Reel Reviews | The Suicide Squad

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn tries his hand at creating a hit in the DC Extended Univers (DCEU) with the ensemble piece, The Suicide Squad.

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is at it again.  She assembles a group of villains from the Belle Reve prison with the purpose of sending them on a mission for the US government.  She puts explosives in their necks and sends them off to the island of Corto Maltese to find and destroy all evidence of a Project Starfish being conducted in a former Nazi stronghold.  This Task Force X, unfortunately, seems destined for failure, thereby earning their nickname. “The Suicide Squad.”

Written and directed by James Gunn, The Suicide Squad stars Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Mayling Ng, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, and Sylvester Stallone in an off-beat and violent sequel to the 2016 film entitled Suicide Squad.

There has always been a distinction between the readers of DC Comics and Marvel comics.  The distinction seems to have been captured well in the movies.  DC stories were always darker and a little more serious than their Marvel counterparts.  However, when it came to Suicide Squad, the book was more irreverent and a lot more light-hearted than its stable counterparts even when the stories often involved the death of a character.  The first movie Suicide Squad did not seem to capture this element.  It seems that a director makes all the difference. 

James Gunn’s version of The Suicide Squad is much more aligned with the heart of the comic book series.  From the ridiculousness of the C-level villains recruited to Task Force X, to the violent gore. to the sheer coldness of Amanda Waller, Gunn not only seems to understand the material better than some of his predecessors but he has the strange ability to communicate the absurdity and silliness of the Squad to film in a way that works. He also seems to understand and illustrate the unflinching heartlessness of Amanda Waller in a way that inspires the correct amount of hatred for the character.  Gunn stated in interviews that he was inspired when he was given the authority to kill almost anyone in the movie (Harley Quinn and Waller were off-limits.)

There are some plot holes of course, but Gunn recognizes them and cleverly tries to address at least one of them by just simply saying what everyone was thinking.  (Harley Quinn escaped Task Force X at the end of the last movie.  How is she back?)  Maybe a little of the gusto is taken out of the movie because of the announcement of the upcoming Peacemaker collaboration that is coming next year starring John Cena and directed by Gunn.

Rated a strong R for strong language and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use, and brief graphic nudity, The Suicide Squad is an aggressively, violent, and irreverent look at the comic book.  Gunn successfully juggles all of the attitude and swagger of the villains especially Bloodsport but doesn’t forget the heart of its source material.  Basically, Gun marvel-ized the DCEU and then left, to return to those who brought him.

The Suicide Squad is in theaters and on HBO Max. 

Grade:  B-