Genre: Action, Comedy
Director: James Gunn
Screenplay: James Gunn
Cast: Margot Robbie, Juan Diego Botto, Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, Sylvester Stallone, David Dastmalchian, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Daniela Melchior, John Cena, Idris Elba, Joaquin Cosio
Running Length: 132 minutes
Synopsis: Welcome to hell–a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out–even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them – all of them.
Review: When David Ayer’s Suicide Squad was released in 2016, it was such a mediocre film that it was almost impossible imagining a sequel. However, when James Gunn was temporarily fired from Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and a window of availability opened up, Warner Bros swooped in and managed to give Gunn an opportunity to write and direct The Suicide Squad, which is ostensibly a sequel to that 2016 film (with a few recurring characters) but really can be taken on its own merits. And merit it has in spades – this is the most fun I’ve had in any DCEU movie, and even taken across the two major comic book universes, it is probably one of the most entertaining films in recent years.
Unburdened by the rest of the DCEU as it has no real need to be interconnected with any other title (Harley Quinn remains the only “famous” DCEU character to appear here), plus an unapologetic R-rating means Gunn was able to make The Suicide Squad exactly how he wanted to – ultra-violent action peppered with the signature Gunn humor that made both Guardians of the Galaxy movies (particularly the first) such great films. That the film is filled with “bottom of the barrel” super-villains from the DC universe also meant that Gunn could continually upend audience expectations by killing off virtually any of the characters, which is a pleasant departure from what audiences would generally expect from films of this genre.
While the film runs a pretty long 2 hours and 12 minutes, The Suicide Squad doesn’t really make one feel the length, as there is quite a bit going on at any one time. Not all of it is essential to the film, and one could argue that the frequent flashbacks to the characters’ pasts could have been pared down somewhat, as do some of the subplots in the film (the entire Harley Quinn romance *cough* feels a little extraneous to the proceedings, for example), but it’s all sufficiently entertaining that one can look past how the film could definitely have been under the two-hour mark. I for one also appreciated the no holds barred violence that the R rating allowed, and the pitch black humor found in some of these violent (and occasionally gory) action sequences are some of the most macabrely funny scenes I’ve seen in years.
While there is a huge cast list in The Suicide Squad, it’s clear to see who the main characters are about 20 minutes into the proceedings, and the core ensemble works well together. Margot Robbie is once again perfectly cast as Harley Quinn, and it’s clear why she was able to commandeer what was essentially her own film (though Birds of Prey ended up with middling results at the box office). She also solos one of my favourite action setpieces in the film, where she goes on a one-woman rampage armed with a multitude of weapons (including a javelin, of all things). In fact, it’s clear that the Harley Quinn found here in Suicide Squad actually does more with her character than Birds of Prey managed to achieve, despite this being more of an ensemble movie.
Idris Elba also impresses in his first DC outing as Bloodsport, with a much meatier role than what his Marvel appearances have been, and being able to showcase both his action hero chops as well as a little of his thespian skills. John Cena (who seems to be in every movie these days) is also memorable as the clueless-but-menacing Peacemaker, although a rather flat characterization apart from his physicality and a handful of one-liners does make one wonder how the HBO Max spinoff series would work.
The Suicide Squad succeeds because it’s coloring outside the lines of the typical Marvel or DC movie – not only because of its higher rating and violence quotient, but also because of its subversive, take-no-prisoners nature. James Gunn is undoubtedly the right choice this film, and without the shadow of Zack Snyder’s cynical take on the DC universe looming over him, Gunn manages to prove that DC films can do better when firing on all cylinders. The doubt over The Suicide Squad being a viable franchise is dispelled with this outing, and I’ll gladly catch the Squad in action again for as long as Gunn continues his stewardship of it.
Rating: * * * ½ (out of four stars)