New Release Review: The Suicide Squad

With James Gunn at the helm as writer and director, The Suicide Squad is the fun R-rated bloodbath that its 2016 predecessor should have been.

By Sean Blanford

Imagine there’s a much-ballyhooed restaurant opening nationwide from a chef you really enjoy. Sure, you heard about the issues with the construction and having problems passing its initial health inspection, but you still want to have reservations opening night. You get there, the menu isn’t coherent, the music doesn’t make for a great ambiance, and the initial reviews are poor. Regardless, this restaurant makes a ton of money and somehow wins a prestigious award before closing up shop and leaving town even with all its problems. Then five years later, the same restaurant with a slightly different name under new management comes in and says, “we know we made mistakes, but please allow us the opportunity to right our wrongs.” You may consider yourself foolish to subject yourself to this potential pain and agony for a second time. I am here to tell you not to be afraid because much like the fly-in-your-soup that was the 2016 Suicide Squad, James Gunn is here to serve you up a near-perfect five-course meal in all its blood-soaked glory with The Suicide Squad.

Viola Davis returns as tough-as-nails Task Force X lead Amanda Waller with a new mission for the Squad: infiltrate the island nation of Corto Maltese (off the coast of South America) and destroy a facility where an entity is being housed under the guise of Project Starfish. Returning from the original cast is Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Joining the merry band of misfits as our main leads are Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior). The stacked cast is rounded out by Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, Storm Reid, Taika Waititi, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, and Peter Capaldi, among many others.

Everyone has a role to play, and many of them are cast perfectly. John Cena has taken on some roles against the clean-cut stereotype that he has portrayed in the WWE for the last two decades, but here he gets to lean into it without going full-on you can’t see me. His rivalry with Elba’s Bloodsport is palpable, with one particular sequence that is a figurative male sex organ swinging contest for the ages. Robbie as Quinn gives us a further evolution at the character we became attached to in the OG Squad, then grew even more during 2020’s Birds of Prey. She avoids being the damsel in distress and potentially racks up the highest body count in the entire film. Then there’s King Shark, a person (?) that could have easily been a rehash of Groot from the Guardians series but ends up being a fully formed character who learns the value of friendship and that not everything is nom-noms.

The episodic nature of The Suicide Squad is unnecessary but affords the CG department the real estate to find fun ways to flash up title cards for the different segments of the film. The third act reveal of the big bad (and I do mean big) plays right into the goofy nature of the film overall but often looks too much like they are battling a Rita Rupnzel-esque blown up monster from Power Rangers. This may be an issue for some, but this is one that, by the time it got to the end, it was easily forgiven.

Overall, this is a major success in terms of a new vision for these characters and further shows that movie studios shouldn’t be afraid to take risks with creating well-made R-rated comic book movies. Unfortunately, I have given up on figuring out what is and is not a part of the DCEU or whatever they call it today, but this is one of the best DC Warner Brothers films that have been put out in years. Whether or not they continue with this vision remains to be seen, but if there is more of this version of The Suicide Squad, I will be more than happy to come back for seconds.

Grade: 4.25/5 (A-)

Author: Sean Blanford

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