Director James Gunn brings all his misfit energy to the anti-hero ensemble of The Suicide Squad. While the 2016 film by David Ayer felt as though it was aiming somewhere between gritty street film and mundane action-adventure, this reset of sorts is a refreshingly giddy picture gushing with guts and gore. The Suicide Squad is everything from the comics and then some.
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad wastes little time.
Before the opening credits roll, we get the quickest of rundowns. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) returns to give us the specifics on how Task Force X operates: Villain prisoners work in black-ops for a chance to shave time off their sentences.
Still before the credits roll, we get a taste of how Task Force X operates. Ridiculous characters of Javelin, Weasel, and TDK are thrown into missions to use their very odd powers. Nobody is safe as we witness a slew of the Suicide Squad who bite the dust rather brutally.
This brilliant opening sets the tone for the film well.
The clever introduction gives us an idea of how cruel Task Force X can be and how unlikely members are to return from missions. The tagline of the posters, “Don’t get too attached,” is highly fitting.
There are a few down moments, however, where we get to know and love some of the squad. Bloodsport (Idris Elba) is an assassin who wants to defend his daughter from prison time. He differs from the previous film’s assassin of Deadshot, however, for being less caring as a parent.
Helping him through this arc is the orphaned Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior). With her ability to control rats, Ratcatcher finds herself longing for her loving father. She wants a family and is hoping that maybe Bloodsport could fill that fatherly void.
One of the saddest members of the group is Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian). Aside from his title making him seem like a joke, the character is haunted by his past of being a science experiment. Living with such a dimensional power has made him bitterly depressed and not so keen to make it out of missions alive.
Not all the characters have such somber backstories but they are enduring.
King Shark seems to just want to eat people but he also wants companionship. Despite not being able to speak in complete or grammatically correct sentences, he manages to be a sweet villain trying to find somewhere to belong.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) returns with her own self-contained arc of sorts. Having divorced from her obsession with Joker, Harley now seeks to go out on her own and find a new relationship. She’s trying to learn from her experiences, however, by recognizing scumbags early on, showing some real growth.
As for the mission these anti-heroes are sent on, there are some interesting aspects to this scenario.
They’re sent to a South American country to sabotage the anti-American operation of Project Starfish. As the mission progresses, however, it becomes clear that this operation has less to do with security and more to do with nationalism.
This aspect is present in Waller’s vicious threats but also in the blind trust of Peacemaker (John Cena). Posed as a nationalistic villain, Peacemaker constantly talks about doing anything for peace and liberty. It doesn’t matter if such actions require killing children or engaging in odd sexual acts. No task is questionable for him when it comes to peace.
There are even some leanings of animal rights. Consider the freedom desired by the big bad of Starro, a starfish from space. This aspect is present in how the film treats birds. The animals are savaged by man but also take their revenge on their aggressors. There’s also the presence of Weasel which probably says something more than an excuse to cast Sean Gunn as another furry character.
It’s refreshing to see James Gunn return to an R-rated film with The Suicide Squad where imagination can run even wilder. All of his artist trademarks are present from the casting of Michael Rooker to a cameo by Lloyd Kaufman to an abundance of tentacles. All of that is still here but given an irreverent glaze of R-rated charm.
The violence is hilariously over-the-top.
King Shark eats people up and tears them apart with much blood and guts. Peacemaker performs some brutal acts of assassination as he attempts to one-up Bloodsport on the battlefield. There are also some unexpected and rather amusing demises for a handful of characters.
The Suicide Squad works on just about every level.
Its humor is deliciously absurd, the characters worth caring about, and the story more than just a standard stop-the-monster plot. After the dismal results of the DCEU, films like this signal a bright future for DC Comics movies.
The Suicide Squad is now streaming on HBO Max through September 5th.