The Suicide Squad, written and directed by James Gunn, is everything that its predecessor Suicide Squad (2016) tried to be and so much more.
The 2016 Squad was a jumbled mess, failing to create a coherent story and falling flat in the comedic department.
This version of the squad is much more tightly constructed, not veering off too many side roads and staying focused on the task at hand.
Returnees from the last film, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) all play essentially the same as they did in the first film except for Flag. Kinnaman’s portrayal of Flag in this film is less edgy and serious, which makes him more likeable and fit the more light-hearted style that Gunn goes for here.
Newcomers Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and Nanaue/King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) round out the main squad, and all do a pretty good job. While some may not enjoy seeing Cena in this role, especially after the dumpster fire that was F9, he is well-suited for this role and gives a commendable performance as the uncompromising ultra-patriot that is Peacemaker.
The plot isn’t terribly tricky or nuanced, as it sees the squad sent on a mission to an island country not so dissimilar to Cuba and is tasked with investigating an undercover project that could prove to be deadly not only to the U.S. but also the world. The story doesn’t really take any unexpected turns, but that’s okay, because it doesn’t need too. The second act is a bit slower as compared to the first and final acts, but it’s not a huge issue.
One of the biggest challenges of crafting a multi-superhero (or in this case supervillain I guess) story is providing enough background on the characters that the viewer will be engaged and care about them.
Gunn succeeds in doing so, giving enough knowledge about the main characters to care about them as the film progresses. The development of each character and understanding their motivations is key, which is done soundly.
It’s shot with the style that you would expect from Gunn after seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1&2, but with no restraint on blood and gore utilizing every bit of its R-rating. When I tell you this film is graphic, it’s GRAPHIC. Expect Deadpool-esque kills with the panache of Mortal Kombat fatalities. It’s not for the faint of heart.
The script also benefits from Gunn not needing to censor himself, evidenced by a back-and-forth between Bloodsport and Peacemaker that involves Peacemaker describing in graphic detail what he would do for liberty. It’s hilarious and Cena’s performance is so convincing you tend to believe him. Something you can’t/wouldn’t find in a Marvel film.
There are a few shots throughout the movie that showcase not only the direction of Gunn but also the talent of cinematographer Harry Braham, who worked with Gunn previously on Guardians 2. The opening shot and a fight between Peacemaker and Flag standout.
The action is brutal as mentioned earlier, but is shot precisely, without excessive cutting. One action sequence in particular involving Quinn seems to be from her perspective and the digital effects used in the scene make it far more memorable than it would have been without them.
After a slew of disappointing DC films in recent years, The Suicide Squad is a welcome outlier in its style and substance. If this is a sign of things to come, the future looks bright (and bloody) for the DC Film Universe.