The odd Squad: Suicide Squad's lifeless supervillain ensemble

Damon Smith reviews action-packed fantasy Suicide Squad, which fails to live up to the standards set by other superhero franchises in the DC Comics universe despite an impressive cast including Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie

The Suicide Squad (l-r): Adam Beach as Slipknot, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, Adewale Karen Fukuhara as Kitana, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Will Smith as Deadshot, Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo,

Suicide Squad (15, 123 mins) Action/Fantasy/Romance.

Starring:Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, Karen Fukuhara, Cara Delevingne, Scott Eastwood, Ben Affleck. Director: David Ayer.

Released: August 5

Rating: 2 stars

IT'S good to be bad in David Ayer's action-packed fantasy based on the anarchic DC Comics super-villains of the same name.

With its macabre humour and 15 certificate, Suicide Squad hopes to ride the slipstream of Deadpool, which gleefully stuck up two fingers to the convention of family-friendly comic book romps.

Alas, Ayer's film isn't as dark or twisted as it pretends to be, and the fragmented script suffers from a chronic paucity of character development and coherent plotting.

When bubble gum-blowing anti-heroine Harley Quinn, played with wide-eyed lunacy by Margot Robbie, first demonstrates her capacity for mindless violence, a fellow misfit coos, "That is just a whole lot of pretty and a whole lot of crazy."

It's an apt summation of the neon-lit carnival with its whirling digital effects, slow-motion action sequences and a perfunctory supporting cast who aren't afforded backstories and are therefore dispensable when a token sacrifice is required.

Ambitious US government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) fears the arrival of another meta-human like Superman.

She proposes the formation of a government sanctioned crew of incarcerated criminals with the skill set to carry out covert missions with limited chance of success.

The Suicide Squad, as they become known, have micro-bombs implanted in their necks, which can be detonated if they defy orders or stray from the mission brief.

"In a world of flying men and monsters, this is the only way to protect our country," Waller assures her superiors.

Her hand-picked, sadistic oddballs include Harley Quinn (Robbie), expert marksman Floyd Lawton (Will Smith) aka Deadshot, diamond thief Digger Harkness (Jai Courtney) aka Boomerang, flame-conjuring gang member Chato Santana (Jay Hernandez) aka El Diablo, disfigured cannibal Waylan Jones (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) aka Killer Croc, and expert climber Christopher Weiss (Adam Beach) aka Slipknot.

A possessed archaeologist called June Moone (Cara Delevingne) also serves Waller as part of the murky master plan.

Decorated military officer Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) takes charge of the squad, flanked by Lieutenant GQ Edwards (Scott Eastwood) and his personal bodyguard, swordswoman Tatsu Yamashiro (Karen Fukuhara).

Meanwhile, masked vigilante Batman (Ben Affleck) swoops over Gotham and super-villain The Joker (Jared Leto) plots a blood-spattered reunion with girlfriend Harley.

As a first date with these characters, Suicide Squad delivers a lot of slap and not much tickle.

Bombastic action sequences are stylish, but none linger in the memory after the end credits, which include a compulsory scene of teasing intrigue that nods to next summer's first outing of the Justice League.

Smith, Robbie and Kinnaman suck up most of the oxygen with their sinewy subplots, leaving almost no room for co-stars to breathe.

Leto's embodiment of an iconic arch-villain remains in the shadow of Heath Ledger, while Davis makes limited impact as a ruthless woman of tattered moral fibre.

File under 'dead on arrival'.

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