Published on August 6th, 2021 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad gets another chance with James Gunn directing; it’s a loud, unhinged movie that’s not without its faults, but it’s a lot of fun.
It’s been quite a mess, getting to this iteration of the DC Comics anti-superhero team, The Suicide Squad.
David Ayer’s first swing was mostly an embarrassing misfire, followed by incriminations in the nerd press about the studio ruining his vision. Time will tell if we see an Ayer cut as we did with Synder’s Justice League. I for one would be more interested to see Ayer’s version than I was to see Justice League’s Director’s Cut.
Concurrently, indie director James Gunn was finally being recognized in the mainstream for his talent after making a couple of clever, quirky Guardians of the Galaxy movies for the MCU, only to become a victim of cancel culture for comments he made on Twitter (and apologized for) over a decade ago. He was fired from Marvel and ultimately landed at DC and this film.
DC has allowed him a lot of leeway, going against Disney’s tight control, which has seen a number of directors leave projects for franchises like Marvel and Star Wars. This space to create results in an R-rating and letting Gunn fly free for better or worse. And while DC movies have their fans, I’m not generally one of them. They really need a shot of credibility in their film universe.
It’s not without its issues, but The Suicide Squad mostly delivers. After a group of us saw the film, my friend Hank Cruise from Cruise/Fisher Pop Culture Reviews (check ‘em out on Insta!) said, “This is probably the best movie the DCEU has made.” He meant, in their current film universe, so not including Nolan or Burton films, etc. I 100% agree with him.
They didn’t dunk the first movie and start again — many of the same actors and characters are back. Viola Davis rocks it as hardass Amanda Waller, who commissions a new team of criminals turned superheroes, to fight off a threat that could be catastrophic for the world. I don’t want to say too much more at the risk of spoiling anything. The trailers actually did a decent job of hiding some surprises and plot points.
As you can imagine, with Gunn untethered, the movie gets pretty nuts. It’s chock full of insane violence and even some gore that might be more at home in a Troma film instead of a superhero movie (there’s actually a reference to The Toxic Avenger and Gunn came up through Troma, so it’s not surprising, though it may throw some people expecting good, clean fun). It’s also well-staged and directed and Gunn makes a lot of really visually interesting choices, both practical and surreal.
There’s also plenty of humour, though how much you like it may depend on your disposition. It’s at the level of a 12-year-old’s mentality. I thought it worked though, for a few reasons. Story-wise, they are a bunch of emotionally arrested criminals forced to work together. They have petty rivalries and emotional issues and they can’t articulate these things well, which results in name-calling and other immature behaviour.
Outside the story, this is one of those movies kids will love to watch at sleepovers after the parents have gone to bed. People get ripped in half and everyone’s cracking immature sex and poop jokes. The R-rating is supposed to mean it’s an adult film, but it’s not. This feels perfectly in the zone of what I loved to watch as a kid when Mom and Dad weren’t looking.
Lastly, we’ve become so Victorian in our attitudes about everything, that most people are too afraid to move. While I absolutely think political correctness has a place in our culture, I also think that we should be free to let loose the 12-year-olds with questionable tastes within ourselves. Gunn knows this better than anyone and he’s the guy to make that happen. (And there’s no punching down or racism, etc, in the humour; just good,
clean dirty fun).
On the flipside of that though, the humour and unhinged nature of The Suicide Squad contribute to it having a harder time finding balance. There really is no story to speak of — team gets assembled, team goes after bad guys. And there’s not much character development. Sure, they give you some backgrounds to make a few characters sympathetic, but all of this takes a backseat to the deafening, deranged tone of the film. There are really no stakes in the film to create tension or deeper emotion. All of this is fine, but it holds the movie back from true greatness. Guardians of the Galaxy had the goofiness, but also characters that you grew to care about, which created stakes.
The actors make up for a lot of what isn’t on the page in the script; Margo Robbie is always a blast as Harley Quinn and she has a couple of great scenes, though she also gets lost in the noise a bit. Character actor David Dastmalchian brings life to Polka-dot Man (can’t wait to see him in Dune). Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher II is the kind heart of the film. Oddly enough, King Shark (voiced by Stallone basically playing himself) is one of the most empathetic characters in on display. Idris Elba is good as Bloodsport, the leader of the team, though he and Joel Kinnaman’s Colonel Rick Flag are sort of redundant.
Your tastes are going to dictate a lot of how you feel about this movie. Even with the faults I mention, I still found it to be an entertaining popcorn movie. I’d have liked to see more story and characterization, but I’m an audience member that doesn’t mind being pelted with immature jokes and sprayed with enough blood to stage a GWAR show. The tone of the Suicide Squad comics wasn’t quite like this, but it was always a black sheep of a superhero team, so it deserves a movie adaptation that honours that. Gunn is the right black sheep to give it to us.