Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Suicide Squad: A Review (Review #1529)



It's a curious thing that a sequel to part of a major franchise would have a title in which the word "The" distinguished it from its predecessor, but that's how The Suicide Squad is separate from 2016's Suicide Squad. I'm not a comic book fan, and I couldn't tell you anything about the many antiheroes The Suicide Squad has. I can say that the film is too gory, too long and frankly too dumb for me to have enjoyed.

Villainous government official/jailer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends two groups of super-criminals and oddities officially known as Task Force X but nicknamed "the Suicide Squad" to the remote island nation of Corto Maltese. Why two? Well, one was meant as a decoy for the actual group, but that group had a couple of survivors: Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), both of whom had to be rescued at different points in time.

The main group is led by Bloodsport (Idris Elba), who was essentially blackmailed into this mission so that his daughter would not serve time herself. In his motley crew is Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), King Shark and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior). Peacemaker is a large man who will kill to bring about world peace, Polka-Dot Man is a genetic experiment gone wrong thanks to his mother, King Shark is a dumb talking and walking shark and Ratcatcher 2 can control rats just like her father.

Their mission: to destroy the secret lab of Jotunheim and the mysterious "Project Starfish", headed by The Thinker (Peter Capaldi). The mission does not include helping a counterrevolution after military dictators overthrew the ruling family, but if it helps their mission to have joint objectives, all the better. However, there is evil at work, as some of the Suicide Squad have a more secret mission in all this, one that conflicts with the giant alien starfish destroying Corto Maltese. Not all the squad survive, but with Waller both incapacitated and blackmailed, the survivors live to fight another day.

The Suicide Squad, written and directed by James Gunn, loves to go on many tangents that may have looked flashy but made the film much, much longer than it should have been. Both rescues of Colonel Flag and Harley Quinn seemed superfluous. The opening battle and the decision to both introduce characters and reintroduce some from Suicide Squad just to kill them off within minutes is also a poor decision. One is completely justified in asking why such characters as The Detachable Kid or T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion) or Blackguard (Pete Davison) were in The Suicide Squad if they were not going to be part of the film itself.

Even if a logical answer could be found, their deaths were particularly gruesome and excessively graphic. Perhaps some people would love to see Pete Davison's face blown off, but I am not one of them. The graphic, almost gleeful nature of The Suicide Squad's violence deeply appalls me. I figure I may be in the minority on this, but the same issue I had with Mortal Kombat is the same issue I have with The Suicide Squad: the perverse pleasure they had in showing how detailed the various killings are. Even before we get to the actual opening credits we are treated to almost sadistic levels of killing, with more to come.

I have not grown that desensitized to find enjoyment in seeing such graphic beheadings, stabbings and dismemberments. 

The Suicide Squad itself is a terrible group of people to be around, and while I figure they are the anti-Avengers I still could not find any interest in any of them to care what happened to them. It's hard to empathize with a weasel who doesn't talk.

It probably isn't fair to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and it's a credit to Margot Robbie's skills as an actress that she remains the highlight of the franchise. Her third turn as Harley Quinn (at least I think it's her third) shows she gets the character completely. Robbie can shift from almost innocent to murderous, sometimes in the same scene, with a smoothness and ease that is quite exceptional and skilled. 

As a side note, I would argue that Harley Quinn would know the David Lee Roth version of I'm Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody than she would Louis Prima's version. I don't know why this particular song had to play during Harley's rampage. I don't see how it fits, but there it is. I give credit to Kinnaman as Flag, about the only sane person in this crew, and Elba does well in the action moments, though less effective when trying to convince he has any sense of caring for the daughter he left behind. Their fight in the beginning of the film caused more laughter than concern.

Cena isn't an actor but a hulking machine, so why anyone found Peacemaker interesting enough to create a television spinoff for him is puzzling to me. I also credit Dastmalchian for working some kind of angst in his Polka-Dot Man, but nothing save the character from being silly. It's hard to sympathize with Melchior's Ratcatcher 2, for no matter how much she or The Suicide Squad tries, someone who controls rats is rather grotesque.

The Suicide Squad is poorly structured, with a lot of "three days earlier" and "eight minutes earlier" to interrupt big moments or cliffhangers such as Peacemaker's threat or the decoy invasion. Sadistically violent, unnecessarily cruel (jokes about characters deaths are tacky, tasteless and predictable), I know many enjoy such things, but I do not. Loud, long, dumb and with nothing to say, The Suicide Squad is not a film I would watch again. 


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