“The Suicide Squad” isn’t so much a reboot or a sequel to 2016’s “Suicide Squad” as it is a complete do-over — and this time, they knocked it out of the park. In fact, this irreverent, gory feature is gutsier than the original and showcases a raw, unapologetically vicious auteur’s vision of a colorful ensemble of unlikely villains tasked with saving the world in a death-defying mission in exchange for an easing of their prison sentences.
The film, featuring F-list villains, is DC’s best film in years, and director James Gunn makes it abundantly clear that he’s “Gunning” for glory with this flick.
For those that want a more direct breakdown of the plot, essentially, the story goes as follows: the government sends the most dangerous supervillains in the world — Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and others — to the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Armed with high-tech weapons, they trek through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy mission, which turns apocalyptically world-threatening.
Government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) runs the mission from HQ, directing and updating the squad’s current objectives, while soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) spectates the crew from the ground.
The plot itself is as outlandish, explosive and gratuitous as you’d come to expect from a James Gunn film, in that it knows never to take itself too seriously, and this is something especially evident, and masterfully handled, with the film’s exposition, which is more efficient here than in your average movie trailer.
Before you’ve had the chance to consume your first scoops of popcorn, the film already kicks itself into high gear, with a mysterious villain (Michael Rooker) having been taken to the island and threatened with death by way of a nano-bomb in his neck if he refuses to comply with Waller’s direct orders.
By the time the film reaches its five-minute mark, we’ve already been introduced to its main premise and, what we believe to be, the film’s main cast. I say this because while we’ve come to expect costumed heroes and villains to have plot armor so they can show up again for the franchise’s next installments, the characters of “The Suicide Squad” enjoy no such luxury.
It’s made abundantly clear that no one in its colorful cast is safe. That gives it a rare sense of danger, like the good ol’ days of “Game of Thrones,” where any scene might have been your favorite character’s last. With no strings attached, and no looking back, the film opts to ask for forgiveness instead of permission when killing off your favorite characters, to which it uses its R-Rating to its fullest potential when doing so.
Characters don’t just go down; they get sliced and diced, incinerated and exploded with blood and guts galore — the kind where you can see chunky bits in the viscera. No one is safe from a gory, gruesome death thanks to Gunn’s bloodlust, and that makes the film, though worthy of a few recoils, an unhinged, macabre feature that intends to stand on its own, away from Marvel and away from any DC film that’s even attempted to be as visually grueling as it, and I mean this as a compliment!
Performances are spectacular all around, and lines are successfully delivered and played off to the extreme in an attempt to match the film’s amped-up tone.
Throughout the film, Elba and Cena’s ridiculous “who’s the better assassin” rivalry is hilarious but unrelatable to us non-killers. This is something countered by Stallone’s Nanaue, whose issues are grounded, relatable. The CGI shark, who longs for love and acceptance, is physically the farthest from being human. Yet, he’s the one with the most relatable human experience, and it’s that delicate dance that Gunn plays with visual, cinematic irony that makes his film that much more addictive, genius.
Unlike in the 2016 movie, Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is someone worth rooting for, and his dynamic with Robbie’s Harley Quinn, a rare friendship based on mutual respect, is a highlight of the movie. And speaking of the Clown Princess of Crime, the film is by far Robbie’s best turn as Harley Quinn — she’s funnier and more unpredictable than ever. Gunn distills her into pure insanity, and “The Suicide Squad” can’t help but go off the rails to follow her down the rabbit hole.
Comedy is prevalent throughout the film through banter, ironic references, exposition and even death. Anything and everything that can be funny, Gunn makes funny — all while doing so in a way that doesn’t feel forced, rather tonally consistent.
But the film’s not all laughs.
Though it may be a superhero war caper on the surface, underneath, it’s a fascinating examination of DC’s bottom-of-the-barrel baddies. Even the weirdest of the weird, like Polka-dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), are shown to have depths worth exploring. Gunn clearly has a soft spot for outcasts and misfits, and here, he creates a twisted, yet touching, tribute to DC’s sad and broken supervillains. Their stories may even make you shed a tear or two.
“The Suicide Squad” allows Gunn to lean into everything that he does best. He masterfully weaves action and drama with wit and humor, which we’ve come to expect from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” director. Yet, there’s more to be said about his DC debut.
At its core, the film is a bloody, chaotic ride from start to finish that finally does justice to Task Force X. It’s endlessly shocking and funny, and its showcase of F-list DC villains is nothing short of brilliant. Whether you’re a massive fan of DC or a Marvel allegiant, the film is well worth your time.
“The Suicide Squad” is now available to stream for one month on HBO Max and hits theatres on August 6, 2021.