Film Review: The Suicide Squad

Film Review of The Suicide Squad starring Joel Kinnaman, Idris Elba and John Cena

DIRECTED BY

James Gunn

STARRING

Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchoir, Michael Rooker, Alice Braga, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Storm Reid, Joaquín Cosío, Juan Diego Botto, Steve Agee, Tinashe Kajese, Julio Ruiz, Jennifer Holland and Taika Waititi

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SYNOPSIS

Supervillains Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and a collection of nutty cons at Belle Reve prison join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X as they are dropped off at the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.

Welcome to hell…aka Belle Reve, the prison with the highest morality rate in the USA, 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, 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.

It’s been five years since the original Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer, was released out to the world. Here, it’s James Gunn getting to bring his vision in this ‘soft’ reboot The Suicide Squad. Robert DuBois, aka Bloodsport, reluctantly leads Task Force X as they’re assigned by Amanda Waller to enter the island of Corto Maltese, a once friendly ally to the United States whose current regime has been overthrown by a recent coup, to locate a scientific facility that houses Project Starfish, which now must be destroyed before the new dictators learn and exploit its military potential. Alongside Bloodsport for the mission is a squad that includes former psychiatrist-turned-criminal Harley Quinn, Peacemaker, a ruthless killer who believes in achieving peace at any cost, Ratcatcher 2, who inherited the mantle from her father and can control and communicate with rats, and King Shark, a huge man-eating, shark-human hybrid.

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While it is still brought up today about how the studio interfered with the final product for the cut that we saw of 2016’s Suicide Squad, it was mentioned in the run-up to The Suicide Squad’s realise that James Gunn didn’t receive the same push back as David Ayer did, claiming that WB were supportive and only provided a few minor notes. In the first sequence in the lead-up to the films title card, it’s pretty obvious that the studio let Gunn and his mind run wild and immediately showcasing the tone and violent style of what to expect for the remaining two hour runtime, bringing forth some B-film level of violence into a big studio budget film that at times can be both creative and grotesque in equal measure. Gunn makes some interesting creative choices here, like how he shows the audience the skewed perspective that certain villains have of the world around them, be it wildly colourful (Harley Quinn) or mentally disturbing (Polka-Dot Man), as well as how certain scenes are captured (a fight scene is briefly captured via the reflection of Peacemaker’s helmet), and for wildly out there the final act is as a whole, I felt like the majority of these choices worked for me. Henry Braham provides some wonderful imagery with his cinematography, be it the initial war-like opening sequence, to the squad moving through the jungle terrain on the island of Corto Maltese, as well as the main town area itself. The visual effects for the character designs are great here, from the look of King Shark, to that of Weasel, as well as something else in relation to project Starfish.

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What really makes the film work as a whole is of course the characters and their interactions with each other. You can feel Idris Elba having fun playing the role of Robert DuBois/Bloodsport, a mercenary who is forced into the role of leading this group on the mission due to Waller holding his daughter as collateral. While this provides some obvious parallels between him and Will Smith’s Deadshot from the original Suicide Squad, it won’t take the audience to see how different the father/daughter dynamic is here between Elba and Storm Reid. Elba works well with the rest of the ensemble, particularly with Daniela Melchoir’s Ratcatcher 2 and how her ability to communicate with rats brings out his phobia, and John Cena’s Peacemaker especially. It’s the rapport between him and Cena that I enjoyed the most, especially in a sequence in which they try to one-up each other over how creative and efficient the can be in killing their targets. Daniela Melchoir’s performance as Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2 is one of the highlights of the film as she provides the heart of the film with her backstory as well as her interactions with the rest of the squad, particularly Bloodsport and King Shark, and her rat companion Sebastian will definitely warm some hearts with how he communicates with the humans around him. David Dastmalchian at times steals the film with his performance as Abner Krill/Polka-Dot Man, a ridiculous character from the comics getting a fresh reinvention here and his deadpan mannerisms killed me at times. The one character I was most looking to seeing on the big was Nanaue/King Shark and he certainly didn’t disappoint with this iteration of the character, making him almost child-like mannerisms and how he communicates with the rest of the group, yet he’s absolutely terrifying with his stature and his ability to rip people in half or chew them up in seconds (and yes, Gunn showcases these in great detail) and I thought Stallone’s voice suited this portrayal. John Cena’s portrayal of Christopher Smith/Peacemaker definitely plays into his strengths, being in on the joke of a too-serious, douche ‘patriot’, but there is one particular scene in the film takes a moment to be serious and that made me more interested in the character.

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Some of the original cast members also get to shine here too. Joel Kinnaman gets a lot better material to work with here as Rick Flag, which I’m glad to see as I think he’s a really good actor and his character has definitely improved here, where in the original it felt like he was babysitting the rest of the squad, here he seems to have a genuine care for those he’s working with, particularly Harley Quinn and Bloodsport, working alongside them as equals. Another original cast member that improved for me was Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller. While in the original it told us that you shouldn’t mess with her, here we’re shown why you shouldn’t, and Davis tears the scenery up in a few scenes, between being cold and calculated, to being immensely angry. We’re also treated to the characters and general rapport between the workers in A.R.G.U.S. and how even though they work for Waller, sometimes they question her methods. As always, Margot Robbie is terrific as Harley Quinn, and gets a sub-plot that has her separated from the squad that I didn’t expect, yet it serves a purpose to highlight her inner-growth as a character, whilst still maintaining her unpredictable and deadly nature.

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I’m shocked that the films is rated 15 here, considering the level of violence and graphic detail that is presented in some of the deaths, so I can understand if some viewers that will watch this film might find the violence to be gratuitous and excessive and that some of the comedy is a bit juvenile. The final act also takes a full-swing in it’s chaotic nature which will either have audiences all-in or have some of them roll their eyes at the ridiculous nature of it all. There is a sub-plot which is political in nature where the squad comes across the resistance which to overthrow the dictatorship and while it serves its purpose overall as we focus primarily on the Suicide Squad, some could argue that there’s not enough depth to have us care for them. I’ll be honest there’s so much that’s going on in the last half-an-hour of the film that I completely forgot about that sub-plot until it resurfaced again on screen.

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VERDICT

James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is pure unfiltered, unapologetic madness, and without a doubt it’s the most chaotic comic book film to have come out in quite some time and I had an absolute blast with its violence and colourful characters.

★★★★