Have you ever failed when taking a test at school, and had to resit the exam? That’s basically what The Suicide Squad (2021) is. After the disjointed mess that was the original Suicide Squad (2016), Warner Bros has opted for a re-try with director James Gunn of Guardians of The Galaxy fame. This time with a hard R rating.
The Suicide Squad is everything the original film wanted to be. It’s the film most people probably imagined when you hear the concept of the Suicide Squad. A twisted little flick packed with chaotic energy right to the very end.
Welcome To Task Force X
The Suicide Squad stars Task Force X. A group of D-list super villains working as a black op’s unit for the US government. They handle missions deemed too ‘suicidal’ for the regular military. This time the squad is being sent to the fictional Latin American nation of Corto Maltese to destroy an experimental project on the island called ‘Project Starfish’, and maybe overthrow the government in the meantime.
The film technically takes place after the previous movie but the four characters that re-appear from the original make no mention of it. It’s clear you’re just supposed to pretend that the first movie never happened. The film hits the ground running, starting in the helicopter with the team ready to go. It’s fast-paced and action-packed as you’d expect of a superhero film but takes advantage of the fact that it is a Suicide Squad movie. I.e., all the characters can die.
And die they do. The marketing slogan ‘Don’t Get Attached’ was right. From start to finish you’re going to see people drop like flies. There’s even a few fake-out scenes where it seems someone’s about to die only for them to be saved at the last minute. This creates a highly frantic atmosphere where you’re never quite sure where the film will go next.
Call me edgy, but the constant character death adds a much-needed layer of tension that you don’t normally get from the ever-predictable superhero genre. The action scenes and hyper-violence further add to this notion. They create a feeling that any explosion, gunshot, or laser could be a character last. Throughout the film, I truly had no idea who was gonna make it out alive.
Well, other than Harley Quin. There’s no way they’re killing her off.
“We’re All Gonna Die”
James Gunn was apparently given permission to do whatever he wanted for this film and it shows. In terms of tone and writing, the movie never forgets that it has an insane story starring horrible people. The movie is crass, cruel, and cynical. Our would-be heroes murder, swear and just make it clear they do not want to be around each other.
But the film is able to do so without feeling overly dreary thanks to some well-timed comedy. It’s a very meanspirited comedy, but comedy nonetheless. A good example is early in the movie, some characters have a contest over who can most creatively kill enemy soldiers. Only after the massacre do they find out they were shooting, eating, and decapitating a rebel faction with who they were supposed to ally.
It’s completely gruesome but also so over the top and comedically ironic that you’re able to take it with an air of tongue and cheek. The jokes about murder and dark phycological abuse suit the disturbed characters we’re roped in with and help us to understand and laugh with them as the film goes on.
I was somewhat worried that the film would feel too much like an R-rated Guardians of The Galaxy. There are definite similarities like a licensed soundtrack, a CGI mascot character that mostly talks in easy-to-market catchphrases, and even the occasional quip. Thankfully though, it never feels like a copy, and the quips are used far more sparingly and are better placed than your average Marvel movie.
Meet The Squad
Three of the returning characters from the previous film, Amanda Waller, Rick Flag, and Harley Quin find new life under a better script.
Viola Davies shows far more personality as Amanda Waller. She’s a sinister, cold government official willing to do anything for the sake of her country. She holds all the squad’s lives and she knows it, making her probably the scariest character in a cast of supervillains. Joel Kinnaman likewise turns Rick Flag from a GI Generic solder dude to a witty straight man that provides some form of sanity for the rest of the squad to bounce off.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is probably the best she’s been written. She feels like the psychotic maniac she is supposed to be while still maintaining the friend demeanor that makes her likable. I dare say this is the first film I really found her interesting in.
In terms of new characters, Idris Elba’s Bloodsport is snarky yet badass and while I may have called King Shark a mascot, I do find him genuinely cute, well, as cute as a half-man, half-shark cannibal can be. There’s also John Cena’s The Peacemaker. Cena refers to him in an interview as “a douchebag Captain America” and that’s a great description. He’s a distorted blend of 1950s style American patriotism and hypocrisy. Going on about wanting peace and murdering whoever he must to get it. The best scenes are the ones between him and Elba. The two’s rivalry makes for some of the most gruesome and comic moments of the film.
Finally, a surprise highlight of the film was David Dastmalchian as the Polka Dot Man. He sounds like the stupidest idea for a villain yet he’s very enduring. Despite his silly name, he’s the pessimistic sad clown, comic in how miserable he is. His polka dots however turn out to be one of the most powerful weapons on the team and his back story in how he got these powers is also suitably messed up.
The Hard R Rating
The Suicide Squad is probably the goriest superhero movie I’ve seen in a while. A lot of the kills in the movie could make for good Mortal Kombat fatalities with the different ways that they experiment in loosening human body parts from one another. People are ripped in half, disemboweled, eaten, crushed, and so forth.
This is further emphasized with the chaos of each scenario. The film certainly knows how to make a situation go from bad to worse. You can have the team fighting an enemy only for the army to show up, then have a building collapse. Even the stunt work looks legitimately dangerous. The movie plays out like a demented Looney Tunes cartoon but one where dropping an anvil will actually result in someone’s head bursting like a watermelon.
The top-tier CGI effects help support this. King Shark and Weasel in particular look and animate amazingly well. The two CGI monstrosities are highly expressive easily slip into whatever scene they’re put in. Without going into too many spoilers ‘Project Starfish’ likewise makes for a wonderfully bizarre final monster.
The Suicide Squad is a well-executed, darkly comedic gorefest. Its characters truly feel like deranged super villains reveling in the chaos they’re creating with a well-acted cast for each role. But what makes it stand out most is the signature expendability of the cast.
With the oversaturation of comic book films in modern cinema, one of the most common criticisms of the genre is predictability. They can’t kill any of the heroes, they’re too marketable, they need them for sequels. But this film isn’t about heroes. It’s about flawed, strange, obscure villains that can die at the drop of the hat. This fact alone makes for one of the most engaging superhero ventures I’ve seen in years.
It definitely not for everyone. The high gore count means it should probably be avoided by the faint of heart. But for those that are looking for a darker, more violent alternative to your average comic book movie. This is it.
The Suicide Squad is probably the best movie in The DC Extended Universe currently. While that isn’t a hard bar to reach, it’ll be interesting to see if it’ll mean for the franchise going forward (since they barely have a plan, to begin with).
The Suicide Squad will also be coming to video games soon with Suicide Squad Kill The Justice League.
The Suicide Squad
- Action scenes are a blood soaked fire fest
- Well written script that keeps the film unpredictable
- Characters are delightfully horrible