Will The Suicide Squad do for rats what 101 Dalmatians did for spotted dogs? Rats have a bad rap but they’re actually smart, sort of cute, and love to cuddle. And, as seen in The Suicide Squad, they can be quite heroic. #TeamRats
Granted, kicking off a review of The Suicide Squad with a paragraph on a rodent is a weird choice. But embracing the weird is key to enjoying James Gunn’s gory, expletive-filled, hilariously twisted take on DC Comics’ fictional antihero team.
The Suicide Squad assembles in much the same way as the group did in 2016. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) selects a group of super-villain convicts with special skills, injects them with a chip that can literally blow their minds, dubs them Task Force X, and sends them off on a mission with the promise of knocking 10 years off their sentences if they survive.
Savant (Michael Rooker, James Gunn’s good luck charm) has the honor of being the first of the dozen+ players introduced. Savant’s highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat and a beast at handball. Blackguard (Pete Davidson) has super strength; T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion, another frequent James Gunn collaborator) can send his arms into a fight without his body; Mongal (Mayling Ng) is an alien with anger issues; and Javelin’s (Fiula Borg) name pretty much describes his particular talent. (Borg insists Javelin’s second superpower is his lovemaking skills.) Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), the sole member of the squad who doesn’t care if he survives, tosses dots of death as a form of therapy to deal with his mommy issues.
Bloodsport (Idris Elba) is the most reluctant member of the squad, forced into joining only after Amanda Waller threatens his daughter with life in prison. The tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners killer who never misses his target has his title as the most lethal assassin challenged by Peacemaker (John Cena), a muscle-bound douchebag version of Captain America with a broken moral compass.
Returning players include everyone’s favorite squad member, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Harley’s freed to unleash mayhem as a more fully evolved badass than in previous films. She’s also allowed to let her emotions and wicked sense of humor show more so this time around. Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) returns as the wrangler of the squad, a dedicated military man forced into keeping this gang of lethal lunatics in line. And Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) comes out to play once again, complete with his infectious gold-toothed grin and new and improved versions of his weapon of choice.
Among the squad members representing the animal side of supervillains is King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), the son of a shark god who’s on the slow side, has trouble making friends (because he eats them), and will absolutely steal your heart with his innocence and basic goodness (if you can overlook the eating people for lunch part). Think big, dumb, goofy dog but with razor sharp teeth.
There’s also a bizarre hairy thing that’s called Weasel (Sean Gunn) but could quite possibly be a werewolf. And last but not least, there’s Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and her trusty companion, Sebastian the rat. Ratcatcher 2’s capable of controlling rats, a superpower that comes in handy in nearly every environment and geographic location. She’s also capable of pulling the protective instincts out of Bloodsport.
Once assembled, Task Force X is sent off to the island of Corto Maltese to infiltrate and destroy Project Starfish, a super-secret operation under the control of Thinker (Peter Capaldi) and Corto Maltese’s corrupt government. Chaos ensues, bodies are ripped apart/blown up/squashed/otherwise obliterated, and sides are taken as two jam-packed, gloriously deranged, explosive hours of entertainment pass by on screen.
Everything fans and critics (and critics who are fans) hated about the 2016 adaptation has been fixed in Warner Bros. Pictures’ R-rated 2021 release. My review of the 2016 film warned moviegoers to save their time and money by avoiding the film and instead just watching the trailers. The exact opposite can be said about the newest take. Go all in on this one and see it on the largest screen possible while keeping safe, of course.
The Suicide Squad outdoes Deadpool 2 and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2 in sheer over-the-top explosive action and adult jokes that hit their marks. It sounds cliché but The Suicide Squad is exactly what we need at the moment. Free to let loose, Gunn makes full use of the film’s R rating and ups the bar on comic book-inspired insanity.
The chemistry between the actors playing the assorted supervillains is better than anything we’ve seen in recent films of this genre. It’s difficult to decide which of the pairings winds up with the best lines, but I’m going with the “who’s got the biggest one” battle between Bloodsport and Peacemaker. Bloodsport’s lines bite harder but Peacemaker’s warped interpretation of righteousness gives John Cena the chance to play the dude who doesn’t get that he’s the butt of the joke.
Every delicious line of dialogue Margot Robbie delivers as Harley perfectly fits the character, and Harley’s costumes are infinitely better in The Suicide Squad than her previous onscreen apparel. Gunn and Robbie incorporate more levels and even – in a strange and unexpected way – more nuance to her madness.
The action scenes are explosive, ultra-violent, and gleefully absurd. From the opening kill, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad embraces anarchy and signals nothing and no one is safe. That opening scene and the first action sequence also send a warning to the audience not to get overly connected with any one character as he/she/it is likely to bite the dust before the credits roll. (And speaking of the credits, yes, there is an extra scene worth waiting around for.)
Writer/director James Gunn’s extensive knowledge of the source material is evident in every line, and he maintains a firm grip on the tone throughout. If ball juggling were an Olympic sport, Gunn would nab the gold for being able to keep so many characters actively involved and the audience engaged during the film’s swift two-hour and 12 minutes.
The best thing about The Suicide Squad…it’ll wipe away the bad taste left lingering from the 2016 film.
MPAA Rating: R for drug use, brief graphic nudity, language throughout, some sexual references, and strong violence and gore
Release Date: August 6, 2021
Running Time: 2 hours 12 minutes