Review: The Suicide Squad

Score: B+

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Viola Davis

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rated: R

There really was nowhere to go but up after the first Suicide Squad film. Despite making nearly $750 million worldwide, David Ayer's ugly, noisy disaster marked the nadir of modern comic book movies. But thankfully DC has seemingly learned their lesson, focusing less on strict continuity and more on giving filmmakers their own sandbox to play in. After Disney hung James Gunn out to dry, Warner Bros. snatched him up and basically let him do whatever he wanted for this sequel. His fingerprints are all over it - absentee fathers, abundant needle-drops - but manages not to feel like a bloodier Guardians of the Galaxy.

One of the concessions Gunn got was free reign to kill off any character he saw fit. While who will survive is fairly obvious in some cases, most of the sprawling cast is used as cannon fodder. Whether we've just met them or come to kinda sorta care about them, he's all too ready to gleefully end their lives. That's just one difference from the first film. Proudly wearing its R rating, there's no shortage of dismemberments, shootings, stabbings and explosions. In fact, this is probably the most disgusting wide release movie since Gunn's own Slither 15 years ago, from which the finale borrows liberally.

Idris Elba stars as Bloodsport, who's pretty much exactly the same character Will Smith played in the original, but with a different name. Returning are Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, much improved here) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, great as ever), joining new recruits Peacemaker (John Cena, far better than in F9), King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian). The latter is no stranger to comic book movies, having popped up in The Dark Knight and two Ant-Man movies, as well as The Flash and Gotham. He gets his biggest role to date, showcasing his talents and the incredible make-up and VFX work that show off his powers.

The film is structured like a graphic novel, with titles marking each segment. Their mission is to destroy a lab in a fictional Latin American country that's been overtaken by a military coup. But just like the previous entry, not everyone has all the mission objectives, nor is everyone trustworthy. That leads to some fun twists and turns and attempts at critiquing U.S. foreign policy. It could come across as phony, but there's something resembling an edge here, unlike Jared Leto's take on the Joker from the original. The film also gives us the chance to slow down and hang out with our core team. A scene where they cut loose at a cantina is a highlight.

Ultimately, The Suicide Squad is not a great film, nor does it strive to be. It's extremely violent and often hilarious, and made by someone who actually reads comic books. That's harder than it looks.

*This film is available in theaters and on HBO Max.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.