THE SUICIDE SQUAD
R, 132 mins.
2021, R, 132 mins.
Margot Robbie as Harleen Quinzel / Harley Quinn / Idris Elba as Robert DuBois / Bloodsport / John Cena as Christopher Smith / Peacemaker / Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag / Sylvester Stallone as Nanaue / King Shark (voice) / Viola Davis as Amanda Waller / Jai Courtney as George 'Digger' Harkness / Captain Boomerang / Peter Capaldi as Clifford DeVoe / The Thinker / David Dastmalchian as Abner Krill / Polka-Dot Man / Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2 / Michael Rooker as Brian Durlin / Savant / Alice Braga as Sol Soria / Pete Davidson as Richard Hertz / Blackguard / Nathan Fillion as Floyd Belkin / T.D.K. / Sean Gunn as Calendar Man / Weasel / Flula Borg as Gunter Braun / Javelin / Mayling Ng as Mongal / Juan Diego Botto as Silvio Luna / Joaquín Cosío as General Mateo SuarezWritten and directed by James Gunn
THE SUICIDE SQUAD (heavy emphasis on THE) is the tenth entry in the DC Extended Universe of super hero based films and can be best further described as a sort of sequel, sort of reboot, sort of overhauled redo of what came before it, specifically 2016's critical maligned SUICIDE SQUAD (that one lacked the...THE).
Although I was in
the clear minority for liking some of what director David Ayer brought to
the table with his attempt at the material (he later disowned the final
product, saying it wasn't the film he intended to make), there was no
question that it was a problematic and polarizing DCEU production, leaving
many cold in its wake. Even
though this tale of the fringiest of fringe comic book bad guy (and lady)
characters banding together in the form of a top secret government
sponsored black ops team to thwart ugly messes was a box office dynamo (it
make nearly a billion worldwide, and without Chinese markets figuring in),
many DC fundamentalists still cried qualitative foul and demanded a
This is where
then fired (he's now been re-hired) Marvel Cinematic Universe power player
James Gunn comes in, who previously made (for my money) the finest MCU
entry to date in the first GUARDIANS
OF THE GALAXY. Being
let go by his Disney bosses over some nasty old tweets, the cancelled
filmmaker essentially jumped ship and brands and migrated over to DC and
Warner Bros, with his new employers giving him a massive budget and
massive amounts of creative carte blanche to revisit SUICIDE SQUAD and
tame this once tainted IP. And within the first few moments of Gunn's SUICIDE SQUAD
(sorry, forgot the THE) it's pretty clear that this is a whole
different beast altogether, replete with a hard R-rated sensibility that
would make Ayer's version blush with envy.
Featuring just three returning characters/actors from the first
iteration, but showcasing a whole different level of perversely audacious
showmanship, THE SUICIDE SQUAD absolutely ups the ante for comic book film
genre on a level of raw, unfiltered, and gutsy nerve, and it's certainly
sharper and funnier than what came before.
But it's also not without its own issues, like being too chaotic at
times, too uneven, and too self-indulgently long for its own good.
The basic premise
of this squad of the worst of the worst (they prefer to go by the moniker
Task Force X) still remains here under Gunn's screenplay: Government heavy
hitter Amanda Waller (the returning Viola Davis, more venomously hostile
this time) still heads the team and forces them (with bribes of either
reduced prison sentences or death if they back out mid-mission via remote
controlled micro bombs surgically implanted in their necks) to partake in
all sorts of off-the-books state sponsored missions that guys like
Superman or Batman would never volunteer for.
In THE SUICIDE SQUAD's truly crazy opening sequence we witness the
Suicide Sq...er...Task Force X being assembled into A and B teams
to launch a coastal invasion of the heavily fortified island of Corto
Maltese to destroy Jotunheim, which houses a very secretive, but very
dangerous alien menace dubbed "Project Starfish."
In hilariously macabre and preposterously violent fashion, just
about every member of Team A is brutally murdered within minutes of making
it to shore. You just have to
give Gunn props for having the cheeky tenacity to serve up many bizarre
team members (some played by very familiar actors) and make us think
they'll be significant players in the story to come...only then to swiftly
murder them just minutes into said story.
But, there would
be no SUICIDE SQUAD (sorry, forgot the THE again) without...a THE
SUICIDE SQUAD, so we then segue to the Team B, made up of mostly
discarded leftover super villains that many of the most astute comic book historians
have probably forgotten about over the years.
Even though two Team A members (Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flag and
Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn - both returning) survived the initial
invasion, both have gone missing, leaving Waller and company banding
together the misfits that make up Team B, like Bloodsport (not to be
confused with Will Smith's Deadshot of the last film, played by newcomer
Idris Alba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher...2 (Daniela Melchior),
Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and the Groot-like King Shark (suitably
voiced by Sylvester Stallone). Despite
some nagging team symmetry issues early on, Team B manages to find and
reunite with Flag and Harley and proceed to their mission to get to
Jotunheim. What they find -
and unleash inside - just might be the most cartoonishly preposterous
"freakin' kaiju" since GHOSTBUSTER's Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
I recently read
an article about how all of the MCU film entries are meticulously
pre-visualized and storyboarded years in advance, and well before they
even hire directors (which is arguably why so many of their recent films
have a frustrating level of aesthetic sameness).
One of the giddy pleasures of watching THE SUICIDE SQUAD is that
the quirky personality and style of its filmmaker shines through every
pore of it. This is a James
Gunn film in every conceivable way, from the quirky F-bomb riddled
dialogue to the inky black comedy and to the blood and brain matter
exploding hyper violence. As
for the latter, super villains here are not just killed in throwaway
fashion: they're shot, stabbed, impaled, decapitated, burned, squished,
and exploded in the most grisly over-the-top manner possible (THE SUICIDE
SQUAD is not the first R-rated comic book film, but it's the gold standard
now for outlandish on-screen brutality).
DC/Warner Bros should be given strong thumbs up for not slavishly
regurgitating stale, repackaged genre formulas here.
With JOKER, last year's criminally
underrated BIRDS OF PREY and now Gunn's
THE SUICIDE SQUAD the studio is embracing a newfound maturity in their
comic book efforts by letting their filmmakers' imaginations run fully hog
wild to shake things up in ways that Disney's MCU would never dare.
Allowing Gunn to cut loose and make a DCEU entry with a throw
caution to the wind ambition is commendable.
Even better is
Gunn's fascination with making low rent villains prominent characters
here, and they're presented in the most joyously comic book-y manner
possible. Take Cena's ultra
square jawed and ultra patriotic Peacemaker, for instance.
He's portrayed as the douchebag super solider, who's name is all
the more paradoxical because he doesn't so much play the role of keeper of
the peace as much as he ruthlessly kills targets with extreme prejudice.
He's like a hapless serial killer that wears a silly toilet
seat-like helmet, and Cena is pitch perfectly cast here.
Then there's Daniela Melchior's Ratcatcher 2, who is the daughter
of, yes, Ratcatcher 1, with both family members being able to
electronically control any rat (or army of rats) at any given time.
Perhaps the two most ridiculous Suicide Squaders are David
Dastmalchian's Polka Dot Man and Stallone's King Shark, the former of
which adorns a cheap looking suit covered in his namesake, but beneath his
dime-store costumed facade lurks a suicidal maniac that only sees his mean
mother in all of his prey ("I don't like to kill people, but if I
pretend they're my mom...it's easy," he chillingly and amusing brags
at one point). Stallone's CG
creature (think the Hulk, but even dumber and with a shark's head) has an
insatiable appetite for human flesh, which makes his inclusion in the team
very awkward for all others. Deep
down, however, he just wants friends.
franchise newbie in Alba and returning vet in Robbie are most welcome here
as well, with Alba getting a lot of scenery to chew (he also serves as the
audience conduit and straight man here, incredulously reacting to all of
the madness that befalls his team, often netting the film its best
laughs). And Robbie - as she
demonstrated twice before playing her ex-psychiatrist turned all around
psychopath - is just as infectiously screwy as ever, but this time is
arguably given more of an opportunity to show how she can, like, never be
trusted because of her freakish mental instability (like, ever).
Like a Looney Tunes cartoon short on acid and steroids, THE SUICIDE
SQUAD is always running wild with an unabashed forward momentum with this
band of twisted misfits, throwing them all into one deliriously silly
pressure cooker situation after another.
Sometimes, unfortunately, Gunn's unquenchable thirst and enthusiasm
for these characters and the film they occupy doesn't know when to quit.
At an oftentimes watch checking 132 minutes, THE SUICIDE SQUAD
becomes a tad exhausting by the time the end credits roll by, not to
mention that this film's relentless assault of unique branded super
villain hijinks, metahuman prowess, and borderline pornographic gore
starts to become numbing after awhile.
Still, if 2016's SUICIDE SQUAD was like the Diet Coke of comic adaptations (easy to drink, but lacking in flavour punch), then experiencing Gunn's THE SUICIDE SQUAD is like chugging liters of heavily caffeinated and sugar laced energy drinks. It has an innovative brand of controlled (well, sometimes uncontrolled) chaos that's wholly its own and unlike just about any other comic book feature (only the DEADPOOL films rival and top it). And Gunn's wild-eyed and reckless confidence and absurd anarchist's spirit serves this material quite well, which helps override some of THE SUICIDE SQUAD's more problematic issues.