A government operative makes a bunch of dangerous murderers/supervillains a deal: time will be taken off each of their sentences if they go on a potentially fatal mission to help save the world. The oddball team must overcome personality clashes and distrust to complete their task, preferably without dying.
That is the plot for the DC action/comedy The Suicide Squad. If it sounds familiar, that is because they made this movie five years ago. That was Suicide Squad, which was a box-office success, even though not many people seem to have liked it. It was an absolute mess, with no coherent story or clear idea of what exactly it was supposed to be. The concept is good, so they decided to try it again.
While still flawed, The Suicide Squad is a huge improvement. It knows what it wants to be and has fun with its premise. The first one felt like an R-rated action movie cut to shreds to be PG-13. This is hard-R; violent, chaotic, funny and pretty entertaining.
The Suicide Squad is not a sequel, so don’t worry about having to sit through the first to be able to follow what’s going on. It obviously takes place later, as a few actors are back and now they already know each other.
Viola Davis reprises her role as Amanda Waller, the agent in charge of the squad, who will do whatever is necessary to protect her country. Joel Kinnaman returns as Colonel Rick Flag, her man running things in the field. Most importantly, Margot Robbie appears for the third time as Harley Quinn (the second was her solo vehicle Birds of Prey). Everyone else is new and the casting here is a large reason why it works.
This is actually the most I’ve enjoyed Robbie as Harley. New writer/director James Gunn (using a similar formula here as in his Guardians of the Galaxy series) understands the character and doesn’t overuse her. She still has her goofy naïveté, but doesn’t have to carry as much of the load. She gets to pop in for gags and has a really good solo action scene.
Idris Elba shows up as new team leader Bloodsport. He is significantly better in this role than Will Smith as Deadshot in the original. Elba is perfect as the straight-man to the absurdity around him. John Cena is Peacemaker, another skilled killer, whose self-seriousness is amusing. Then there is the meek Polka-Dot Man, played excellently by David Dastmalchian, as well as King Shark, a man-sized shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone, who gets a lot of laughs. There are several other recognizable names, though seeing what they do is part of the fun, so I won’t give it away.
The Suicide Squad is a much more natural version of this basic plot. The violence is bloody and graphic. Every action scene sees blood-splattering and bodies being ripped apart. Everybody here is an experienced killer and they have been recruited for that skill. The movie glories in showing how they utilize it. It also has a sense of humor about how these characters would handle working with others in deadly situations. There are a couple of big set-pieces where Gunn puts gags in the middle of the action and even uses quick flashbacks for punchlines.
The lack of a specific story is one of the movie’s issues, as is its uninteresting villain. The pacing is probably its biggest problem. It is smooth early, through all the setup. However, once the characters get split up, it bogs down with a lot of exposition. There is some funny dialogue in this section, yet The Suicide Squad works a lot better when everyone is together. It rebounds with a strong final 45 minutes or so. I would say this is 90 really good minutes and approximately 35 or so dull ones.
I was dubious about them making another after the first turned out so poorly, but The Suicide Squad works for all the reasons its predecessor didn’t. The people who made it understand what this concept should look like on-screen. It is funny, violent, clever and mostly very enjoyable, plus the cast gets to play the characters, instead of just throwing one-liners around between special-effects. James Gunn has taken something I had no interest in seeing again and made me hope he gets to make some more.
3½ out of 5
Idris Elba as Bloodsport
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
John Cena as Peacemaker
Joel Kinnaman as Colonel Rick Flag
Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2
David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller
Peter Capaldi as Thinker
Sylvester Stallone as voice of King Shark
Written and Directed by James Gunn