REVIEW: ‘Suicide Squad’ succeeds under Gunn’s direction

Considering there was another movie released just a few years earlier, I figured they would have come up with another title to set this “Suicide Squad” apart than just adding a “The.”

But it works for Ohio State, so, maybe it’s fine here.

The Suicide Squad” follows a new group of convicts turned mercenaries working for government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) for a chance of reducing their sentence. This group includes a pair of top tier elite assassins in Peacemaker (John Cena) and Bloodsport (Idris Elba), as well as a human shark hybrid (voice by Sylvester Stallone), a woman who has a device to control rats (Daniela Melchior) and a man who can shoot colorful energy bolts (David Dastmalchian).

Along for the ride with this Suicide Squad team is their government chaperone Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and the infamous Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). This time around, the crew is tasked with taking down the dictator of a remote island who has fallen into control of a dangerous scientific research facility.

The “Suicide Squad” movie from a few years ago had pros and cons. While it had a convoluted mess of a story and unnecessary cameos by the Joker to drive ticket sales, it at least had some entertaining action, as well as a pair of charismatic, memorable performances by Will Smith and Margot Robbie.

Overall, it ended up being a rather middling feature. Not the worst comic book adaptation out there, but not reaching its potential, either.

With this film, James Gunn raised the bar in a few noticeable ways. Story-wise, Gunn simplified things. Rather than having extended flashback scenes, an ancient evil villain with extensive magic powers and a romantic subplot, Gunn goes with a streamlined approach.

It’s mainly just a mercenary team trying to take down a nefarious leader in control of a dangerous science unit. While there is a fantastical element to the film, it’s not until the final act, keeping things grounded and straight to the point, which works for a good action comedy.

Another area where the film succeeds where the last film fell short is in the dialogue. A lot of the writing just feels more natural, unlike in the last movie where there were multiple times it was trying to too hard to drive home the point of how edgy it is that it’s bad guys trying to save the world.

This film just lets the characters be themselves and interact with each other. The humor is still self aware, cynical and pointed, but better executed.

Courtesy DC Films and Warner Bros. Pictures.

Of course helping that aspect out is the cast with the delivery. Robbie reprises her role and once again, she’s great as Quinn. She brings the manic energy of the Harley while also portraying her as a person with genuine emotions and thoughts, which is a good balance for the character.

Idris Elba really steals the show in this film, though. His deadpan approach to Bloodsport works tremendously well for the character and produces some of the best laughs. Elba gives the character so much personality that the focus is on him in every scene.

Cena is also solid as Peacemaker. The character is like a blood thirsty version of Captain America, and Cena brings that intensity and stoicism to the role.
Dastmalchian is also wonderfully timid as Polka-Dot Man while Melchior provides the heart of the team as Ratcatcher 2.

The action is also on point. For example, there’s a well crafted, fun escpae sequence featuring Quinn fighting through several guards. Another highlight is a brutal bout between two members of the Squad.

The film doesn’t hold back, either. The movie goes to cartoonish levels with bloody, brutal and at times, zany action set pieces.

“The Suicide Squad” is definitely one of the better entries lately for DC. While not all of the jokes land and the final action set piece is a bit much, it’s still a good action comedy that earns its R rating. 4.25 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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