'The Suicide Squad' is a Twisted Delight from a Psychotic Director
James Gunn's latest is a brilliant comic book celebration that will propel the equally obsessed to the spinner racks.
Remember that curious sensation that occurred when you first heard James Gunn would be directing Guardians of the Galaxy? The maniac who made Slither and Super is batting for Marvel? That's odd. Then the film came out and it was gloriously weird, and wonderful and still very much the product of the misfit who made those two other movies, just minus the hard R psychopathy. Well, The Suicide Squad is the film you knew Marvel Studios would never make, but you oh so desperately hoped that they would.
James Gunn is on the rampage with this one, gang. He's cannonballed himself into John Ostrander and Kim Yale's Suicide Squad comics, and he's splashing them into every corner. There's no shame for these wretched characters, and there's no hiding the silliness. All the leather in the world could not make the Polka-dot Man (David Dastmalchian) cool. He shoots polka-dots! Rather than attempting to sell these ridiculous beings to a mainstream audience, Gunn invites the mainstream into his underground. By leaning into the stupid and dumb, he reveals how not stupid and dumb these characters actually are.
The Suicide Squad's basic premise is not dissimilar to what we already experienced in the 2016 David Ayer movie. Bureaucratic nightmare Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) needs to coax some super-criminals into joining her Task Force X so that they can do the dirty work that Superman and Batman never would. She does this by inserting explosives into various thugs and pushing them out a helicopter with Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) playing guard dog. These treacherous soldiers like their noggins, so they do as they're told, but at the first sign of escape, they'll be off.
What separates the first film from this one is James Gunn, and Warner Bros. seemingly allowing the director to do whatever diabolical thing trickled from his imagination. As we've seen from all of Gunn's movies, he deeply loves his characters. Not one gets the short shrift. All are given space for an arc, even the dopes who merely get a line or two before their heads pop.
And that's an insane achievement. The Suicide Squad's cast rivals Avengers: Endgame. We've got Polka-Dot Man, Savant (Michael Rooker), T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Javelin (Flula Borg), Mongal (Mayling Ng), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Weasel (Sean Gunn), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Peacemaker (John Cena), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Not to mention Waller's multiple guys in chairs, the freedom fighters hoping to seize control of Corto Maltese, and the military goons managing the island and the giant creature trapped on it.
Naturally, your heart gravitates toward the scene-stealers like Quinn, but you'll fall for all of them. But be warned, as the poster proudly claims, these "heroes" are "dying to save the world." Gunn may love his characters, but he thrills in throwing a few into the meat-grinder. The little devil revels in it, but each death is earned and enhances your attachment to the remaining members. You'll be crossing your fingers all the way through to the stinger (yes, don't get up when the lights go on), hoping your faves make it through.
Gunn stuffs several surprises into his screenplay, and you'll be happy to learn that the trailer does not spoil the best moments. He immediately thrusts you into the main event, but allows the narrative to turn back on itself, and reveal certain scenarios from different points of view. This temporal playfulness injects both danger and relief. The Suicide Squad does not give you a chance to catch your breath, aiming for laughs and gasps in equal measure.
For as in love with the comics as The Suicide Squad is, do not expect an exact replica of what's found on the page. If you go in with a strong sense of who and what Calendar Man should be, then you'll be upset by the liberties Gunn takes. You've already gone through this with Guardians of the Galaxy. His Rocket Raccoon is very much his Rocket Raccoon. His King Shark is his King Shark. Rather than get hung up on the differences, recognize the adoration on display. It's a rare romance. Gunn gushes for these comic book worlds, stories, characters, and moods. And he wants to contribute. With The Suicide Squad, he's done so marvelously. His Peacemaker is probably now your Peacemaker.
Quickie Review: The Suicide Squad is a dementedly giddy display from James Gunn. It's gross, repulsive, and non-stop in its mayhem. Through it all, the characters exude a humanity too often missing from films of similar bombast. A sequel may or may not come, but there are comic books for you to snack on immediately. Go do so. 10/10