Not long after the U.S. got involved in World War II, the Office Of Naval Intelligence struck a deal with the Jewish mob and the Italian crime families of New York to put the screws to the longshoremen’s unions and keep supply ships on the Northeastern seaboard safe from the presumed threat of Nazi saboteurs. The net results of this program were of questionable value, but that hasn’t stopped it from taking on a curious second life in the annals of World War II trivia, held up as proof that even the bad have their better angels.
Joe Johnston’s aw-shucks homage to adventure serials and American can-do, The Rocketeer, invoked the mafia-Navy story a quarter century ago. Now it returns, quoted like a parable of realpolitik, in Suicide Squad, writer-director David Ayer’s attempt to pry an assortment of B-list and C-list DC Comics villains out of the clammy hands of nerdlingers and get them on his own strict regimen of edgy posturing and manly personal crises. Ayer, who caught his big break by writing Training Day, likes to paint the world as needing bad to keep it from worse, but his black-and-gray mentality isn’t that much different from black and white.