of ridding the world of trash.”
Former psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel wears her heart on her sleeve. She openly expresses her love for the Joker, a man she was once assigned to psychoanalyze at the notorious Arkham Asylum prison, but for whom she now brands herself with tattoos that bear his name and symbols. 20 tattoos are applied to Margot Robbie each day, designed by production tattoo artist Rob Coutts, to aid in Robbie’s transformation into Harley Quinn. Robbie also spent six months near her home town on Australia’s Gold Coast in which she trained with the stunt team in a rigorous schedule that included strength, gymnastics, jiu-jitsu and marksmanship.
“Why does [Quinn] love this guy?” said Robbie, grappling to bring humanity to the role of the deranged former psychiatrist. “It was one of the things I really struggled to crack with this character. She’s so strong and smart and such a badass, she’s just awesome, but then she falls to pieces over this guy all the time. It’s something I didn’t like about her because I didn’t understand it at first. So, because she’s a psychiatrist, I decided to do research into the concept of codependence. I was taken by the idea that people could really live their life for one person. And it turns out it’s not really about the person, it’s a compulsion like alcohol or drug addiction. Once I thought of her relationship with Joker in those terms, as an addiction, I had a world of empathy for her.”
Suicide Squad is Rated R-13 by the MTRCB and opens in 3D, 2D and IMAX 3D cinemas on Thursday, August 4th.
All photos courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.
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