The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - THE SUICIDE SQUAD | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - THE SUICIDE SQUAD

The Suicide Squad review
A squad of criminal misfits is sent on a mission to infiltrate a small Caribbean nation.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: James Gunn

Starring: Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, John Cena, Sylvester Stallone, Idris Elba, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Alice Braga, Pete Davidson, Nathan Filion

the suicide squad poster

Hollywood has been heavily mining the 1980s in recent years. I guess it's an attempt to appeal to people of this writer's generation, those of us who were kids in that most over-the-top of decades. But what Hollywood doesn't realise is that if you were a kid in the '80s your media consumption memories don't just revolve around the blockbusters of Spielberg and Zemeckis. As an '80s kid there was nothing less cool than being into movies that were made for kids. No, we wanted to watch slashers, ninja movies, 18-rated sex comedies and the sort of action movies where bodybuilders and bimbos were always rocking up to some fictional Caribbean island to overthrow some mustachioed dictator, mowing down scores of goons in the process.

If The Suicide Squad is anything to go by, writer/director James Gunn seems to have had a similar childhood. Somehow he's convinced Warner Bros. to afford him a massive budget to craft a gore and gag heavy love letter to the sort of movies Gen-Xers discovered rotting on the bottom shelves of video stores. Where David Ayer's po-faced predecessor was a slog, Gunn's sequel commendably understands that it's a live action Saturday morning cartoon.

the suicide squad review

What Ayer failed to understand is that guys on a mission movies are about the guys, not the mission. Gunn never allows his film to get needlessly bogged down in plot, and it's refreshingly free of exposition regarding the sort of macguffins viewers couldn't care less about. Instead he focusses on creating characters that may be cartoonish but never feel one-dimensional.

Like the 2016 Suicide Squad, this sequel is another riff on the Dirty Dozen template, with a new squad of criminal misfits assembled for a mission. Margot Robbie returns to what I guess is now her signature role of homicidal dingbat Harley Quinn, along with Jai Courtney as Boomerang. This time they're led by Idris Elba's Bloodsport and John Cena's ironically named Peacemaker, who both possess the exact same set of skills, leading to an ongoing rivalry that produces some of the movie's best comic beats. Also aboard are a Sylvester Stallone voiced shark; Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior), a young Portuguese woman with the ability to command rodents; Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), a polka-dot throwing weirdo with Mommy issues; and various other oddballs.

the suicide squad review

Half of the cast is massacred in the opening 10 minutes, and various others fall in battle as the movie progresses. This gives The Suicide Squad an advantage over most of its superhero rivals in that anyone can die at any time. This lends Gunn's film the sort of stakes absent from your average superhero movie where you know the costumed heroes are in no real danger.

While Gunn leans into his edgelord tendencies, with some jaw-dropping moments of gore that are genuinely unexpected in a mainstream studio release in 2021, his movie never feels mean-spirited. Amid all the guts, there's genuine heart here too, much of it provided by Melchior's Ratcatcher, as endearing a character as you'll find anywhere in modern blockbuster cinema. In Gunn and Melchior's hands, Ratcatcher is a rare female action hero that comes off as a feminine action hero rather than a masculine figure lazily reconstituted for a female performer. She performs a dual function of acting as a maternal figure for some of the squad members and a daughter substitute to others.

the suicide squad review

The Suicide Squad is the rare comic book movie that feels directed rather than designed by committee. Every frame of the movie feels like Gunn's vision. Crucially the gags don't stop whenever there's an action sequence. Rather the action set-pieces are often elaborate gags themselves. I won't spoil it, but there's a punchline to one particular action sequence that is a thing of comic genius and shows that Gunn knows exactly what he's doing here.

Like all of these movies, The Suicide Squad could shave off 20 minutes or so. But unlike most superhero flicks, I was never bored because Gunn creates a feeling that anything can happen here, and it often does. Some characters don't quite live up to their billing (Stallone's King Shark and Peter Capaldi's villainous The Thinker feel particularly undercooked), but the key crew members are as fun a bunch of sociopaths as you could hope to spend a Saturday night at the movies with.

The Suicide Squad is on Netflix UK/ROI now.