The Suicide Squad Pain Index

By  · Published on July 29th, 2016

A Helpful Chart of the Main Suicide Squad Actors and Their Need for a Hit.

One of my favorite parts of watching old blockbusters is noticing which supporting actors went on to make a name for themselves in bigger roles. As I write this article, The Rock is playing on the television in the background, and there is Bokeem Woodbine – star of a star-studded second season of Fargo — hamming it up with the best of them as an ultraviolent mercenary. This got me thinking: since I’ve spent way too much time these past few weeks tracking rumors and updates regarding Suicide Squad, what type of cast will Suicide Squad have in fifteen years? I’m not talking about sequels or reboots, I’m talking about hindsight. Will history smile on early careers of actors like Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, and Margot Robbie?

What follows is a list of the biggest names in the Suicide Squad cast and what they have at stake with the new film. Because you’re my favorite, I’ve also included the smiley and frowny faces from a doctor’s office pain chart. The more pain the little person appears to be in, the more they’ve got riding on DC Films’ newest release. The less pain? Well, come on, this isn’t rocket science.

Hurts As Much As Possible

Jai Courtney

You’ve all heard the jokes. Jai Courtney makes Sam Worthington seem charismatic. Jai Courtney has the range of a block of wood. Jai Courtney is so widely disregarded as movie star that he became fodder for #JaiBless, arguably the greatest photoshop challenge in the history of the internet (and the defining moment for Alamo Drafthouse’s Birth.Movies.Death). I won’t argue that Courtney’s resume underwhelms, but I will point out that it’s hard to separate the quality of the actor from the roles he’s been offered. The beginning of Hollywood’s obsession with dreary and self-serious action movies corresponds pretty well to Courtney’s breakout as a leading man. Suicide Squad does offer Courtney a chance to do something he hasn’t done before: have fun in a role. Boomerang has been an honest-to-goodness standout in each trailer as the movie’s obligatory asshole; while everyone else seems angling towards crazy or haunted, Boomerang is the one guy who could go out in a blaze of glory without anyone batting an eye. My bold prediction is that, good or bad, Courtney comes away from Suicide Squad as one of the clear winners.

Hurts A Whole Lot

Joel Kinnaman

If my wife decides to go see Suicide Squad with me, it will be almost entirely because of Joel Kinnaman. She has no patience for superheroes and comic book movies; she has all the patience in the world for what she describes as Kinnaman’s “dirtbag look.” Unlike Courtney, Kinnaman has at least put together a resume with some notable independent films (anyone with a supporting role in a Terrence Malick film is already a few steps ahead of the competition). Still, Hollywood tends to remember big failures more than small successes, and Kinnaman had the misfortune of being a perfectly serviceable Alex Murphy in an otherwise unremarkable remake of Robocop. That film only pulled in a domestic gross of $58 million against a $100 million dollar budget. Two high-profile misses in a row and Kinnaman may find himself on the outside of studio films looking in.

Hurts Even More

Jared Leto

At this point last year, Jared Leto was an Academy Award-winning actor who had leveraged his success into a high-paying franchise role. Now Leto is a bonafide crazy person who is one misstep away from getting tased to death by Viola Davis. Honestly, the dude needs Suicide Squad to be a hit just to break even.

Hurts Even More

Jay Hernandez

To this point, Jay Hernandez has worked primarily in television shows and as a supporting character in mid-range studio films. It’s the sort of work that ensures you a long and a successful career in Hollywood, especially in a Hollywood where producers can only seem to remember the names of a handful of Hispanic actors at any given time. That being said, Hernandez certainly is not getting any younger, and a movie like Suicide Squad can put your name on a lot of casting agent’s call sheets if everything breaks the right way. Hernandez doesn’t need Suicide Squad to be a hit if he wants to keep working, but if he ever wants to make the leap out of horror films and SyFy shows (and I say this as a huge fan of horror films and SyFy shows), this might very well be his moment. I’ll be rooting for him.

Hurts Even More

Will Smith

For years, Will Smith wasn’t just a movie star, he was the movie star, an international powerhouse whose mere presence in a film could make it a hit at the box office. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Smith is no longer a box office draw, recent history has not been kind to the actor. None of Smith’s past three films – Concussion, Focus, and After Earth — managed to break $100 million at the box office or garner praise from the critics. That makes Suicide Squad a bigger gamble for the actor than his body of work would suggest. The good news? With the rest of the cast dialed up to eleven, Smith doesn’t need to step outside of his comfort zone to make the character work. All he needs to do is be Will Smith: crack a few jokes, strike the (anti)hero pose, and play the straight-man as his costars dabble with being live-action Looney Tunes characters. If Suicide Squad sinks at the box office or strikes out with fans, it could signal the end of Will Smith’s days as an action star. The funny thing is, it also probably wouldn’t be his fault.

Hurts A Little More

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

It’s tough to be singled out when you’re the one wearing fifty pounds of prosthetics, so odds are that Akinnuoye-Agbaje isn’t particularly exposed by the success or failure of Suicide Squad. Akinnuoye-Agbaje has spent the past two decades as one of Hollywood’s most overlooked character actors. Whether in standout roles in television shows like Oz or Lost, or in supporting roles in mainstream blockbusters, Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s niche is, at this point, pretty well-established. You could argue that he deserves the opportunity to play something other than villains or spooky background characters – his only true leading role from the last few years is as an animated characters in Major Lazer — but even if Suicide Squad is a breakout hit, it’s unlikely that he’ll be the one singled out for its success. As the rare actor to appear in both DC and Marvel films (he played Kurse in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World), Akinnuoye-Agbaje will always find work, provided he doesn’t mind a few years of makeup every day.

Hurts Just a Little Bit

Cara Delevingne

As the youngest member of the Suicide Squad cast – she is just a few months younger than Karen Fukuhara – Delevingne is just doing what every smart up-and-coming actor does these days: taking a role in a YA film, taking a role in a summer blockbuster, and leveraging whatever success comes from those movies into an opportunity to choose your own projects later on. If we’re being honest, Suicide Squad isn’t even the most interesting action movie currently on Delevingne’s docket. That honor belongs to Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a 2017 release that promises to blend Besson’s prowess for action with the kind of convoluted space politics that makes Jupiter Ascending a hard film to nail down. There’s a narrow window where a young actor can be perceived as simply paying their dues regardless of the type of roles they’re taking; Delevingne still has a couple of years left before we try and suss out the sort of actor she’s truly going to become.

Very Happy, No Pain

Karen Fukuhara

Karen Fukuhara is making her film and television debut in Suicide Squad, which means literally anything could happen and she would still be in a better position as an actor tomorrow than she was today. Here’s hoping she’s taking the time to enjoy the ride.

Very Happy, No Pain

Margot Robbie

Even if you hate the very idea of a David Ayer-directed Suicide Squad movie, you have to admit that Margot Robbie seems destined to run away with the show. Her take on Gotham City’s most notorious psychiatrist is one of the defining characters of 2016; even before audiences got a chance to see the film, Warner Bros. had already greenlit a standalone Harley Quinn movie with their new rising star. That makes Robbie somewhat bulletproof. In the worst case scenario, Suicide Squad is a complete mess, and Robbie still comes out of the movie with her reputation intact and an offer of sequels in hand. It’s probably fair to say that Suicide Squad needs Margot Robbie a whole lot more than Margot Robbie needs Suicide Squad, but for once, DC Films has a star who seems just as excited to be part of the franchise as any of the Marvel cast. Why, the only other person who has even less at stake with Suicide Squad might be…

Very Happy, No Pain

Viola Davis

We’ll take whatever Ms. Davis has to offer us and be lucky to have it, thank you very much.

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Matthew Monagle is an Austin-based film and culture critic. His work has appeared in a true hodgepodge of regional and national film publications. He is also the editor and co-founder of Certified Forgotten, an independent horror publication. Follow him on Twitter at @labsplice. (He/Him)