Whenever we get something like this I’m always confused, at least on a surface level. Suicide Squad (2016), directed by David Ayer, was one of the absolute worst films I’ve ever sat through. Nothing against some of the guy’s other work, as I really enjoy End of Watch (2012) and Fury (2014), but few things have been as depressingly empty of life and enjoyment as a film about a bunch of horny villains working for the shiftiest figure in the American government.
James Gunn has solved a lot of problems for me with his sequel, The Suicide Squad. Gone are the dreary gray colors and overly edgy performances (actually, removing Jared Leto from the DCEU altogether has now produced two solid films that contain Harley Quinn), the nonsensical editing, and the half-assed attempt to copy the success of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). Instead, they straight-up just hired the director of that film and had him bring his particular touch to this. It feels a lot like those colorful, delightful entries into another cinematic universe, and with a leap to the R-rating we’ve gotten a film about villains that outright relishes its depravity.
Bloodsport (Idris Elba) is wasting his days away in Belle Reeve, incarcerated for putting Superman in the ICU with a Kryptonite bullet. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the true villain of DC’s cinematic universe, appears and threatens to have his daughter incarcerated as an adult if he doesn’t agree to lead a team of villains to Latin America and help cover up an experimental mistake the American government has made. Together with sleepy Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), the alt-right jingoistic Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), King Shark (Steve Agee and Sylvester Stallone), and popular DC character Harley Quinn (Margo Robbie), he’ll team up with American military pretty-boy Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to stop Project Starfish. Aiming to kidnap The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) and infiltrate the secret laboratory codenamed Jötunheim, they’ll take on everyone from Banana Republic soldiers to the American government and even an extraterrestrial starfish god while trying to achieve a blatantly pyrrhic victory.
Something about athe ridiculousness of the paragraph you’ve just read should be off-putting, but when you go with the fact that these are all C-list characters and that the true takeaway is a good time we all get a bit happier. The Suicide Squad is a beautifully shot, ugly as hell little movie; a film that manages to contain as much love and kindness as it does blood and viscera. King Shark has a taste for human flesh, but his bond with the first person to be kind with him is a tie that will make the heart of the entire film. There’s a rat that waves hellp to people and brings them colorful leaves as gifts. Bloodsport and Peacemaker have a dick-measuring contest. What more do you want?
Some of the true delights are in how little any of these people matter. Harley Quinn is the only one guaranteed to survive, but the rest are on the chopping block and could go at any time. Some of the deaths are hilarious, most of them are downright disgusting, and somehow they’re mostly pretty to look at. Gunn has always had an eye for nihilistic humor and bright colors, but when one of those colors can be blood-red he gets excited and flings it at the screen in gleefully tossed buckets. This isn’t for the kids, and it might not be for many adults, but it’s definitely going to have an eye on those that want a less child-oriented fare. Disney’s MCU may have a stranglehold on the family movie nights, but DC has shown that they’re willing to court the adults in the audience that A) don’t have kids or B) want a night away from them.
Soundtracks like this one leave me baffled. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good time, but some part of me wonders if James Gunn and Quentin Tarantino are in a karaoke bar somewhere, belting out obscure tunes and fighting over who has the better Spotify playlist. It’s a delightful, punk-rock oriented set of music that manages to be as memorable as each character (and often just as briefly enjoyed). When I look back on The Suicide Squad I plan on doing so via the hilariously on-the-nose needle drops.
Don’t bring the kids to this one, at least not if they haven’t had playfully fake violence explained to them. This isn’t even a date movie, instead existing in that gray are a between geek paradise and drunken fratboy gross-out party. It’s dirty, mean, absolutely doesn’t care about it’s characters in a way that feels loving and sincere.
This film also stars the following actors, most in hilarious ways and with no real consequence:
- Nathan Fillion
- Taika Waititi
- Alice Braga
- Jai Courtney
- Michael Rooker
- Pete Davidson
- Dee Bradley Baker
- Sean Gunn
- Flula Borg
The Suicide Squad is currently in theatres and streaming on HBO Max.