Film Review: James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” Reinvigorates Its Concept with a Funny, Violent, and Ridiculous Tone
Written by: Adam Vaughn | August 5th, 2021
The Suicide Squad (James Gunn, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
Leave it to James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) to take a mostly failed project like the 2016 Suicide Squad and transform it into a wildly entertaining epic about a band of villainous characters up against even more villainous characters! Gunn’s The Suicide Squad may not be a film of utter perfection, but the seasoned superhero director prevails in taking the various DC comics characters and giving them a new life. He triumphs in character exploration, storytelling, and displaying action through outright comedy and ridiculousness, which makes the film an overall success.
The Suicide Squad follows a band of convicted, metahuman criminals with unique abilities, as they are tossed into a covert operation to infiltrate a fortified base on the island of Corto Maltese. The villains, forced into their position by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, Widows), are injected with an explosive device that renders them unable to do anything but complete their mission. When the mission goes horribly wrong, Bloodsport (Idris Elba, Concrete Cowboy), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, Birds of Prey), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, who, like Robbie, played the same role in the 2016 film) and other surviving members of the team must finish out the mission and discover Corto Maltese’s deadly secret.
I won’t deny it, right off the bat Gunn makes a key choice that put a slightly sour taste in my mouth. Without any mentioning of names, I was really looking forward to seeing Gunn tackle a giant, versatile cast of heroes. By the end of the opening act, it becomes clear that the director chooses instead to consolidate his team into a few key members, nerfing many top-billed actors that I was really looking forward to seeing play their roles to the fullest. Needless to say, there is a marvelously entertaining mixture of comedy and violence that nevertheless sells that beginning.
The same combination of comedic, often slapstick, timing mixed with gruesome R-rated imagery really makes The Suicide Squad stand out from previous renditions of the DC multiverse. Very much in the same vein as Tim Miller, in Deadpool, James Gunn breathes fun and humorous life into his film, unafraid to take risks with the writing and even managing to surprise at times with his story points. The dynamic between Bloodsport and Peacemaker (John Cena, F9: The Fast Saga) becomes a central focus for this comedic violence trope, and further unique characters such as King Shark (Sylvester Stallone, Creed II), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian, All Creatures Here Below), and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior, Parque Mayer) create a versatile and unique cast, with their stories tastefully spanned throughout the duration of the film.
Unfortunately, while The Suicide Squad brings all the entertainment it possibly can, it is also in many ways a great, big mess. An immense amount of information is crammed into the movie, and as a result, many of the plot points either fall by the wayside or come across as vastly insignificant compared to the main narrative. By the time the film concludes, so much has happened that it’s enough to overload the viewer. On top of that, The Suicide Squad relies heavily on the viewer’s suspension of disbelief for otherwise fantastic (if often silly) concepts.
Gunn’s style of writing and charisma shine through in The Suicide Squad, which is enough to make the film a tremendous joyride. While it may pay homage to many of the superhero films before it, it very much creates its own original characters, as well as its own laughs and action to carry it into a fully functioning adventure. Will the movie be as memorable or iconic years down the road? Most likely The Suicide Squad will be enough to widely entertain for the summer before its shuffled into the mix of other superhero films, but it’s certainly worth watching, for now.