They’re dying, to save the world — the tagline spells everything out, in case the title didn’t give away James Gunn’s violent, blood-splattering sequel to the David Ayer directed Suicide Squad (2016).
The sequel, which goes by The Suicide Squad — ‘The’ makes as much a difference as Clark Kent’s glasses do when concealing his identity, I suppose — is a gonzo misadventure that dangerously walks the line between dead-serious action comedy and just-bonkers action (an example of the latter: Deadpool).
Gunn manages the near-impossible with effortless panache. He’s less serious here than he was when working for rivals Marvel in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. DC and Warner Bros may have let him have his way here since, well, DC may very well be going down. The executives over at the studio may have thought: ‘so why the heck not, right? Let the man be happy, and who knows, the audience may be too’.
They thought right. For once.
The frantic pace and the seemingly all-over-the-place plot somehow gel together in director James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad
Replacing Will Smith’s Deadshot is Idris Elba’s Bloodsport; the new character is near-identical to the former.
Bloodsport is blackmailed to lead a group of rag-tag expendable mercenaries into a suicide mission. The first man in the team he is introduced to is Peacemaker (John Cena) — another character who is nearly identical to Bloodsport.
“Are you having a laugh,” he asks his commander Amanda Waller (Viola Davis; all stern eyebrows and growls). “He does exactly what I do!” Barely a moment ago, Waller told Bloodsport that each member in the team was chosen for their unique abilities. If Smith was here, there would be three people who would do the exact same job.
Gunn’s humour is dry, geeky, nonsensical and crafty. His trademark use of songs is a little less ubiquitous, but the frantic pace and the seemingly all-over-the-place plot somehow gel together.
At its core, the plot is as simple as any World War II ensemble adventure (The Dirty Dozen, Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, take your pick), just more off-kilter. As Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote in her review: the film is mostly “Joke, Joke, Kill, Kill”
Actually, its more: Joke, Joke, Joke, Kill, Joke, Kill. With the kills being bloody and brutal.
Bloodsport’s team includes Joker’s deranged ex-girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, wonderful, with as much screen-time as the last film), the half-man, half-shark monster King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) a good-hearted girl who has inherited her father’s ability to command rats, Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) who fires devastating multi-coloured polka dots and sees his dead mother in everyone, and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a former Green Beret. There is also a wheezing weasel.
The group is tasked to infiltrate an America-hating South American country that has recently been deposed. Once there, they have to kidnap a scientist nicknamed The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) who knows the secret location of a giant extraterrestrial starfish called Starro that can control minds.
Starro, and the rest of the Suicide Squad (with exception to Harley) are very old comic book characters, but they don’t exactly hold the reverence status, of say, Superman and Batman. Since he has the opportunity, Gunn twists and pulls the characters and the situations to milk the most of the film.
In hindsight, it’s not really that hard a film to write. The overall package is enjoyable, but not spectacular. Compared to the last Suicide Squad, this one is a godsend.
Streaming on HBO Max, The Suicide Squad is rated R for cartoony, but excessive violence.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, August 15th, 2021