But here we are in 2021 and The Suicide Squad is back with Hollywood’s ‘he can make anything look cool’ director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) at the helm and boy does he make a difference. Remember the long character introductions from the first film? Well Gunn doesn’t do that here. Director Amanda Waller (Viola Davis – The Help) hastily puts together her squad which includes inmates like special force veterans Bloodsport (Idris Elba – Thor: Ragnarok) and Peacemaker (John Cena – F9), the mysterious Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian – Prisoners), the sweet but dangerous Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior – Massa Fresca), the very familiar Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie – Bombshell), and then puts them in the safe hands of Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman – RoboCop) and sends them to a jungle trouble spot to bring down an evil regime and scientific experiment led by Thinker (Peter Capaldi – Doctor Who).
Gunn doesn’t muck around here: he keeps the story to The Suicide Squad basic and simple, but it works. He engages his audience with amazing action sequences, actual characterisation and some pretty witty dialogue between the characters throughout the film. As a director Gunn also demands the attention of the audience like a teacher whacking a table with a ruler by very quickly showing that not every character is going to make it through alive. In a twisted way he also makes these inmates likable so their deaths hit you like one of Peacemaker’s specially designed exploding bullets.
Gunn doesn’t only learn from past sins to make The Suicide Squad work, he also leans heavily on movies that have got it right over the years. At times during this film you can sense the throw-backs to films like Rambo or Inglourious Basterds while the whole feel of the squad at hand (and the film’s poster) feels like it is inspired by famous war films like The Dam Busters or The Bridge on the River Kwai. Whatever the inspirations it certainly does work, because even when the heroes here are battling a giant starfish that wouldn’t seem out of place in Ghostbusters it somehow all works.
Then there is the quirkiness to the film. Gunn reveals himself as a visionary here by throwing in little odd bits here and there, from interesting forms of titling throughout the film to going inside the head of Harley Quinn during one of her fight sequences and showing that amidst all the violence Quinn is visualising flowers and petals instead of blood.
That leads us into the violence and action sequences throughout the film. Yes The Suicide Squad is insanely violent, if you can’t stand seeing blood and brain splatter then this isn’t the film for you, but even with that Gunn almost does it in a comical way. Like what was said earlier this film captures the darkness of a DC film but does it in a fun way. A great example early on in this film is Bloodsport and Peacemaker conducting a massacre of troops while ‘competing’ to see who has the better kill. Yes The Suicide Squad is a throwback to the violent action films of the ’80s, but it is a hell of a fun ride as well.
That also shows in the acting side of things. Idris Elba and John Cena just take their characters and run with them, they are obviously having a fun time but when the screenplay calls for heart they deliver that as well… in spades. Likewise David Dastmalchian and Daniela Melchior bring a sensibleness to everything with measured performances that allow their characters to be shocked by the going ons of the supposed heroes around them. At the same time Melchior announces herself as a future star.
Viola Davis also seems to relish bringing out the darker side of Amanda Waller, almost to the point where she is one of the villains of this film, while Margot Robbie once again delivers the goods as Harley Quinn. She is witty, shows true emotion at times amongst the insanity and shows that through this franchise she has become an expert at fight sequences now.
There is little doubt that The Suicide Squad is a crazy ride. Yet somehow among a storyline that involves a giant starfish, a confused Weasel (James Gunn), a man-eating shark who walks on land (Sylvester Stallone – The Expendables) and a cute waving rat called Sebastian, the audience finds a group of characters that they care about enough to want to see them get through all of us. At the same time the filmmaker at hand knows how to deliver twists and turns that will shock and stun the audience while totally engrossing them in a completely crazy world and scenario. Take your hat off Mr Gunn, because you have delivered a cult classic here.
The Suicide Squad is showing in Phuket cinemas now. It is rated 15.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus