James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is much like Suicide Squad, except it isn’t absolutely awful.
Actually, it’s pretty fun.
Here is a film that is disgusting, violent, ridiculous, and over-the-top, and unabashedly so. Yet it’s also funny, ranging from funny to hilarious, audacious and when it wants to be, kind of sweet. Gunn, as you know, made the two hugely enjoyable Guardians of the Galaxy movies. When I saw the trailer for the original, the assumption was that it would be crap. Every so often, it is nice to be wrong. There was solid faith though with The Suicide Squad, and with good reason: he takes the formula that worked so well with his Guardians films, in that the characters are weird and quirky, as is their environment, and he’s pushed the envelope all the way. The film very much has a “blank check” feel to it, as if Warner Bros. didn’t care what movie he made, as long as he made it. Which has proven to be a wise choice.
Chances are you probably thought saw the trailer for The Suicide Squad and thought, “that looks silly.” You would be correct. The key though is that the film is pretty aware of it, taking characters like King Shark and Polka Dot Man and placing them front and center. If you think that sounds silly, just wait until you realize that the film is about a group of villains who are released from prison in order to stop a giant alien starfish. Absolutely all of that happens in The Suicide Squad, and if you’re willing to go with it, Gunn delivers quite a time.
This isn’t so much a remake as it is a “re-do-quel.” Some of the original cast (Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney) is back and the set-up is essentially the same. Something went catastrophically wrong with Suicide Squad though: it begins sort of fun, and then runs out of gas halfway through, and it has no idea what to do with itself until it finally ends. The Suicide Squad is, through and through, a ridiculous good time. It finds its tone early, establishes it, and ultimately satisfies, while also eliciting laughs from dialogue, sight gags, and shock value.
We know from the get-go what we’re in store for, but now to the story. Davis’ FBI Agent Waller once again rounds up a group of villains to stop a fellow threat. How are they to be trusted? Well, they’re not, but if they do anything out of line, an explosive in their neck will go off. Because we never see these people doing anything villainous, it isn’t always easy to buy that they are villains… but eh, they’re good company. Said crew includes Bloodsport (Idris Elba), who is a whiz with weapons; The Peacemaker (John Cena), who is essentially the same character, but is more interested in “keeping the peace,” no matter what the cost; Harley Quinn (Robbie), who at this point needs no introduction (see Birds of Prey if you haven’t); King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), a shark humanoid who is essentially this film’s Groot; Col. Rick Flagg (Kinnaman), the returning leader (and this time, Katana doesn’t have his back); Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), who is a rat whisperer of the sorts; and the Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) who, yes, shoots polka dots at people.
Their mission is to infiltrate the enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese, where they must find a fella named The Thinker (Peter Capaldi). To add to the silliness, The Thinker has these light bulbs sticking out of his head, attracting zero attention to himself whatsoever. The Thinker is also keeping ahold of a giant alien starfish that spits much smaller, creepy starfish out of its sides, and these smaller starfish latch onto people’s faces and take control of their bodies. It’s uh, it’s pretty weird stuff.
If the idea of a giant alien starfish sounds silly, just remember that Suicide Squad featured Ms. Good Movie Repellent Cara Delevingne as a woman possessed by an Egyptian spirit or something, who gyrated her body like she was one of those inflatable men outside of a car dealership, and she spun a blue cloud or something for some reason unleashing the underworld or something. All the while, it was completely devoid of humor. The Suicide Squad wears its absurdity on its sleeve, and proudly. Birds of Prey was the movie Suicide Squad should’ve been- colorful, violent, funny, and pretty fun. The same can be said about The Suicide Squad. I liked Birds of Prey leaving the theatre, and have since grown to kind of love it, and it’s easy to imagine that happening with this film. Both films have such a charmingly nutty spirit, with a group of performers who are happy to partake in said spirit.
Not every laugh in The Suicide Squad is a big one, but the big ones are pretty damn funny. Whether it be a line of dialogue or a scene that is so mercilessly violent, you don’t know how else you’re supposed to respond to it (this is a film that very much earns its R-rating). It can also be said that the action sequences are also pretty rad too. I love a sequence where Robbie’s Harley breaks out of these shackles and kicks everyone’s ass with flowers floating around. There is also a spectacular sequence set in a collapsing building, as well as the climax, which is absolutely bonkers. Gunn might have his controversies, but you gotta hand it to the guy: he’s got style.
I haven’t seen Suicide Squad since its release in 2016 (if you care to, my review is floating around on this site somewhere). What I can tell you is that Suicide Squad laid an egg- a billion dollar, PG-13, Oscar winning (for those keeping score at home: The Irishman, 0, Suicide Squad: 1), boring, rotten egg that was so foul, it ruined the success of the vastly underrated and hugely enjoyable Robbie vehicle Birds of Prey. My fear is that The Suicide Squad might not make a profit because people are afraid of being duped by another Suicide Squad movie. As The Who once said, we won’t get fooled again. Yet if you’re willing to go along with something that is boldly bizarre and quirky, you’ll want to trust Gunn on this one. He’s gone that Marvel touch, and it’s a winner.