Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Suicide Squad

Writer/director James Gunn's sequel to 2016's Suicide Squad is bonkers. If Legends of Tomorrow ever makes it to the big screen, I'd expect it would look something like this (with a far smaller body count, to be sure). Bringing back a handful of the stars from the first film, with some notable absences, the story this time follows a more straightforward Task Force X plot of the criminals turned black ops soldiers by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sent overseas to a foreign country to cause some mayhem under the radar. Oh, and then the movie throws in Starro. Starro!? Did I mention this movie is bonkers?

Shaking things up, Gunn's script doesn't always follow a straight narrative structure breaking off for introductions of various characters (and damn are there a ton of those!) or separate vignettes catching up with what other characters have been up to while the main storyline keeps rolling along. While all of these have their own payoff, not all work equally as well. The extended Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) thread does give Robbie something to do in the first-half of the film but also kills some of the bat-shit crazy momentum the movie had built up until that point.

Without Deadshot, the movie needs two professional killers to fill that role who, as one of them mentions, "do basically the same thing." And so we get Idris Elba as the super-serious Bloodsport and wrestler John Cena as the goofy, but equally dangerous, Peacemaker. The pair's one-upmanship during an early scene taking out soldiers is one of the best of the film. Other notable additions are Sylvester Stallone voicing the CGI King Shark (who turns out to be a big improvement over Killer Croc from the previous film), Daniela Melchior as Rat Catcher 2 (providing the heart for the Squad while Harley is elsewhere), and David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man. The fact that they refer to her as "Rat Catcher 2," instead of just the new Rat Catcher, is the kind of offbeat inside joke that true comic fans are bound to appreciate.

Joel Kinnaman returns as Rick Flag. I don't know that he's any better here than the first film, but at least he's not saddled with an awkward love story this time around (but is it just me or does he seem to be carrying a torch for Harley?). Peter Capaldi chews all the scenery he can find as the evil scientist behind the Starro project. And, not to be overlooked, is Waller's staff who reminded me a bit of the office workers from The Cabin in the Woods taking small pleasures where they can find them by betting on the survivability of various Squad members. Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Flula Borg and a CGI Sean Gunn all get various levels of screentime as they look to steal some scenes. There are of course many, many more characters here, but as a Suicide Squad film you know most of the cast is simply fodder for what's to come.

While I don't think it has the heart of Guardians of the Galaxy, given its characters and subject matter that's no real surprise, Gunn does find a way to tap into these characters and provide a bloody good time at the movies. And did I mention the movie has an extraterrestrial starfish in its back pocket to release in the final act as The Suicide Squad turns into a kaiju film? Bonkers. Starro on film is an amazing sight to behold that I don't know could have been achieved in any other live-action film. The Suicide Squad isn't a great movie, it's a bit uneven at times and has some pacing issues, but it is an undeniably a good movie with some great moments. And for that, the unapologetically violent The Suicide Squad may just be the summer movie we've been waiting two years for.

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