Some time after the events of Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey, Amanda Waller has a new mission for her misfit band of villains. A coup has recently taken place in a small Central American country. Unfortunately, the country has possession of an extraterrestrial weapon of mass destruction and the new president has a distinctly anti-American attitude.
Waller wants Task Force X to infiltrate the country, find the super-villain known as Thinker, and use him to break into the alien research facility and destroy the weapon.
Amanda once again assembles a team led by Colonel Rick Flag to execute the mission. The team includes Bloodsport (an assassin who never misses), Polka-Dot Man (a villain who shoots colorful polka dots), Peacemaker (a patriotic and hyper-violent vigilante), Ratcatcher 2 (a woman who controls rats), and King Shark (a not-so-bright half-man / half-shark). They are joined by Task Force X veterans Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang.
But as the villains make their way into the country, things quickly go awry. They must again rely on each other to accomplish their mission and survive. But who can trust a supervillain?
During the grand finale of The Suicide Squad, I stopped for a moment and thought, “I can’t believe I’m actually seeing this on the big screen.” First off, it was insane. Just bizarre, bonkers insane. Second, I can’t believe Warner Bros. bought the pitch for it and shelled out the cash to film it. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during the pitch meeting for it.
Third, it realized all the bizarre lunacy of the comics from the ’50s and ’60s that people don’t appreciate now in a world of reality based comic books. If you’re at all familiar with it, you know there’s some pretty strange stuff out there. And yet there it was in all its freaky glory on the big screen. And I was wholeheartedly bought into it and loving it.
The Suicide Squad is a full realization of James Gunn‘s bizarre imagination. He has developed a brand for himself and it is working. Gunn is known for his twisted sense of humor, and it feels like that humor is fully unleashed here. He is also known for his films having heart and themes of family and that is not only here, but believable as well. If you’re a James Gunn fan, The Suicide Squad will only reinforce that while likely winning him some new fans.
James Gunn is known for one other thing and that’s his talent for writing for an ensemble cast. He’s surprisingly able to give every character a moment of humor and heart no matter how minor they are. Gunn does that quite well in The Suicide Squad.
The film starts out with a very large number of supervillains pulled from the bizarre array of characters from the DC Comics. You have a guy who throws polka dots. There’s a guy that detaches his arms. There’s a giant rodent. The silly list goes on and on. Each of them is given a moment to share their background, a moment to give you a laugh, and then, for many of them, a spectacular death. Gunn puts the ‘Suicide’ in The Suicide Squad and wastes no time racking up a huge body count with his rogues gallery. And you may be surprised at who lives and who dies by the end. Nobody is safe.
Among the large cast of characters, there are some distinct favorites. While I was disappointed that Will Smith did not return as Deadshot, Idris Elba is a welcome addition as Bloodsport (though, strangely, the characters of Bloodsport and Deadshot are almost identical). I’m a big fan of Elba so it was great fun to see him demonstrate his full range as an actor. He is driven insane by the bizarre cast of loser villains he is saddled with. He is torn by his fractured relationship with his daughter. And he eventually grows by the end to become the leader that he might have been under other circumstances. Elba sells it well every step of the way. This is one of my favorite Idris Elba performances.
Of course Margot Robbie is one of the main characters as Harley Quinn. While we’ve seen her establish Harley in two previous films, it’s interesting to see her continue with the character under James Gunn’s writing and direction. His insane style suits the character well and Robbie makes the most of it. I will say that about halfway through the film Harley was glaringly absent from the story. However, she eventually gets her share of the spotlight and makes the most of it.
We see the usual doses of humor and comedic action with the character, but Robbie and Gunn don’t neglect the fact that she’s a homicidal maniac and a product of the Joker’s abuse. She’s like a cat that you’re petting. Just when you think she’s warming up to you, she bites and claws and draws blood. It keeps her character interesting.
Among the other main characters, there are some surprising standouts. David Dastmalchian has a breakout performance as Polka-Dot Man (Let that sentence sink in for a moment.) He has a unique and surprising background and there’s a running gag about his bad relationship with his mother that leads to one of the most insane and hilarious movie moments in recent history.
Daniela Melchior also has a great performance as Ratcatcher 2. Surprisingly, she ends up being the glue that holds the team together and her story provides the heart needed to transform them from villains to heroes. I had never heard of Melchior before but she’ll be an actress to watch after this role. Sylvester Stallone is also a lot of fun as King Shark. He’s a big, moronic, violent character but he ends up being an audience favorite by the end. I’ll also add that it’s great to see Viola Davis return as Amanda Waller. Gunn picks up the darker side of her character and runs with it. By the end of The Suicide Squad she becomes completely unhinged and you start to realize she may be the most dangerous character on the screen. It’s a fun transformation to see and Davis makes the most of it.
If you’ve seen the promotions for The Suicide Squad, then you know that Starro is one of the big threats of the film. He is a giant alien starfish and is arguably one of the silliest characters ever created by DC. James Gunn not only embraces the silliness of the character, but he digs in and finds the horror of the character as well.
As hapless citizens have stupid looking starfish slapped on their faces by Starro, they become walking corpses and avatars for the villainous alien. They turn the movie into a kind of zombie film and take the utterly stupid concept into one you’re totally on board for. It’s a remarkable accomplishment from Gunn and a gamble that pays off for him. He’ll probably have a license to do whatever he wants with comic movies after this. No pitch will be too silly anymore.
If you’re a fan of bonus scenes, you’re in luck. There’s a mid-credits scene and an end credits scene, so stick around once the movie is over. Also look for a cameo by Suicide Squad writer John Ostrander in the opening montage.
While a lot of people are going to compare The Suicide Squad to Suicide Squad, I think you have to give the predecessor its due. It laid the foundation and casting for this film which Gunn was able to take the ball and run with. I enjoyed them both, but this film definitely built on the strengths of the first film while avoiding the pitfalls.
As much as I enjoyed The Suicide Squad, it’s not perfect. First off, it follows the basic plot of Suicide Squad very closely. The core story is almost the same with just the characters switched out. And as much as I like James Gunn, I do recognize that he’s following a formula. King Shark is cut from the same cloth as Groot. He uses a lot of classic rock and pop songs.
The tone and story arc of the characters is very similar to that of Guardians of the Galaxy. If he’s not careful, James is going to get stuck in a rut. But for now, it’s working and is fun though I recognize it’s not as groundbreaking as his earlier work.
While James Gunn goes all out to play with crazy stuff, there are a few times it doesn’t work. There’s a whole weird scene with King Shark and some strange little jellyfish that kind of leaves you saying, “Well what was the point of that?” Still, I’d rather Gunn give it a shot and occasionally miss than never take the shot at all. He hits the target more often than not.
Looking back, The Suicide Squad is my favorite movie of the year. It’s funny, silly, heartfelt and well worth seeing on the big screen.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD REVIEW SCORE: 8.5/10
Warner Bros. Pictures will release The Suicide Squad in theaters and on IMAX on Thursday, August 5. The film be available on HBO Max (the ad-free plan) for 31 days from theatrical release.
The Suicide Squad is rated R for strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity.