The Plot: The Suicide Squad are back – and weirder than ever. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together another motley crew for a dangerous mission – Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and, er, King Shark (Sylvester Stallone). They’re sent to an isolated South American island to destroy anything to do with a top secret project involving an unknown entity. Getting in was easy, getting out alive from an island in the midst of political upheaval will be nearly impossible. All in a day’s work for these nutty guys and gals though…
The Verdict: ‘This is insane!’ exclaims one of The Suicide Squad, as they roll into a heavily fortified square and attempt to break into a maximum security research facility. It’s also an apt description for the film itself, such is the sheer level of unfiltered madness depicted onscreen. All of it coming from the delightfully warped mind of one James Gunn – who brought Guardians Of The Galaxy to vivid life. Five years ago, DC took a calculated risk with David Ayer’s take on Suicide Squad – putting together a crew of disparate cons to do the dirty work of the US Government. The reaction was decidedly mixed. For all its flaws, it was still moderately diverting. And yet, there was a germ of a solid idea there along with break-out character Harley Quinn that had the potential for something greater. It just needed someone imaginative enough to wrestle it under control and give it its due.
This is where the fully-loaded Gunn steps in. An edgy director who likes to push at the boundaries of studio filmmaking, he found himself fired and then subsequently re-hired by Disney for a third Guardians Of The Galaxy film. In that in-between period of soul-searching about controversial past comments, he was offered The Suicide Squad by DC. ‘The’ being more definitive here and boy, does he deliver a definitive take. This is a bolder, riskier and much more confident film than its predecessor. It’s a bit of everything – a sequel, a reboot, a re-imagining – whatever the filmmakers want to call it. What it’s not is a re-heated re-hash of what came before, with Gunn stridently putting his own directorial stamp on it. It has all the hallmarks of his style of filmmaking – irreverent humour, oddball but likeable anti-heroes, a pumping soundtrack and of course, the presence of the always welcome Michael Rooker.
From the get-go, Gunn’s script is streamlined down to one long mission on the island of Corto Maltese (a nod to 1989’s Batman). There’s little in the way of sub-plot and is all the better for it, other than Waller barking orders down the phone as she shapes Bloodsport from reluctant leader into a determined man with a mission. Along the way, Bloodsport must contend with the ego-driven Peacemaker, who wears what looks like a toilet seat for a mask. John Cena looks a lot more comfortable here as Peacemaker than he did in Fast & Furious 9 recently – he has a natural gift for comedy, matching his goofy appearance. There’s a palpable sense of camaraderie and teamwork as The Suicide Squad work together to take down possibly the most ridiculous supervillain ever depicted onscreen – Starro The Conqueror! That’s the point though. Gunn knows how ridiculous the climax is and runs with it for all its worth – delivering in spades in the process.
It’s hard not to grin at the sheer ballsiness of it all, but it’s also entirely within the remit of these misfits and the directorial style. Gunn is a perfect fit for this material. While he had to conform to Disney’s requirements before, there’s a firm sense here that DC have let him off the leash to show what he can really do. He stages the superb action sequences with cheeky built-in laughs (merciless deaths, blood and guts flying everywhere, a hilarious raging mother for extra effect) and an epic sense of scale, while also delivering the little character moments that count towards something. Daniela Melchior in particular makes an impact as a team member who can control rats. There’s a surprising amount of heart here, amidst the carnage and craziness. The overall effect is that The Suicide Squad is a riotous ride and one of the most purely enjoyable superhero movies in recent years. The anarchic tone is intensely focused throughout, leaving the ultimate conclusion that Gunn is the secret weapon here that made it all gel together so successfully. Insanity rarely looks so appealing.
Rating: 4 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
The Suicide Squad
The Suicide Squad (USA / 16 / 132 mins)
In short: A riotous ride
Directed by James Gunn.
Starring Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Viola Davis, Sylvester Stallone.