Forget the studio-mandated mess of 2016, THIS is how The Suicide Squad film should be!
It’s time for Carl to cast his eye over James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. But can the Guardians of the Galaxy director deliver a noteworthy addition to the DC Universe?
Those of us over a certain age will remember the 1967 World War II movie ‘The Dirty Dozen.’ The film told the story of a group of disgraced American soldiers who are condemned to death or sentenced to long years in prison. They are released and brought together for what is in essence, a suicide mission just before D-Day. By the climax, most have been killed with only a few surviving.
James Gunn plays homage to the film with his soft DC reboot ‘The Suicide Squad’. The storyline is nearly almost the same. And by the end credits, only a handful of the characters survive. Only this time, it has FAR more blood, gore, and violence. It also contains far more humor than you would think. But is it any good? Can it sweep away the remnants of the ill-fated 2016 original film?
The answer is a massive YES! ‘The Suicide Squad’ is destined to be THE film of the summer. It is full to the brim of great ideas, terrific characters; great storytelling, brilliant performances, and a killer soundtrack to boot. THIS is what we’ve been waiting for. A completely nuts, blood-soaked rollercoaster ride of the highest order. People may ask does it earn its R rating? Yes, it does…and then some. It makes the rest of the DC universe look like Disney animated flicks. Forget the violence in ‘Joker‘, this is way more intense. Writer/ director James Gunn has crafted a film like no other. The DC universe will go back to being PG-13 after this. More’s the pity. It’ll be hard to top this in every sense.
TASK FORCE X
The film starts pretty low-key. We open on the character of Savant (Michael Rooker) as he sits in a small prison exercise yard. Across the walls are taped crosses. We wonder why. Savant is bouncing a small ball against the floor when suddenly, he throws it against the wall; making it bounce off and hit several of the crosses before catching it once again. A small, harmless bird flies down into the yard and proceeds to go towards a corner where it can eat some food.
Savant watches it briefly before going back into his vacant stare. He wouldn’t, would he? What do you think? Soon, Savant’s ball rolls back to him where he proceeds to wipe the bird’s blood off onto his trouser leg. He is then called back into the facility where he meets with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, completely slimy in a wonderful performance). And Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, excellent as always).
Savant has an explosive device implanted into the base of his skull before meeting up with the rest of ‘Task Force X’; for a mission to destroy Jotunheim, a Nazi-era prison, and laboratory located on the South American island nation of Corto Maltese. His team comprises himself, Flag, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), T.D.K (Nathan Fillion); Blackguard (Pete Davidson); Weasel (Sean Gunn); Javelin (Flula Borg), and Mongal (Mayling Ng).
Just as they are about to take off, Flag announces they are awaiting the arrival of one more team member. Of course, it is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie in yet another out-of-this-world performance). Harley enters with a massive smile, a cheery wave, and a show of friendliness. Boomerang asks her what is she doing back in prison to which Harley replies she robbed a bank by accident.
The team is dropped into the sea just off of a beach. But one member dies before even getting there (it is hilarious). Once there, the team finds out they have been betrayed. Not willing to just simply surrender, the team take the battle to the opposing forces; with disastrous results which I will not spoil for you. However, it is soon revealed that the team is merely a distraction so that the REAL team can invade the island undetected.
This second team comprises Bloodsport (Idris Elba, brilliant), The Peacemaker (John Cena, a revelation). Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian, terrific); King Shark (Steve Agee as his body, Sylvester Stallone as his voice). And Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior, who steals the film). Bloodsport and The Peacemaker don’t like each other, and both think they are the better killer. This leads to some hilarious banter between the pair. But keep your ears open. One of their conversations will come into play later in the film and is a vital plot point.
Thinking Flag has been captured and is being held in a jungle camp, the team; after almost losing Ratcatcher 2 to King Shark’s appetite, decides to go and rescue him. This leads to one of the most violent sequences in the film. But it is also one of the funniest. Without giving anything away, watching Bloodsport and Peacemaker argue over who is better while murdering without thought is both stomach-churning and pants wetting funny.
But they discover that Flag isn’t a captive. He is being aided by a rebel faction known as The Freedom Fighters; led by Sol Soria (Alice Braga, slightly wasted). The team has to make a plan to kidnap the hyper-intelligent metahuman, The Thinker (Peter Capaldi). He has been conducting secret experiments at Jotunheim with an extraterrestrial, Starro The Conqueror. And has been torturing him for years.
But Flag discovers that Harley has been captured. And she is being held by the Corto Maltese dictator Silvio Luna in the presidential palace. Things happen that I won’t reveal. But soon, Harley is interrogated and tortured by Luna’s successor, General Mateo Suarez. Flag and his team plot to free Harley before carrying out the rest of their mission. But of course, Harley has other ideas. She doesn’t need any rescuing, she can do it herself.
In yet another terrific scene, Harley escapes calmly. I say calmly. She simply just walks towards her captors and brutally despatches them. Although not as long as the jail scene in ‘Birds Of Prey’, Margot Robbie once again displays her athletic prowess. And this scene is more violent and brutal than the aforementioned sequence. The team is complete again. They go to Jotunheim to destroy it. Once there, secrets are revealed, the true enemies are unmasked. And it’s a fight to the finish to see who survives and who falls. And it ain’t pretty.
I loved the film. It has everything that I hoped it would have. Yes, there are shock deaths. But that’s the beauty of the film. Ok, so you can’t REALLY believe that a giant starfish with one big eye will go rampaging around. But it’s fun all the same. What surprised me was the fact the film had a lot of heart to it. Will Smith’s character of Deadshot had a backstory in the original ‘Suicide Squad’. Here, so does Idris Elba’s Bloodsport. Their stories are quite similar but not the same. But we understand why these characters do what they do. Their true motivations.
Except for Harley, The Peacemaker, and King Shark, every character has a sad story that has led them to this point. Ratcatcher 2’s for example makes the audience think. To understand her character a lot more. She is the real heart of the film. And it is a truly remarkable performance from Daniela Melchior as Cleo Cazo/ Ratcatcher 2. We WANT to see her survive. We want her to be happy.
King Shark or Nanaue to give him his proper name is the comedy relief. And his character is one of the standouts. We seem to fall in love with him from the second we see him. And he doesn’t stop entertaining us when he’s on-screen. James Gunn pulls out a masterstroke by casting Sylvester Stallone as his voice. For many years, Stallone has been ridiculed for delivering mono speeches. A one-tone, one-worded speech. Here, it not only suits the character right down to the ground; but it’s almost like Stallone is giving the middle finger to his critics.
His delivery of Nanaue’s speech is perfect. And yes, he does get his moments in the spotlight. Again, no spoilers but for the most part, King Shark has a smile on his face. Near the end of the film, he puts on an expression of pure anger and hatred, one that sends chills through the audience.
John Cena as Peacemaker is a revelation. From the moment we first see him, we hate him. We want to see this guy get slaughtered in the worst possible way. And that is due to the way Cena portrays him. He does indeed get moments of comedy. The scene where King Shark almost eats Ratcatcher 2 leads to a hilarious revelation. Cena doesn’t seem to mind being the figure of ridicule in his role. He seems to relish it. The character is a complete scumbag. Cena plays him like an uptight asshole, arrogant; annoying, and someone you’d like to smack in the mouth. But you can’t help liking him just a tiny bit.
John Cena will be reprising the character once again in ‘The Peacemaker’ series that will be released in January. That isn’t a spoiler to the character’s fate by any means. But I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do with the character after his debut in the film. I understand the series is a prequel to the events depicted here. It will be nice to get inside the character. To see what made him the way he is. Peacemaker wants peace by any means necessary. Even if it means killing men, women, and children by the thousands.
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is one character we hate from the start. She is that government employee who is devious and slimy. She doesn’t care for these people. Or any of the people she works with. To her, they are just a tool. A part of the bigger machine. And everyone is expendable. She believes she has the right to kill anyone she sees fit to murder, to achieve the greater goal. Despite all the rest of the villains in the film, she is the biggest villain of them all.
Viola Davis gives yet another fantastic performance. And I can safely say that one part of the film with her character will have the audience cheering. She completely deserves what happens to her in this sequence.
David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man is yet another revelation. He tragically plays the character. But not without humor. Polka-Dot Man doesn’t want to kill or harm anyone. But to accomplish what he needs to do, he visualizes the people he must despatch as the one person he hates the most. His mother. Several scenes use this to great comic effect as we go along. The character is thought of as ‘The dumbest DC character of all time’. By the time the end credits play, Dastmalchian redeems the character into one we want to cheer for. One that we hope will survive the climax. And he does get his chance to shine.
Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag is terrific. Gone is the character we despised in the original movie. Here, we take a shine to him. A liking we never thought was possible. Flag in this film is a true leader, one that actually cares for the team of degenerates he has to work with. And he and Bloodsport develop a camaraderie that we don’t expect. Kinnaman humanizes Flag into someone we cheer for. Someone we put our trust in and follow through the film. And he does indeed have a lighter side to him. The way he reacts to Harley shows that he does care for her, that he is happy she’s by his side again. That he views her as a real friend and someone he can rely on.
But of course, the standout is once again Margot Robbie. We last saw Harley driving away at the end of ‘Birds Of Prey.’ Free and extremely rich. But you can’t hold her for long. And she’s soon back in trouble and back with the squad again. Harley isn’t the main star of the show this time around, despite Ms. Robbie having top-billing. She is a large part of the wheel but not the whole. But the second we see her appear on screen for the first time, we light up. It makes us smile. The banter she shares with various members of the team is quite funny and this time, Harley has really lightened up. However, she remains completely insane!
The escape sequence that features Harley is extremely violent and brutal. Margot Robbie plays her to perfection. Harley guns down many soldiers during the sequence but to her eyes, and the eyes of the audience, every bullet hit is displayed in flowers. We see the death she deals out through her eyes. And although it stuns us a bit, it is terrific. Harley also views Flag as a friend. A real friend. Once she’s escaped from the palace and discovers Flag and the rest coming to rescue her, she is touched. We see her get emotional with Flag. She throws her arms around him, hugging him for all she’s worth. This is a vulnerability that we haven’t seen before. And it is touching to know she does indeed have friends.
The film as a whole is completely entertaining. It is a wild rollercoaster ride that you don’t want to end. Some parts around the midway point start to sag slightly but we are soon back into top gear. The look of the film is exemplary, the set pieces executed to perfection. The score by John Murphy recalls ‘The Dirty Dozen’ in some respects. But that is how it was meant to be. It is a rip-roaring action score that suits the film to a tee. Once again, as he does in the ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy.’ films, James Gunn delivers another mixed tape soundtrack for the ages. Everything about the soundtrack and score accompanies the film perfectly.
The film is over the top when it comes to violence, gore, and strong language. But in some respects, it is designed to shock us. We know going in that not all these characters will survive. But their deaths are nasty, brutal, and designed to make us think. If so and so is killed this early, then no one is safe. However, some of the deaths are accompanied by some great humor. The violence, although it will prove shocking to some, is cartoonish. But it adds to the fun.
The film’s tagline is ‘They’re dying to save the world.’ Believe it as it’s true. But be warned, one of King Shark’s victims in the film will certainly make you wince. This is not a film for the squeamish or the easily offended. If you hate the sight of blood, stay away. That’s the best advice I can give you without going into spoiler territory.
James Gunn has crafted a film that is the perfect summer entertainment. A DC film that is more in line with a war movie. It is violent, gory, shocking but with bags of humor to lighten the tone just enough. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess. I would like to see at least one surviving character get their own spin-off. Something in the way of ‘WandaVision’ or ‘The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.’ I would like to see their journeys continue. But that is for a later date.
Don’t leave the theatre too soon though. There are TWO stingers. The first one comes just as the film ends. The second comes right after the end credits. So, settle back in your seat. Watch the film on the biggest screen you can find. Make sure you have a VERY strong stomach. And enjoy what is, in my eyes, the best film of 2021.
‘The Suicide Squad’ is in theatres around the world now! It will be released in the United States on the 6th of August in theatres and on HBO MAX!
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Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!