The Suicide Squad Review: Outrageously Violent, Brilliant & One Of DC’s Best Movies
The Suicide Squad is no-holds-barred James Gunn; beautiful, unhinged anarchy that relishes its own namesake. ‘Nothing like a bloodbath to start the day.’
It’s been three years since Gunn’s brief, high-profile sacking from the MCU for issues not worth revisiting. Colleagues and fans knew it was undeserved, as did Warner Bros., who straight-up offered him the Man of Steel. He declined, instead opting for total control of a once ill-fated, self-destructive team.
Not only did he rediscover his joie de vivre, but Marvel came a-calling amid revolving backlash, realising its grave error. With two rivals in his back pocket and a licence for R-rated violence, The Suicide Squad is Gunn showing off – which is okay, as long as ‘what they’re showing off is dope as f*ck.’
DC’s supervillain taskforce sat in the rubble of the studio’s fumbled extended universe after David Ayer’s calamitous, somewhat compromised 2016 release. Now, we have a renewed agenda: good movies first, join the dots later.
Acting as a half-reboot, half-sequel to the previous movie, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has gathered an unlikely platoon to shoot, stab and chomp their way through some South American diplomacy: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and others. From the off, a pecking order is established to rival Game of Thrones in its prime – nobody is safe.
The first spurt of blood from a dead Tweety bird is the entry-point for gory carnage: faces blown off their skulls; necks, stomachs and limbs chopped; and soldiers ripped apart and eaten like human chum (I’ll give you one guess at who does that). It’s gloriously grotesque given the usual constraints – but not just for shock value, veering from flower-flowing, balletic choreography; to brutal gunplay and fisticuffs; to old-school, exploitation practical FX; to the best slow-mo bullet collision since Wanted.
It really is jaw-dropping; credit where due to Henry Braham’s cinematography, just as comfortable photographing sun-scorched silhouettes as he is with jungle camp takedowns à la Predator and immense hero shots in a monsoon. John Murphy’s score hits some triumphant strides with a solid accompanying tracklist, but never reaches the heights of his own Adagio in D Minor or In the House – In a Heartbeat.
It may fall victim to the old trailer curse of giving away the best jokes, but Gunn’s Guardians experience shines through the titular squad with a Super edge, with amusing non-sequiturs, deadpan goodness (‘Oh for f*ck sake’) and genuine heart in unlikely places.
Melchior and Stallone’s characters are arguably the MVPs, given far more depth than their stranger powers would suggest (and terrific performances and CGI work). Also, having Peter Capaldi go into Malcolm Tucker mode as The Thinker is one of 2021’s best on-screen gifts so far. ‘Yankie f*cking doodle dandies.’
Everyone else is on great form. Naturally, Robbie is a standout in her born-to-play role, Davis is perfect in pretty much everything, Elba brings reliable charisma and Cena’s ultra-patriot quickly sells his upcoming HBO series, also handled by Gunn. The plot isn’t greater than the sum of Gunn’s flair, but it moves with an exhilarating pace – and even manages to pull off a certain star(ro).
Especially off the back of Black Widow, entertaining yet utterly unspectacular, The Suicide Squad feels like a breath of fresh air; an unashamedly gruesome, naughty war adventure with potency in every scene. Gunn’s voice is unmistakable and irresistible; we should let him do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
The Suicide Squad hits cinemas on Friday, July 30.
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