Harley Quinn is her name. You’ll remember her. She’s the winner and brand new loonybird heavyweight champion of DC Extended Comics courtesy of David Ayer’s new movie “Suicide Squad.”
Superman? Batman? Old hat. We’ve been there, done that – rather depressingly in fact, in last year’s “Batman v Superman.”
Harley is a former psychiatrist who fell in love with The Joker while treating him and now, separated from him, walks around in itty-bitty shorts, T-shirt and school girl pigtails while chewing gum, blowing bubbles, wielding a baseball bat on people whenever possible and using whatever guns and knives are handy when her bat won’t quite do the trick.
Hygiene – physical, mental and otherwise – just isn’t her thing.
She’s good at baffling the male of the species with a lewd, constant, psychotic smile. When she’s caged in a high-security asylum for her poor behavior, she climbs and swings from the bars like a monkey.
“I’m bored,” she’ll report to her captors. “I want to play.”
Sometimes when she talks, she adopts a Cyndi Lauper tone and accent. Don’t ask why.
It’s just actress Margot Robbie having an utterly wonderful time. It’s infectious. She’s the best thing to happen to a DC comics supervillain movie since Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for playing The Joker. The Joker has returned here in a small role as Harley’s corruptor. He’s played this time by Jared Leto, who gets a chance to be nicely intense and nutso but without the flamboyant villainy of Jack Nicholson or Jim Carrey.
Harley is only one of the titular “Suicide Squad” of “the worst of the worst” who have been gathered together by a government monstrosity ostensibly to be the ultimate government task force to combat evil.
We Americans tend to love this story, whether the movies tell it to us this way or as “The Dirty Dozen” or “The Expendables.” We love squadrons of expendable, disposable human beings who prove that, by God, the scum of the earth can save civilization if only they can evade the law-and-order establishment. This may have something to do with the fact that America itself is a land founded by refugees on the lam from an older and more established society an ocean away.
It is no accident that Robbie, the reigning queen of “Suicide Squad,” is from Australia, the last English-speaking nation to be founded by transoceanic outlaws and misfits. She gets it. Really gets it.
There are a lot of supervillains in the “Suicide Squad,” all competing for your attention and affection. Diablo (Jay Hernandez), for instance, has a skull tattooed on his face and shoots fire 100 feet out of his fingernails. He has such a bad temper, though, that his past is as interesting as it’s tragic.
Aside from Diablo ever-so-briefly, the only characters I really cared about in “Suicide Squad” were Harley, super-marksman Deadshot, played by Will Smith, and Rick Flag, a goodie goodie military guy with his own secret, played by Joel Kinnaman.
The latter’s orders are given to him by Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis. Waller is the real monster in “Suicide Squad,” but the one who, over a lusty dinner, complains that “the problem with a meta-human” is the “human part.”
So Amanda can’t be bothered acting like a sympathetic human. She collects her super meta-humans from off the social and criminal version of the ocean floor so that she can transform them into a team to do society’s dirty work against those who become too disorderly to those in charge.
She’s this movie’s Lee Marvin.
Arrayed around Harley Quinn and Deadshot are: Boomerang (Jai Courtney); Diablo, with his flame-throwing fingernails; Killer Croc (an underground, underwater creature with a very bad complexion); and a melancholy ninja warrior named Katana gifted at slicing people in two. Except for Diablo, momentarily, I didn’t care much about any of them.
Too many people were invited to this DC party. I would have been content if the whole shebang were about Deadshot, Harley and Rick Flag. But I’m not thinking corporately; there’s a DC Extended Universe to set up and keep in motion.
You’ll remember how badly that turned out when Batman and Superman squared off last time around. This movie is a whole lot better, courtesy of writer director David Ayer, who wrote “Training Day” and wrote and directed the terrific but somewhat obscure cop movie “End of Watch.”
I like the throwaway comic book feel of what Ayer has done with a lot of this, despite the mega-budget (it sure beats “Batman v Superman”). The musical score is a monster with some new stuff by Skrillex and friends, reworkings of pop classics like “You Don’t Own Me” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and original oldies-but-awfully-goodies like “Fortunate Son” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”
There are times when “Suicide Squad” feels like a cinematic comic book rather than yet another solemnly mythologized bit of pseudo-scripture for fanboys and girls to attend to another freak bent on world domination.
How could anyone completely reject a movie in which it takes The Joker and his Loonybird ladylove Harley more than an hour to unite in less-than-wholesome splendor?
And when they do, he entreats her to go back to his place by telling her, “I’ve got grape soda on ice?”
I don’t know about you but these are my kind of meta-humans.