SUICIDE SQUAD. My apologism for the canon of David Ayer has both strained my relationships with my more discerning friends and caused me to question my own taste. But I understand that much of Ayer's work is best seen as indulgent, guilty-pleasure stuff: hyper-masculine SoCal cop genre cartoons festooned with violence. The screenplays for Dark Blue (2002) and S.W.A.T. (2003) aren't particularly literary or even artful, and they certainly don't shine much light on the human condition. But they make for satisfying escapism and do so with more style than they have any right to. And as far as The Fast and the Furious (2001), well, if you don't like that, we may not have much to talk about. The script for Training Day (2001) got Ayer the most attention, although the movie is known mostly for Denzel Washington's Academy Award-winning, way over the top, "King Kong ain't got shit on me" portrayal of Detective Alonzo Harris.
There are some pretty raggedy seams evident in Ayer's movies and I will freely admit that. But I still think he is a talented and determined artist with his own point of view, which is why it pains me to say that his Suicide Squad is unremittingly awful.
Writer/director attribution notwithstanding, I was prepared for a break from Marvel's incessant, oppressive seriousness and boo-hooing. I missed Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so this would be my first glimpse of the new DC cinematic universe. Yeah, I was naïve; I had hope. Suicide Squad attempts, I think, to render the shadow side of comics, to clown on the goody-goody heroes of that other empire's movies. I understand that impulse but the evidence of it isn't on the screen.
So in this continuity, I guess Superman's dead. (This is one of the few plot elements that isn't forced on the audience with laborious exposition). Lacking a meta-human defender, and in preparation for the rise of a villain, intelligence officer/hard-ass Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) pitches the joint chiefs on a team of super-killers. She has spent the last few years diligently capturing, imprisoning and torturing a little painter's palette of bad guys: Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and, perhaps most importantly to the shambolic plot, Enchantress (Cara Delevigne). See, Enchantress is an ancient witch who has appropriated the body of one Dr. June Moone, with whom Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) has fallen in love. Waller controls Moone/Enchantress by keeping her heart in a box and occasionally stabbing it with a pen, so the whole thing is rather contentious. Oh, also, Harley Quinn is the Joker's (Jared Leto) main squeeze. Yeah, too much.
In the early going, Enchantress gets loose of Moone and Waller, frees her demi-god brother from captivity and the two start raising hell in Midway City. The end game here is apparently the destruction of humanity. (Motive? Who needs it?) In come the squad members, who, in scenes we are apparently not privileged enough to see, have come to see each as family. There's a lot of semi-random violence, the Joker's in the background and it rattles on and on without any emotional or narrative center. Robbie's performance stands out, as does Leto's. Although, for all the press he's gotten in the run-up to this, he's in the movie precious little. PG13. 123m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE. Due to the oppressive disappointment detailed above, I may not give this quirky little story its due. Let it be said, though, that it continues a heartening recent trend of smaller, singular movies breaking the surface and washing up on the desolate shores of the mainstream.
In rural New Zealand, thug-life obsessed Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has been bounced out of every foster home that would have him. As a last resort, child services deposits him on the small farm of Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill). It's a better fit that any of them might have imagined and Ricky starts to feel at home. But after a jagged disruption, he and Hec take to the hills, leading the authorities (and a bunch of Kiwi bros) on a months-long manhunt.
Adapted from a novel by Barry Crump and directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Eagle Vs. Shark), it's big-hearted, unassuming, well-crafted and unafraid to get a little dirty. This is a pleasant counterpoint to the other mega-budget mess. PG13. 123m. BROADWAY, MINIPLEX.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS. Meryl Steep as a 1940s wannabe singer socialite with no idea how bad her voice is. Hugh Grant co-stars as her enabling hype man. PG. 90m. BROADWAY.
PETE'S DRAGON. Live action and animation in a fantasy tale about an orphan (Oakes Fegley) and his dragon buddy in the Pacific Northwest. With Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford. PG13. 123m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
SAUSAGE PARTY. Adults-only animation in which anthropomorphic foods find out what happens in the kitchen. With the voices of Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig and Salma Hayek. R. 89m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
BAD MOMS. Mila Kunis and scene stealers Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell land laughs as women doing battle with PTA villainesses. Just too bad that mothers having inner lives or fun is supposed to be a shock. R. 101m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
GHOSTBUSTERS. Heavy hitters Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones suit up for the re-boot, but without enough laughs in the script to balance the special effects and action. PG13. 117m. BROADWAY.
ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE. Ray Romano, Dennis Leary, John Leguizamo and Queen Latifah return with the herd, this time facing a meteor crash. PG. 94m. BROADWAY.
JASON BOURNE. Matt Damon returns to the franchise as the CIA amnesiac. Director Paul Greengrass blends realistic violence, punishing emotional authenticity and elaborate car chases. PG13. 123m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
NINE LIVES. Kevin Spacey finally gives in and makes a movie about a busy dad trapped in the body of Mr. Fuzzypants, the family cat, until he can learn a valuable lesson about love and go back to gutting his enemies on House of Cards. PG. 87m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS. A family-friendly tale of rival dogs in New York City that doesn't really live up to its powerhouse cast, which includes Louis C.K., Jenny Slate and Kevin Hart. PG. 90m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA.
STAR TREK BEYOND. Frenzied and overstuffed, but the franchise sequel is good fun with solid characters, humor and satisfying surprises. Starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. PG13. 120m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill