The Suicide Squad
Directed by James Gunn
Let’s get this out of the way first – James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is just about as much fun as a person can have in a theatre without getting arrested. The pacing is take-no-prisoners Jurassic Park. The humour is top shelf profane and irreverent. It’s a much-needed beer chaser after some shots of oh-so-serious comic book moves (cough Zack Snyder’s Justice League cough). It’s the kind of comic book movie that loves the genre while at the same time delights in kicking the genre in the genitals. Repeatedly. It shares DNA with Kick-Ass, the Deadpools, the Guardians franchise, and Thor: Ragnarok.
The Suicide Squad hits the ground running with its intentions on full display. If the opening 30 seconds upset you, hold on tight, friend. Hold on tight. This is the movie that happens when James Gunn is fully and completely unleashed. Gore and eviscerations and decapitations and impalements and explosions and hair clogged drains and more, all handled with the deft touch of a master. This is a movie by Slither’s James Gunn, not Scooby-Doo’s James Gunn. This is the comic book movie that the writer of Tromeo and Juliet was destined to make.
And what is The Suicide Squad about, I can hear you asking. Here you go: some classic and not so classic comic book villains are sent by a Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller to Corto Maltese, a fictional banana republic in the best 70s tradition of movie banana republics. They’re tasked with destroying the Jotunheim, a Nazi-era secret lab in the best 70s tradition of movie Nazi-era secret labs. Things happen, blood splatters on the camera lens, there are eviscerations and decapitations and impalements and explosions and oh, Lord, is it funny. It is laugh out loud, stomach muscles hurting funny. The plot twists and turns and moves organically from one ridiculous set piece to the next. Nothing ever feels forced, nothing ever feels like fan service or studio intervention. Like I said above, The Suicide Squad is James Gunn unleashed.
The casting is near perfection, from the top of the call sheet to the bottom. Margot Robbie is, of course, magnificent as Harley Quinn. She is like a surrealist poem come to life. And in a cast that somehow includes John Cena and Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman and Idris Elba and Peter Capaldi and about a thousand others, I need to call out David Dastmalchian. As Polka-Dot Man, in the running for most ridiculous comic book character of ever and ever, Mr. Dastmalchian brings a pathos and tragedy to the role. Somehow, against all odds, a character named Polka-Dot Man is the voice of unhinged reason in a hurricane of ego and madness. If Harley Quinn is the heart of The Suicide Squad, then Polka-Dot Man is its soul.
If we really want to get all pretentious here, I could maybe get into how The Suicide Squad is a deconstruction of its genre. How we follow the stories of villains, of people who have been imprisoned by the heroes of these stories we all love. And now we find ourselves empathizing with and cheering on the characters whose downfall we cheered on. But all of this would be kind of nuts because we are talking about a movie that features both a bipedal shark and a guy who throws boomerangs. And a glass licking weasel. So, yeah, maybe I won’t overthink things here.
What I should say as I wrap this up is The Suicide Squad had me laughing for almost its entire running time. It’s never predictable. It twists and turns and takes us places that only an unleashed James Gunn would take us. Like I said up top, it truly is just about as much fun as a person can have in a theatre without getting arrested.