The Suicide Squad (2021) – Reel Review

Director: James Gunn | 2h 12mins | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

A group of ex-cons and supervillians with extraordinary abilities are teamed together to help the US government complete shady jobs. Their latest mission, with no option but to accept it, is to infiltrate a top secret facility and destroy any knowledge of ‘Project Starfish’.

After the cataclysmic disappoint that was David Ayer’s Suicide Squad back in 2016 Warner Bros. have been looking for a way to forget their mistake. Now in the hands of blockbuster favourite James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), the ragtag group of criminals have a new look, one that’s much more befitting of the comic’s playfulness – embracing the violence and leaning heavily into the comedy. 

The start sees a cameo from James Gunn favourite Michael Rooker, as he suits up for a mission with promise of a reduced sentence. Joining him is Pete Davidson as Blackguard, Nathan Fillion as T.D.K, Sean Gunn as Weasel and returning favourites Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag. After they’ve thrown a few verbal jabs at each other and Gunn has sent his comedic tone, what follows is a quite literal obliteration of each of them. 

It’s a cute curveball that Gunn very often likes to throw throughout the film, enticing us with a set up and flipping that expectation for the sake of comedy. All his films are great at doing this, Slither, Super and Guardians all prefer to lean into the joke more so the action – it’s what makes the director such an attractive hire for blockbuster films. However, The Suicide Squad’s tendency to find humour in the wrong places, as well as a reliance on unnecessary shock-violence, do make this slightly lackluster in the face of other R-rated Superhero films we’ve seen. 

Other than returning roles for Kinnaman, Robbie and Viola Davis, the team is revamped with a new all-star cast looking to make their mark. Idris Elba plays Bloodsport, a reluctant leader who heads the new mission to destroy everything to do with ‘Project Starfish’. Joining him are an array of heroes that Gunn has plucked from the most absurd corners of comic book culture – with the likes of John Cena’s Peacemaker and David Dastmalchian’s bizarre Polka-Dot Man (as well as Stallone’s Groot-esque King Shark, the best inclusion by far). Being given this blank canvas in which to improve the franchise, Gunn has been able to stretch his creative legs and much like his other work, he builds from the ground up – meaning that even through all the blood and guts he’s able to find humanity, something that was non-existent in the 2016 iteration. 

The heroes are dropped on a beach and are tasked with locating and destroying a nazi-era prison turned laboratory that has been harbouring an alien starfish and, surprise surprise, their real goal is to destroy all evidence of America’s involvement.  The story, while being very Gunn in its structure and character, is by the numbers. But the film was never there to be poignant, Gunn has made a film that’s full of excitement and humour and despite being let down by excessive and needless violence (even for an R-rated movie), it’s a wonderful reminder of just how fun the Superhero genre is. 

When compared to Ayer’s Suicide Squad James Gunn’s interpretation is a bonafide masterpiece, it’s tonally sound while never striving too hard for style, the casting is great and it even makes you care about characters that were archetypal in the first film. And even though the film feels incredibly bloated at times and overzealous with it’s barbaric and violent humour, this is still a fun romp that encapsulates what The Suicide Squad is really about.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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