I’m glad I waited to see THE SUICIDE SQUAD in theatres and IMAX because wow, what a ride it was. Before I drill down to what I enjoyed, I will say my decision to give this a 🤩 over a 😊 wasn’t an easy one. The film is a little bloated and has some pacing issues. I really think it could have shaved off a good 20 minutes and still been fine, but I had so much fun watching it, I decided on a soft 🤩.
Unlike my colleague Aaron who did NOT like Harley Quinn’s last movie outing, I LOVED the Birds of Prey film. That was a strong 🤩 for me. I do think we can agree the first Suicide Squad film was mostly a dud outside of a few standout characters, including Margot Robbie’s Quinn, Will Smith’s Deadshot, and Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag. Of course, Viola Davis was amazing, but isn’t she always?
The hiring of James Gunn (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 1 &2) after his infamous and temporary firing from Disney/Marvel is an upgrade for me. I’m a huge fan of the original GOTG, and while I didn’t enjoy the second one as much as some folks did, on repeated viewings, I’ve been able to appreciate it more. Plus, I was really excited for the cast of THE SUICIDE SQUAD as it got announced. Along with Robbie, Davis, and Kinneman returning, Idris Elba, Michael Rooker, Pete Davidson, Peter Capaldi, and others were sure to be a lot of fun to see under Gunn’s direction. And King Shark, a favorite character of mine from the comics and DC Animation finally on the big screen, voiced by Sylvester Stallone!
THE SUICIDE SQUAD, for better or worse, does feel at times more like a ret-con of the first film instead of a sequel. I’m sure that’s no accident after the first wasn’t very well-received by critics or fans alike, but it does squarely take place after the events of the first. The film wastes no time in setting up the story, assuming that the audience knows the drill – some of Belle Reve’s worst criminals are sent on a top-secret mission for the U.S. government, and if they live and succeed, they’ll get a bunch of time taken off their sentence. And after that quick intro, the next 2+ hours are a non-stop rollercoaster of action, jokes, bloody deaths, and a clever critique of how the US government in real life has staged their own coups in Latin America, often to the detriment of the country they claimed to be saving. Wait, so this is a political movie? Yeah, it kind of is.
The film uses the fictional country of Corto Maltese (created by Frank Miller’s BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS) as the setting – a small Latin American country off the coast of South America. I’ve read some damning critiques from Latino viewers who feel that the film “kills off a lot of brown folk for laughs,” and I’ve read about an equal number of critiques from other Latino viewers that applaud the film for showing how the American military and government have overstepped their bounds and done real damage to South American countries. I think Gunn was really going for the latter, but there doesn’t seem to be a true consensus.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD is VERY violent and gory, more so than the first one, and even a bit more than BIRDS OF PREY. And yes, this violence is often played for laughs, so if you’re not interested in watching people get shot, hacked to death, or eaten alive, this probably isn’t for you. Robbie once again steals every scene she’s in, while Kinnaman’s expanded role and the addition of Elba elevate the film. My biggest surprise was how much I enjoyed John Cena as Peacemaker. Cena is a likable guy, but I haven’t taken him seriously as an actor yet. He’s perfectly cast here, and it’s his best performance to date. (Sorry Fast 9!)
We’re (STILL) in the middle of a pandemic, and I understand many folks can’t safely see a film in the theater, but if you can, see this on the big screen. And if you’ve got a local IMAX, see it there since it was filmed entirely in IMAX 2D. I love Harley Quinn as part of The Suicide Squad and love her as part of Birds of Prey. I hope the DCEU keeps bringing her back with both teams.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD is currently playing in cinemas and also streaming on HBO MAX.