The Suicide Squad Synopsis: Supervillains Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena) and a collection of nutty cons at Belle Reve prison join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X as they are dropped off at the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.
As a byproduct of studio meddling and bizarre edits, 2016’s Suicide Squad marked a new low for DC. The film’s edgy twist on superheroes ‘ typical nobility floundered despite the impressive talent involved. While Warner Brothers raked in profits, the film’s creative failure served as a necessary lesson in trusting their singular filmmakers (WB and DC made the same mistake a year later with Justice League).
DC’s woeful lows have helped spur a new era of creative freedom for the once stagnant brand. Entrusting skilled filmmakers like James Wan, David F. Sandberg, and Cathy Yan helped create some of the genre’s best entries of late (I don’t care what the box office says, Birds of Prey is an utter delight). That trend continues with Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn’s verbosely violent The Suicide Squad. Gunn’s grunge and fittingly vulgar vision reaches impressive heights in blockbuster entertainment.
Most know Gunn for the playful humor and jukebox tracks behind Guardians of the Galaxy. With The Suicide Squad, Gunn encompasses a similar sensibility, but this time it’s through the lens of the director’s Troma, B-movie roots. Gunn revels in the bloody carnage his antagonistic characters create, pushing the boundaries with a slew of gratuitous dismemberments and creatively crafted murders. It won’t be for everyone’s taste necessarily. However, fans of gnarly genre pictures like myself will adore seeing the genre’s twisted sensibility implemented into the grand scale of big-budget filmmaking. The edgy filmmaking also makes an ideal match for the character’s sinister undertones, with the film never sanitizing their inherent anti-hero qualities.
The Suicide Squad is a night and day improvement from its predecessor, particularly in terms of narrative. Instead of jampacking characters and ideas, Gunn’s screenplay finds remarkable clarity in its balance and development. The close-knit team all earn a chance to steal the show with their humorous personalities, while the narrative’s thematic undertones offer a welcomed change from the genre’s straightforward formula. Most of all, Gunn continues to display remarkable affection for his oddball characters. The infusion of intimate, character-driven moments works wonders in humanizing the team as more than a bunch of boisterous personalities.
Gunn’s assured material allows the skilled cast to take off. Idris Elba offers one of his best performances to date as the cocksure Bloodsport, possessing his usual dynamic swagger before chipping away at the character’s tough-guy facade. John Cena’s unwavering sincerity makes Peacemaker a compelling presence. His ability to switch between “the butt of the joke” stupidity and darkly unnerving tendencies keeps viewers on their toes. Margot Robbie steals the show again as the wonderfully manic Harley Quinn, while newcomers Daniela Melchior and David Dastmalchian shine as eccentric heroes.
I had a blast throughout The Suicide Squad, but the film still possesses some notable inconsistencies. Gunn’s go-for-broke tendencies don’t always land, with some of his vulgar pratfalls and overbaked stylistic choices missing their intended spark. I also wish the writer/director did more to make his intriguing thematic angle work. The film’s ruminations on American Imperialism and the needless casualties left behind in its wake are too blunt to leave a lasting impact.
Every risk may not land, but Gunn’s endearing vision is still a feast to behold. The Suicide Squad serves as a boundary-pushing switch up from the superhero’s conformed image.
The Suicide Squad is now playing in theaters and on HBO Max.
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