‘The Suicide Squad’ review: Now we can officially forget about the first ‘Suicide Squad’ movie


'Let's go find our costume designer shall we?' Photos: Warner Bros

The Suicide Squad
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, Joel Kinnaman, John Cena, Michael Rooker

Consider what has conspired against the populace since 2016. Cripes, so much. A president. A pandemic franchise with legs. A terrifying overload of homemade sourdough bread.

Looking back, the first Suicide Squad movie, released in 2016, may have been the start of the trouble.

It pushed its PG-13 luck, yanking viewers between the openly toxic movie director David Ayer wanted and the slightly more palatable lark the studio preferred.

It delivered a new Joker nobody wanted, while establishing the commercial viability of an idea plucked from a 1959 DC Comics edition of The Brave And The Bold.

Except for Margot Robbie’s radioactive exuberance while coping with a camera-to-rump proximity that constituted legit sexual harassment (i.e., the usual for women in this sort of adolescent male fantasy), Ayer’s movie was a drag – “an overstaffed, overstuffed, blithely sadistic corporate directive disguised as a summer movie for all ages,” one critic wrote.

How different in tone, style and quality is The Suicide Squad, the new one, that is, directed by Guardians Of The Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn?

Very. This one’s good! Also supergory, merrily heartless in its body count and its methods of slaughter. And funny.

'Is the youth serum ready, Doc?''Is the youth serum ready, Doc?'

Writer-director Gunn’s ensemble includes topliner Idris Elba and Oscar-winner Viola Davis, seething at each other in expository scenes that are about as well-acted as these things can get.

This Suicide Squad also has King Shark, aka Nanaue, voiced by Sylvester Stallone, half-man, half-shark, a sweetie pie when he’s not munching on human snacks.

If DC and Marvel can’t work out a deal for a crossover movie pairing Stallone’s King Shark with Vin Diesel’s Groot, I’m suing for emotional distress.

Gunn messes with audience expectations straight off, with a prologue introducing one squad, including Michael Rooker, dumped on the beach on the (fictional) South American island nation of Corto Maltese.

Then we catch up with a second crew, led by Bloodsport (Elba), who is having family issues with his semi-estranged daughter (Storm Reid).

The big whatzit this time is Project Starfish, the brainchild of the mad scientist they call The Thinker (Peter Capaldi, with metal doodads sticking out of his bald head).

The starfish is pink, blue and large, and the bloodthirsty expendables running the Corto Maltese military have ambitious plans for the project.

The squad is red meat, plain and simple, for a crazy undercover mission wherein lives are cheap, short and prone to dismemberment. There’s a beefy man-shark alongside John Cena’s equally beefy Peacemaker.

There’s Chicago-trained deadpan ace David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, whose mother hang-ups pay off, wittily, at the climax.

Crucially, Robbie’s Harley Quinn returns, and while her relegation to a supporting role feels odd after last year’s standalone showcase Birds Of Prey, she’s a highlight as she was in the first, let’s-not-speak-of-it Suicide Squad.

This time the skeeze factor’s a lot lower, which isn’t to say Gunn is about good taste. He’ll kill off a sympathetic group of freedom fighters just for a gag, when he’s not introducing a Maltese secretary breasts-first.

He’s also filmmaker enough to fill out and activate the frame, and throw in an idea or two. America’s geopolitical alliances come up for some interrogation.

When Cena’s Peacemaker squares up against Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag, contrasting notions of duty, honour and patriotic allegiance is taken just seriously enough to stick.

I’m not suggesting Gunn is going for John le Carre here, but Gunn is an ultraviolence jester with an energising sense of purpose.

The characters each have their moment to shine, and trash-talk in between the ‘splosions, and for once there’s no global apocalypse at stake. It’s just one island nation (played by Panama, where the film was largely shot) threatened by a one-eyed, Godzilla-sized seaside souvenir.

In the wildly uneven DC film universe, so often weighed down by its Batman and Superman misfires, that practically qualifies The Suicide Squad as a drawing-room comedy.

Reader, I enjoyed it. – Michael Phillips/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service

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Filmmaker James Gunn has made a film that is totally different in tone, style and quality from the 2016 version.

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Suicide Squad


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