Writer/Director: James Gunn
Production: Atlas Entertainment, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, The Safran Company, Warner Bros.
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Platforms: Theatrical Release (Reviewed)
Release Date: Out Now!
My emotions were conflicted entering The Suicide Squad. On one hand, I’m always excited for a new DC film, but on the other, I haven’t enjoyed the joke-a-minute work of James Gunn, writer and director for this reboot/sequel to 2016 David Ayer film Suicide Squad. Whilst some of those issues persisted, I enjoyed The Suicide Squad more than Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films, due to fantastic action set pieces and a characterful cast.
If unfamiliar, the Suicide Squad are a black ops team of incarcerated supervillains set up by Amanda Waller. Upon success, they get time off their prison sentence, but if they go off course, Waller can stop them via pre-emptively implanted head bombs. The Suicide Squad establishes this expendable feel quickly; the extended intro stinger shows the Squad attacking a Corto Maltese beach, with gruesomely violent results – if you’re squeamish, beware, as the film has a surprising amount of gore and profanity. Included in the vast roster are returning characters such as Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), bolstered by (very) deep cuts including Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian).
Even brief appearances make an impact due to the star-studded cast, with survivors gradually emerging as lead characters – particularly weapons expert Bloodsport (Idris Elba). The beach scene is a microcosm of the plot – which is to say it’s not complex. The Squad are tasked with infiltrating the island and an unknown project; overall, it’s like a fairground ride, with continuous jokes and action doing just enough to mask the linearity.
Indeed, there isn’t much character growth. Harley essentially remains the same as her liberated end-of-Birds of Prey self throughout, and Bloodsport is a blatant replacement for Deadshot from the 2016 film, with near-identical motivations. Beyond the leads, most characters have simple arcs that tend to have a scene for set-up and resolution respectively, with little build-up in between.
Still, I’m not going to deny the entertainment within the surface-level flair of The Suicide Squad. Action scenes, especially – energetic choreography, combined with colourful costumes and vibrant locations, creates an irresistible palette. Particular highlights are a solo sequence for Harley and hard-hitting fight for Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Peacemaker (John Cena). In terms of comedy, I found it less grating than the crudeness of Guardians, with several scenes leaving me smiling – despite some flat moments that could have been cut. Meanwhile, John Murphy composes a compelling soundtrack that noticeably pumps up adrenaline in set pieces.
The Suicide Squad improves as it goes, like it realises the need to pull back on jokes and quick character deaths in favour of focus on the likes of Harley and Bloodsport. As we understand the personal stakes more, it adds more drama to the stylish action and art direction – but it all happens too late for it to match, say, Birds of Prey in blending style and substance. It’s first and foremost an unashamed thrill ride – and whilst it feels slightly throwaway, this is an enjoyable watch, with action-packed highlights along the way.