The Suicide Squad (2021) – Film Review
By @Roger Crow
There are ideas in James Gunn’s latest movie which are so barking, you’d think he’d been given a hefty grant from some random arts council.
Five years ago we had just Suicide Squad, a Dirty Dozen with superheroes if you like. Okay, super villains. We know they were the bad guys because they reminded us every five minutes.
For the most part it was bad, with some annoying characters, and a finale reminiscent of Ghostbusters 84. But Margot Robbie’s turn as psycho psychiatrist Harley Quinn turned the character into a cosplay phenomenon. Little wonder a solo vehicle, Birds of Prey, was rushed into production to cash in on her success. It also launched a rather good animated series which gave some newcomers an introduction to King Shark, a humanoid shark which works perfectly when animated, but in a live action movie?
Well considering most of the things that go on in The Suicide Squad, a sequel of sorts nobody was desperate for, King Shark is one of the more normal characters.
Gunn’s falling out with Disney a few years ago meant the third volume of his Guardians of the Galaxy was shelved while DC snapped him up, partly as a way of sticking two fingers up to Marvel Studios and partly because they knew Gunn was a hot property who crafted some of the best fantasy adventures in Hollywood.
Both Suicide Squad movies are 15 certificates, but with the definite article version, Gunn turns the gore factor up to 11. And it seems far more violent, but it’s also more barking than a trip to Battersea Dog’s Home, with scenes of glorious silliness. The obligatory boss monster is among the daftest to grace the big screen in many a moon. I saw it on one of the biggest IMAX screens in the UK, so it was pretty overpowering.
Peter Capaldi gives a powerhouse turn as The Thinker, a brain box who looks like he’s been hit in the head with valves from a 1970s TV set, while regular Gunn accomplice Michael Rooker bows out early, despite it looking like he’ll carry most of the movie.
One of the key stars is Idris Elba, whose Bloodsport character is on his knees, literally. Scraping gum from a prison floor and alienated from his daughter, he can’t sink much lower. So when he’s made an offer he can’t refuse, the world weary super villain goes off with a bunch of fellow oddballs, mutants and killers to carry out their mission.
However, when things go pear-shaped, things take a rather different turn. Gunn plays with timelines rather effectively, which is a bit like a reset on a video game. It can be annoying if done badly, but here he nails it.
John Cena is surprisingly good as psycho macho assassin Peacemaker. Gunn clearly likes the character as they’ve been working on a spin-off series. Oh, and Sly Stallone probably had a great time voicing King Shark, the fishy equivalent of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Only more violent.
And once more Ms Robbie steals every scene she’s in as Ms Quinn. By now the gag should have worn thin, and screen fatigue could have set in, but actress and character are a perfect match. And when Harley stages a breakout, it’s a thing of beauty.
As for that literally blockbusting finale, Gunn must have been laughing all the way to the bank as the anti heroes clash with THAT monster. I’ve never felt the urge to indulge in hallucinogenic drugs, but I imagine this is what an acid trip feels like.
So, it’s incredibly violent, way over the top and madder than a box of frogs in a bouncy castle, but somehow it almost works. I never want to see Gunn write and direct a domestic drama, but I hope when Guardians 3 does see the light of day, it’s a lot less cinematically insane.