The Suicide Squad
Directed by James Gunn
Written by James Gunn, based on “Suicide Squad” by John Ostrander
Starring Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi
It’s Loud. It’s Bombastic. It’s Fun. It’s James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” here to save the summer box office.
Gunn, who gave us the amazing Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume One” and “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume Two” handily slides over to the DC Comics Extended Universe at Warner Bros. to deliver more comic book-based goods. Gunn has an eye for character chemistry and outlandish settings heavily laden with epic violence and gratuitous language. And, while I applaud his efforts to create two films that manage to have fun and be serious dramas and folding their narratives into an entire universe, with “The Suicide Squad,” Gunn uses the breadth of his frame (yes, I know, they’re ones and zeros now, but work with me people!) to expand on what we could only imagine would have been possible with his Marvel films.
A grim darkness pervades the humor and a viciousness to the relentless action as our intrepid anti-heroes that make up Task Force X descend on the small island nation of Corto Maltese. Pulling a page from John Carpenter’s “Escape From New York,” each member of the team is a convict used to protect the United States at all costs.
Margot Robbie reprises Harley Quinn (“Birds of Prey,” “Suicide Squad”). Her vivaciousness is on full display as she lures a petty dictator into a false sense of security . . . well, you get the idea of what happens next. Idris Elba, who many have said they want as their next Bond (and I’m not sure I buy that idea yet, especially since I’m not in charge), surprised me in his role as Bloodsport, alias Robert DuBois, a hardened criminal who we meet while he’s on all fours scraping hardened gum off the floor of the prison common area. There’s a tenderness to his performance that I didn’t expect from a character who kicks ass and takes no names, except for those who make up his outcast crew.
Joel Kinnaman plays Col. Rick Flag, the field leader of the team. Kinnaman gives a handy performance as he leads the crew into unknown territory. He is a confident leader and adapts to the ever-changing situation. David Dastmalchian plays Polka-Dot Man, someone just bursting at the seams for action. Dastmalchian gives a very inspired performance for someone who could go off at any moment. Daniela Melchior plays Ratcatcher 2, the crew’s anchor.
Did I mention Sylvester Stallone who voices King Shark, alias Nanuae? Much like Groot, Nanuae looks great on the screen, and is more about action than words, but the fluidity with which the character reacts to the action will have you busting a gut. Whatever you do, don’t feed him otherwise, you’re gonna need a bigger team. Viola Davis reprises her role as Amanda Waller, the leader of the Task Force X program. Even in a seriously-defined role, she still manages to crack me up; her intensity when she’s faced with a hard decision just makes me smile.
You might be wondering why I haven’t yet mentioned John Cena or Peter Capaldi, and that’s because they, respectively play the strongest and weakest characters in the film. Cena plays Peacemaker alias Christopher Smith. Like Clint Eastwood or even Stallone, Cena has a gleam in his eyes that draw you into his character and performance. There is no fear, but a lot of laughs and a “tighty-whity” scene that would make Tom Cruise blush.
Peter Capaldi on the other hand plays Dr. Gaius Grieves, the mad scientist behind Task Force X’s target in Corto Maltese, the Nazi-era Jötunheim. Capaldi’s performance is solid, however the character wasn’t as well-defined as those that make up the Suicide Squad.
This is the one area where I have a quibble with Gunn over “The Suicide Squad.” The villains in the film are not as strongly written as the anti-heroes and it leads to a slight lull in the film. The first two acts of Gunn’s screenplay are absolutely on point. The film’s final act underwent several changes and the villains and story suffered as a result. It isn’t enough to pull you out of the film, but it was noticeable.
Reflecting once again on Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine,” Gunn brought in that film’s composer, John Murphy for “The Suicide Squad” and, while he struck a few of his signatures on this score, it was a welcome addition to the popular songs that add context to our anti-heroes.
“The Suicide Squad” is just a lot of fun at the end of the day, and James Gunn, whose script for “The Belko Experiment” clued me into who he was and what he was capable of, and this film does not disappoint.
Oh, and make sure to stay through all the credits for an additional scene.
R, 132 minutes, Warner Bros./DC Films