The Suicide Squad - Review
I'm a sucker for that retro movie poster style
Chances are you already know a fair bit about ‘The Suicide Squad’ – being the adventures of a team of Z-list supervillains coerced into a secret black ops outfit. After all, David Ayer directed more or less the same movie in 2016. The industry appears to have found itself at the point where major Hollywood studios like Warner Bros can take a recent movie that didn’t work* and say… fuck it, just make it again. Not a sequel. Not a prequel. Not even a ‘re-imagining.’ Nope, an entirely new movie with essentially the same ingredients. This isn’t a criticism – The Suicide Squad is tremendous fun – but it’s interesting. I look forward to other movies that could-have-done-better to get similar treatment.
Here's Will Smith at the screening of the first movie
Anyhow, onto The Suicide Squad', which has the advantage of not featuring Cara Delevingne or Jared Leto (like the first movie). And it pains me to say it, Will Smith, of whom I’m usually a fan. Smith took himself terribly seriously as super-assassin Deadshot, allegedly using his superstar heft to interfere with the plot and script. And seriousness, or a complete lack of it, is where director James ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Gunn nails ‘The Suicide Squad’.
Riding on the coattails of ‘Deadpool’ and ‘The Boys’, franchises that celebrate the intrinsic silliness of superheroes, Gunn reimagines 'Suicide Squad' as a hyperviolent, gonzo, action-comedy. For starters, the supervillains aren’t super. In fact, most of them are crap. TDK, (The Detachable Kid), has the ability to make his arms fly off like a broken action figure. The Javelin has, er, a javelin (possibly a riff on William H. Macy’s ‘Shoveller’ from 1999’s ‘Mystery Men’, another superhero comedy). And ‘Weasel’ is just a creepy-looking weasel dude with Steve Buscemi eyes. Sent on a suicide mission, they’re fed into a meatgrinder beach assault that plays like a spoof of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ with spandex.
Yes, one squad member's 'superpower' involves being able to throw boomerangs
Talking of war movies, Gunn says he was inspired by 'The Dirty Dozen', 'Kelly’s Heroes' and 'Where Eagles Dare'. He’s of my generation, and these movies are part of our cultural source code… yet I don’t really see it myself. Apart from, of course, The Dirty Dozen where convicts are sent on a behind-the-lines suicide mission. But the 'Dirty Dozen' is relentlessly nihilistic, not goofy, so I’d say 'The Suicide Squad' has more of a 'Kelly’s Heroes' vibe. Sadly, there are no tanks.
Back to the movie, where the primary team members are Bloodsport (Idris Elba, who I'm anointing the 21st Century’s Michael Caine, playing the part like Idris Elba with a hangover), Peacemaker (John Cena, playing the part for ‘Team America’ style laughs), Polka Dot man (David Dastmalchian, who you want to hug and make better) and Rat Catcher 2 (Daniela Melchior - ditto). Oh, and King Shark, a bipedal monosyllabic shark monster (voiced by Sylvester Stallone – at any moment you expect him to cry ‘Adrienne!’). Inevitably, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) appears, as does Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), the army guy meant to be in charge. Meanwhile, back at headquarters, the ruthless Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) tries to keep her wayward operatives on track, despite her goofy ops room team. The backroom staff’s antics are a nod to Joss Weedon’s douchebag crew in ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, which I won’t spoil here – but the vibe is similar.
King Shark and Peter Capaldi as The Thinker
The plot is pretty much irrelevant; the team infiltrate a tropical island to destroy a secret weapons program. This involves Harley Quinn getting romantically involved with a despotic General, leading to a Disneyfied action sequence, a clever way of showing what’s going on inside the psychotic Harley’s head. And, in a loving nod to ‘Predator,’ Peacemaker and Bloodsport silently assassinate rebels in a jungle camp, competing to see who can be most stealthy. And Polka Dot man – who suffers from serious Mummy Issues – kills people by firing a multicoloured spray of what look like M&Ms… until they turn into plasma. King Shark simply rips people to shreds for ‘num-nums’ (he’s always hungry) and Rat Catcher 2 has the power to summon hordes of hungry rodents. The team bond as they rampage across the island, finally intercepting an evil genius known ‘The Thinker’ (played by Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker with a shitload of sparkplugs sticking out of his head). Oh, and there’s a giant intergalactic starfish called ‘Starro the Conqueror’. Starro is more or less the Marshmallow Man from ‘Ghostbusters’ but gorier, with Gunn going to town by giving us a breathtakingly fun final battle / action sequence that’s every bit as satisfying as something you might find in an ‘Avengers’ movie.
My verdict? A solid 4/5. Great cast, oodles of hyperviolent silliness and engaging characters. I can imagine watching it again quite happily.
* Suicide Squad did work; it turned a healthy profit, but suffered from a troubled production history and poor reviews - it's not a terrible movie... but it's not great either