The Suicide Squad
by Hope Madden
What, did you think Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, glorious goddess that you know she is) only did that supervillain black ops thing that one time? No. Don’t fix what ain’t broke—she has access to expendable bad guys and lots of very sticky situations to deal with.
Now is just the time for another Suicide Squad.
Actually, writer/director James Gunn’s clear purpose is to fix what David Ayer broke last time. And what did he break? An exceptional idea that rid us of those tedious superheroes and gave us an adventure strewn with the far more colorful characters: the bad guys.
How did he fix it? Step 1: an R rating. He’s not kidding, either. If you only know Gunn from his family-friendly Guardians of the Galaxy adventures, then you may not expect quite this much carnage. If, however, you know him from his early Troma work or his sublime creature feature Slither, then you might have a sense of what’s in store.
Also fixed—the cast! Bring back the good ones (Ms. Davis, Margot Robbie), add exceptional new faces (Idris Elba, John Cena), pepper in Gunn-esque cameos (Michael Rooker Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, Lloyd Kaufman), and voila! Joel Kinnaman’s back, too, and he has to be elated that his character gets to have a personality this time around.
The very James Gunn soundtrack delivers from the opening seconds through the closing credits and brings with it a wrong-headed sense of fun that pervades the entire effort. Gunn’s writing is gawdy, bedazzled, viscera-spattered glee, but there’s a darkness along with it that suggests he understands better than most the ugliness of these characters and their assignment.
Robbie’s Harley Quinn steals scenes, as is her way. Cena’s true talent shines brightest when he’s put in the position to be the butt of jokes, and as such, his Peacemaker gets off a lot of great lines. Elba is the solid skeleton to hang all this nuttiness on.
Not everything works, though. Stallone’s shark man feels like little more than this film’s version of Groot, only with less purpose. There’s a rat subplot that goes nowhere, and the film is as leaden with daddy issues as every comic book movie in history.
But the way Gunn handles the mommy issues that plague Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian, unnerving as ever) is nothing less than inspired.
Is The Suicide Squad a cinematic masterpiece? It is not. It is, however, a bloody, irreverent good time.