Movie Review: The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad (2020)

Starring: Idris Elba, Margot Robie, Joel Kinnamen, David Dastmalchian, Viola Davis

Directed By: James Gunn

2016’s Suicide Squad was…not well received. While it made a ton of money and gave us Margot Robie’s great iteration of Harley Quinn, the rest of David Ayer’s entry into the then-newly born DCEU was pretty much a gigantic mess, filled with too many needle drops, too many introductions, and not enough story to get us to care about Task Force X. Despite making a lot of money at the box office, the critical and fan reaction lead Warner Bros to sit on a sequel idea, until James Gunn was fired in a show of bad faith by Marvel Studios (he’s since been rehired). Since the original Suicide Squad‘s final cut was heavily influenced by Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, it made sense that WB would jump at the chance to let Gunn put his stamp on the makeshift team of DC baddies. And make no mistake, this is very much Gunn’s take on the supervillain team.

If you thought Guardians of the Galaxy was the most James Gunn could bring to the superhero genre, The Suicide Squad upends that in spades. Gunn’s latest is more violent, has more laughs, and possibly even more heart than the two films that starred a talking tree and a snarky Raccoon. Working from a similar template as the previous film (and every Suicide Squad comic story, to be honest), The Suicide Squad finds Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), getting a new team of no-name bad guys, including Harley Quinn (Margot Robie), on a new mission: break into a secret lab in the fictional country of Corto Maltese, and destroy what’s inside. Along the way, a LOT of Task Force X bites the dust, but the ones remaining team up to complete the mission at any cost.

The Suicide Squad, like its predecessor, has a stacked cast. But unlike the previous film, Gunn’s interpretation is not afraid to cull the herd when he needs to. That being said, the stars of the movie are probably Idris Elba’s Bloodsport, John Cena’s Peacemaker, and Margot Robie’s Harley Quinn. Elba is pretty much the centerpiece of the movie, with a great narrative that shows him becoming a leader, and really plays to his strengths after years of being the best thing in bad movies (Dark Tower) or put in pretty forgettable ensembles (every Thor movie). The thorn in his side on the team is John Cena’s Peacemaker, who almost single-handedly walks away with the film. Determined to keep the peace at any cost, even by killing people, Cena’s uptight super patriot delivers a ton of laughs, and continues to showcase the wrestler turned actor’s comic timing.

Of course, Harley Quinn is in this movie as well, and I’m pleased to report that those who loved her characterization in Birds of Prey will find a lot to love here as well. Robie’s third time in the make up and pigtails is still a blast, and she fits into the new ensemble extremely well. Gunn’s script even allows Harley to have her own little solo adventure for a couple of scenes, and they play out in hilariously unexpected ways that only Gunn could pull off.

One of the main things that keeps The Suicide Squad interesting as a concept is the way it’s used to showcase the truly weird supervillains that DC has, and James Gunn definitely had a lot of fun picking through the random “Who’s Who In The DC Universe” guides of old. But he also finds ways to give these characters a lot of pathos as well. I never expected Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) or Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) to be the characters that have the most depth, but if anyone can get you to care about a bunch of loser supervillains, it’s James Gunn. And of course, King Shark, voiced hilariously by none other than Sylvester Stallone, is an absolute blast and pretty adorable, in an extremely violent way.

It’s not all just great character work though. Gunn also does some of his best action work yet in the film. From a fight scene shot entirely from the reflection of someone’s helmet to Harley Quinn fighting goons with a javelin as flowers shoot out of their bodies, this is one of the most visually dynamic films in the genre, and sets a clear tone and mark as a “James Gunn film”. There are even fun chapter breaks that are part of the background, and the mix of violence, humor, and even horror really show off the many strengths Gunn has a director. I’ve never really seen anything that felt like it paid homage to his Troma beginning s in the Guardians film, but there are plenty of things that feel Troma-esque here.

Like Guardians of the Galaxy, this film has James Gunn playing with themes of love and belonging, and while Task Force X doesn’t become a family unit like the Guardians, they do all find something that they need by the film’s end. The final shot in the film was something truly sweet, and showcases that you can have insane, gory action with some really effective character work too. In all honestly, The Suicide Squad might be my favorite James Gunn film, and I can’t wait to watch it again. It’s probably going to go down as not only one of the best superhero movies of the year, but one of the best of the year period. Whether you trek out to the theaters (if you feel comfortable doing so) or fire it up at home on HBO Max, it’s well worth your time.

VERDICT: A

Posted on August 6, 2021, in Movie Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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