Supervillains as superheroes is, admittedly, a pretty fantastic hook. David Ayer's gleefully nihilistic Suicide Squad only contains a few sops to shared-universe franchise-building, and it doesn't always work — but when it does, it's a perverse delight. Tough-talking intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has decided that the emergence of meta-humans -- "flying men and monsters" -- calls for a new kind of weapon. What if, she asks, the next Superman isn't a do-gooding All-American space alien, but a terrorist? So she assembles the Suicide Squad, a top-secret collection of psychos, assassins and beasts housed in a kill-you-if-I-tell-you secret prison in Louisiana, and coerces the group into fighting for the good guys.
The dutiful little vignette introducing each character shows that levels of villainy can vary. Deadshot (Will Smith) is a cold-blooded assassin for hire, but he still loves his daughter and won't kill women or children; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is a shrink who got seduced by the Joker (Jared Leto), lost her mind and became a soulless murderer in hot pants. After the bravura intros, the story leaps into a quick, montage-like action sequence in which the demonic brother of Cara Delevingne's Enchantress -- she's on the Squad -- takes over a sizable chunk of a nearby metropolis. Then he liberates Enchantress, who promptly announces that she will build a machine to destroy humanity. Who the hell are these demons? Why do they even hate humanity so much? Bah, details! There are so many gaps and dodgy edits that the movie sometimes plays like a trailer for itself. Still, Ayer has a feel for high-pressure situations in which flawed men and women are forced to live up to their responsibilities.