Movie Review: ‘The Suicide Squad’

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Alice Braga, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Steve Agee, Taika Waititi

Plot: A new Task Force X is assembled to infiltrate a destabilised South American island nation to destroy the biological weapon known as ‘Project Starfish’.

Review: When David Ayer was working on Suicide Squad for 2016, he commented on the type of film he was intending to release. He talked about a dramatic story about tragic characters. But then Guardians of the Galaxy landed hard and WB rapidly pivoted into trying to fit what had been shot into that mould. Eventually they handed the editing over to a marketing company, leaving us with one of the most critically panned comic book movies in recent decades. This time around Warner Bros. have gone directly to the source and let Guardians director James Gunn off the leash to deliver the movie that delivers what Ayer promised.

This direct sequel brings back Amanda Waller (Davis), the government agent who recruits imprisoned supervillains to her Task Force X, better known as the ‘suicide squad’. In exchange for completing Black Ops missions, they can take time off their sentence. Still lead by Col. Rick Flag (Kinnaman), Harley Quinn (Robbie) and Captain Boomerang (Courtney) appear to be the only members of the original squad still standing. Their ranks are filled out with all manner of colourful characters including weapons expert Bloodsport (Elba), tragically infected Polka Dot Man (Dastmalchian), single-minded Peacemaker (Cena) mutant shark monster King Shark (Stallone/Agee), rat controlling Ratcatcher 2 (Melchior), quick draw Blackguard (Davidson), alien warrior Mongal (Ng), feral creature Weasel (Gunn), mostly useless TDK (Fillion), former Olympian Javelin (Borg) and hand-to-hand expert Savant (Rooker).

After the squad is dropped in the ocean off the coast of the Corto Maltese. Although the royal family have been disposed by a military coup, Task Force X are only there to destroy the mysterious ‘Project Starfish’. The experimental alien weapon is kept in a Nazi-era fortress and overseen by The Thinker (Capaldi). On their mission they run into rebel groups, military forces and other twists and turns that leaves more than a couple of the team in pieces.

So it’s a lot of fun. Ridiculous fun. If you’ve seen the trailers you’ll have a pretty good idea of the tone. We start with a 70s era war film that descends into complete lunacy and the situation gets more desperate. Surprisingly most of the comedy comes early in the film when we learn just how useless some of these characters are. They’ve stacked the cast with a huge number of characters so there’s plenty of room for them to be killed off. There are going to be some surprising and unexpected deaths throughout the movie. At times some of the characters, such as Bloodsport and Peacemaker, are more occupied in trying to one-up each other instead on getting them all through alive.

Gunn’s biggest success in the movie is making so many of the villains into sympathetic characters. Margot Robbie gets a brilliant monologue about her tendency to fall for the wrong guy, a bond forms between Ratcatcher 2 and Bloodsport as they’re both motivated by family members lost to them, and Polka Dot Man has a real rough backstory that has left his worldview completely twisted. There’s a couple of moments where we see the world from the perspective of Harley and Polka Dot Man, utilising some creative special effects to show us how their broken minds view everything around. Ultimately all of these characters feel like broken people, who never had a chance at a normal life or have been beaten down for so long that doing the right thing is unnatural to them.

After the depiction of some of the characters in the original Suicide Squad and other DC movies, it’s nice that the female characters aren’t being overtly sexualised for a change. They get to wear just as many clothes as their male counterparts (except John Cena, who strips down to his underwear for no reason), and are never given a scene to strip off for the enjoyment of the audience. I don’t know if anyone should try explaining this to the producers, but these are all very attractive women even when the camera isn’t motion locked to their backsides. Harley Quinn in particular seems to have taken influence from the recent Harley Quinn animated series to good effect.

Now to bring up a random aside, Bloodsport’s main gimmick is pulling out parts of his weapons off his costume to build bigger guns. I don’t know my DC villains especially well, but I’m pretty sure idea comes from the X-Men character Scalphunter. Or not, it doesn’t matter.

Sometimes the structure of the narrative jumps around to give us some extra twists and set up some gags, and this can be a bit jarring. It’s inconsistently applied and doesn’t always pay off enough to be worth it. During the final battle we put a key character confrontation on pause to go and see what everyone else was doing for ten minutes and it breaks the flow.

Final word? James Gunn has completely delivered on what was promised. It’s funny, it’s insane, it’s violent and has enough heart to tie it all together. Great stuff from all involved.

Rating: NINE out of TEN