MOVIE REVIEW – Suicide Squad is not so much a reboot or sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad as it is a complete reboot. In fact, this irreverent, ultra-violent romp featuring intentionally C-calibre villains is DC’s best movie in years.
The story is essentially “The Dirty Dozen, only with supervillains”, and yet it’s still fun as hell. Once again, a group of incarcerated supervillains are sent on a deadly secret mission, so this time around the director James Gunn has thoroughly outdone himself in the violence department with this R-rated film. While we expect costumed heroes and villains to reappear in the franchise’s next instalment, the Suicide Squad cast doesn’t have that luxury and can bite the dust at any time. The film makes it clear that no one in the highly original and eccentric cast is safe. It gives a rare sense of danger, as in the better days of Game of Thrones when any scene could be the last appearance of your favourite character.
The director has a killer hand
Warner Bros. prides itself on making “director-driven” DC superhero movies, and that policy has rarely worked out as gloriously as it did with James Gunn’s Suicide Squad. It was already clear that Gunn was given free rein to do whatever he wanted, unlike David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad, including R-rated mayhem and insanity, and allowing Peter Capaldi to swear as much as he wanted in the film. And Gunn was happy to meet those expectations.
With the phenomenal success of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, it’s easy to forget that Gunn once directed horror films: he was behind the cult success of B-movies like Slither and Super. Sure, before he brought cutesy characters like Groot out of obscurity with hugely popular Marvel films, Gunn wasn’t afraid to shock and amaze and push the boundaries, especially when it came to carnage. And with Suicide Squad, a spectacularly violent and at times surprisingly endearing superhero/supervillain film, he returned to Gunn’s roots once again.
It’s also commendable that Gunn took the trouble to not simply repeat the Guardians of the Galaxy formula that many expected – especially after the notoriously Guardians of the Galaxy-like, studio-mandated direction of the previous film’s director, Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Instead, Gunn decided to put his own very unique signature on Suicide Squad, populating it with the most obscure, D-list DC characters, giving them motives and elaborate backstories, and killing many of them off with horrifically gruesome deaths.
Idros Elba’s rewarding role
Suicide Squad’s de facto protagonist is Robert DuBois/Bloodsport (Idris Elba, who turns on his innate charm while capitalizing on his underused self-deprecating attitude), a Belle Reve-incarcerated mercenary who is placed among the high-security inmates for putting Superman in intensive care with a kryptonite bullet. After Waller threatens his daughter (Storm Reid), Bloodsport reluctantly enlists to lead Waller’s X Task Force on a mission in Corto Maltese. In this fictional South American country, a violent military coup has recently taken place. And the new regime is no fan of America. But Waller’s mission for Task Force X is, strangely enough, not to overthrow the new military government, but to infiltrate and destroy the country’s Nazi-era Jotunheim laboratory, where the Thinker (Peter Capaldi, essentially playing a super-villainous Malcolm Tucker) has cooked up something nefarious.
Joining Bloodsport’s team is Peacemaker (John Cena, all swaggering evil), a swaggering killer who often tries to outwit Bloodsport; Ratcatcher 2 (the wonderfully devious Daniela Melchior), a petty criminal with rate-controlling technology; the hapless “experiment gone wrong” Polka-Dot Man (a scene-stealing David Dastmalchian); and the film’s adorable MVP, Nanaue/King Shark (voice of Sylvester Stallone, Steve Agee’s mo captain), the team’s shark-headed, man-meat-hungry, lumbering, but almost indestructible character, reminiscent in style of Groot.
Bloodsport is joined by Peacemaker (John Cena, all swaggering evil), a swaggering killer who often tries to outwit Bloodsport; Ratcatcher 2 (the wonderfully devious Daniela Melchior), a petty criminal with rat-controlling technology; the hapless “experiment gone wrong” Polka-Dot Man (a scene-stealing David Dastmalchian); and the film’s adorable MVP, Nanaue/King Shark (voice of Sylvester Stallone, Steve Agee’s mo captain), the team’s shark-headed, man-meat-hungry, lumbering, but almost indestructible character, reminiscent in style of Groot.
Meanwhile, Rick Flag, the real G.I. Joe, is back, leading a unique mission that revolves around some of the Suicide Squad’s former favourites, as well as some new faces: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, still ideally in character), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, constantly freaking out as always), Savant (Michael Rooker), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), TDK (Nathan Fillion), Javelin (Flula Borg), Mongal (Mayling Ng), and the fearsome gag monster from the pits of hell, Weasel (Sean Gunn).
When “suicide” really becomes a deadly word…
To go into any more detail about how this tremendous team comes together (or, more specifically, how the film begins to rapidly and violently reduce their numbers) would risk getting into spoiler territory. Still, that’s in the title of the film, isn’t it? In a Suicide Squad movie, it’s only natural that a few people will lose their teeth.
Not surprisingly, the action is insanely fast-paced. The second half of the film is almost unrelenting. Our supervillains have to deal with some incredibly deadly scenes and stay alive – which doesn’t always work.
Yet Gunn performs the magic trick that we have seen him do many times before, making us care about these horribly immoral, possibly doomed characters. The team is beginning to merge into a more or less ‘cohesive’ bunch. At the heart of this odd team is the unexpected father-daughter dynamic that unfolds between Bloodsport and Pied Piper 2, which is quite a unique story twist, even if Daniela Melchior’s portrayal of the pure-hearted rat leader is essentially a variation on Pom Klementieff’s Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But it’s clear that Gunn cares about each of these characters, and he brings to Suicide Squad some of the genuine empathy he honed in the Guardians films. And that’s perhaps the most significant positive of the new Suicide Squad: you’ll come to love the supervillains before you’ve lost most of them…