The Suicide Squad (2021) Review
A “BALLS TO THE WALL” SUPERHERO ROMP
Back in 2016, following the decisively mixed reviews / thoughts on Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Warner Bros. Studios and DC Comics released the movie Suicide Squad, the third feature film in the studio’s planned DCEU shared universe franchise. Directed by David Ayer, the film, which starred Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, and Jared Leto, sees a secret government agency (led by character Amanda Waller) recruiting skilled and imprisoned supervillains to execute a dangerous black ops mission of saving the world from an ancient and powerful being. With the much anticipation for this project being rolled out, Suicide Squad was met with a very decisive thoughts and feelings from both critics and moviegoers alike, with some really liking the film and others loathing it completely; finding the fandom spilt on the overall verdict of the feature entirely. Despite debate on whether or not if the movie was good or not, Suicide Squad was still considered a box office success, with the film raking over $746 million worldwide against its $175 production budget. Now, after five years of the release, Warner Bros. Studios and director James Gunn return to the DCEU for another lease on life with these “worst superheroes ever” with the standalone sequel film titled The Suicide Squad. Does this new movie bring a better cinematic light to DC’s supervillain team up or is it a failed attempt that never really goes anywhere?
Special government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has been given a task by her superiors to temporary take control of the South American island known as Corto Maltese, but not for its sovereignty control or dictator leadership. Instead, Waller’s mission is a prison structure on the island known as Jotunhiem, which contains the mysterious “Project Starfish”. With that in mind, Waller restarts her Task Force X program, forcing the likes of incarcerated inmates Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Malchoir), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) to take on the mission. Expendable and complete strangers, these misfit / outcasts mercenary killers are joined by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to help find The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), a scientist who can provide entry into Jotunhiem. However, the team struggles to work together cohesively, with egos clashing and violent tendencies running amok, making the mission on Corto Maltese quite messy along the way.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
It goes without saying that WB’s DCEU has certainly been up and down on a bumpy road since its inception back in 2013, with the release of Man of Steel. From studio interference to too much creative freedom, the shared cinematic universe of DC Comics has criticism from moviegoers, critics, and fans alike. Personally, I liked some of their endeavors, especially some of the earlier projects (i.e., Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman), but the latter releases (Shazam!, Birds of Prey, and Wonder Woman 1984) are taking the franchise in a completely different direction and are a bit “meh” in my opinion. 2016’s Suicide Squad was one of those movies that I really couldn’t make heads or tails of. I kind liked it, but didn’t at the same time, which is very odd. I loved the cast (Smith, Davis, Robbie, Kinnaman, Leto), but the film’s story was incredible thin and weak. Plus, after the criticism that the previous two DCEU movies were considered “too serious”, it seems like the movie was trying too hard to be something akin to the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy, including a recognizable music soundtrack of song selections. It just felt something that was a bit of disappointment and clearly seeing that the higher ups at WB were interjecting a lot into this final cut of the feature. As I said, some embraced the film, while a great many hated the movie, with rotten tomato score of (currently) at 26%, which I know that scoring has to be taken with grain of salt, but what’s the saying…. the proof is in the pudding. Overall, my thoughts of Suicide Squad were mixed, but more on the bad side as I wish the film could’ve been so much better. Definitely one of the lower installments in the DCEU.
Naturally, this brings me back to talking about The Suicide Squad, a 2021 superhero movie, the eleventh entry in the DCEU (if one includes Zack Snyder’s Justice League) and the sequel to the 2016 film that shares the same name. It’s definitely going to be difficult to separate the two film names (Suicide Squad and The Suicide Squad) in this review, but I shall try to do my best. Anyway, I always remember heard a bunch of rumors that they were talks of either doing a sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad or rebooting the concept from the ground up, which seemed like a better decision…. especially with the more inconsistent nature of how the DCEU plays out as a whole. So, when it was announced that a new Suicide Squad was going to be greenlit and that it was going to be directed James Gunn (after Disney initially fired him on directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3). After that, I heard a lot of casting selections that was going to be a part of the film, with a host of new characters and few returning characters from the 2016 film…. meaning that the new Suicide Squad movie was going to be sequel of some kind. Still, giving the nature of the DCEU and how their installments have been a little “hit or miss”, I was a little skeptical. Though, I to admit that the movie trailers for the project promised something completely different from its predecessor. Plus, with the movie being released on HBO Max, I was intrigued to see it. So, I decided to give the movie a go and watched a few days after its initial theatrical release, but watched in the comforts of my home on HBO Max. Unfortunately, with my schedule for work, my review for this movie is a bit (sorry about that). So, what did I think of it? Well, I liked it. While there were a few problems that I had with the movie, The Suicide Squad is a violent and madcap superhero adventure that delivers on its premise and gives its viewers want many wanted to see in the 2016 iteration. It’s not the best DCEU movie in the series, but its vastly better (and more fun) that its counterpart predecessor.
As mentioned, The Suicide Squad is directed by James Gunn, who previously directed such movies like Super and Slither as well as Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II. Given his background with the success of the two Guardians for Marvel Studios, Gunn was given a lot creative liberties in shaping a new Suicide Squad movie for WB’s DCEU, which was somewhat of a stark contrast to what Ayer was given for the 2016 film. I have to say that the cinematic freedom proved to be a lot of the winning formula for The Suicide Squad, with Gunn pulling all the stops, punches, and violent action into this endeavor. The result is something that really does work and shines through throughout the entire feature, with Gunn’s vision of a crazy, vibrant, and more violent Suicide Squad movie than its predecessor, which creates an entertaining superhero jaunt unlike anything that has come before. Well, maybe like Deadpool (and its sequel), but that would be the only comparable mainstream superhero film. As a whole, Gunn’s approach to this movie is almost like a welcomed “breath of fresh air”, displaying the right amount of over-the-top silliness, comic book nuances, and violent action to make the feature work and mostly harmonize. For within its story driven / plot device, Gunn keeps much of the core functionality the same; finding The Suicide Squad once again pitting a group of ragtag incarcerated super-criminals together and sending them off on a mission to save the world. It’s a proven formula, but Gunn puts his own twist on the premise by creating such a viscerally violent aspect on the feature that it becomes totally bonkers. Violence, death, and gory all go “hand-and-hand” on this project, but with more of an amusement twist of entertainment of being a bit more “cartoony” comedy rather than a mass murdering of dread. That being said, the brutality of The Suicide Squad is very much steeped in the entire feature. Thus, those who with the faint of heart for violence and gore, this movie might not be for you.
This is also accompanied by the fact that Gunn makes the feature much lighter in tone that compared to the 2016 Suicide Squad. Given Gunn’s approach to Guardians of the Galaxy, the director shapes this particular superhero film with a somewhat same sense of madcap comedic relief throughout the entire film, which translate into something more entertaining and compelling to watch. In fact, I actually found myself laughing more during the first act of the film (I did laugh a lot during the other two acts as well) than I did during the entire run of 2016’s Suicide Squad. Heck, even some of the various deaths that befall the multitude of characters in the movie are played for laughs, with some of the action sequences, while gruesome and full force of violence are played with some comedic timing. That’s not to say that Gunn makes The Suicide Squad all laughs and over-the-top violence as Gunn does help balance the feature with action and drama; proving to have a more wholesome feeling for this super criminal team up. Theirs is a madcap glee to this feature and Gunn relishes in that endeavor; cultivating in a movie that has a very distinct swagger and definitely dances to its own beat within the DCEU. It is …perhaps…the more comedic and entertaining endeavor within this shared DC cinematic universe. In short, I think that Gunn’s touch of directing makes this movie quite enjoyable; reveling in his own madness and generates plenty of goofy / crass laughs, a sense of action superhero aspect, and dramatic violence that makes the feature entertaining from start to finish.
Within the feature’s presentation, The Suicide Squad is great and is (once again) vastly different from Ayer’s 2016 film. While the first Suicide Squad was presented with a darker and gloomier within its visual aspect, Gunn (and his team) provided a much more colorful and brighter atmospheric feature film that provides to have a much richer tone within its presentation. Colors are a washed with brightness, which adds to Gunn’s handling of its comedic tone as well as superhero familiarity. Thus, the film’s various “behind the scenes” members, including Beth Mickle (production design), Lisa K. Sessions (set decorations), Judianna Makovsky (costume designs), and the entire art direction team definitely help aide in the feature’s stunning and colorful look within its cinematic appeal. Also, what definitely helps the feature’s overall look is the visual cinematography, which was done by Henry Braham. Braham’s work is quite beautiful to behold and definitely lends a hand to the film’s various cinematic moments. There is a stunning quality to all, even if something parts are positioned for more goofy / surreal sequences or more gory violence bits. Lastly, while the film’s score, which was composed by John Murphy, is a solid musical composition that hits all the right notes with each scene, the movie does bolster itself with a good music soundtrack of various songs that, much like Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy endeavors, is quite compelling.
While I do think that this 2021 iteration of the Suicide Squad is definitely superior to its 2016 predecessor, there isn’t an award-winning blockbuster slam dunk as some fans / moviegoers are making it out to be, with a few criticisms that I had with the feature. I wouldn’t say that these points are super harsh or as impactful as they were in the 2016 film, but these were the things that I noticed about the film. For starters, the film’s overall story is a bit too simplistic for its own styles and fashion What do I mean? Well, while Gunn performed “double duty” on this project as both director and writer, the writing portion is a bit underwhelming. Granted, the film’s story in the 2016 Suicide Squad was incredibly weak and one of the main problems with the feature, so I definitely was looking for something with a bit more substance. In truth, the 2021 version has more meat on its narrative, but its still a bit light around the edges; finding some areas of the movie’s story to be a bit limp and thin as if Gunn’s sort of glossed over certain aspects. Perhaps the film’s narration of the movie is also another part of that problem, with Gunn juggling a lot of storyline threads, with some coming across stronger than others and with feature focusing on more than others. It’s easy to see that there’s a lot going on in The Suicide Squad and the actually overall balance of it all comes up a tad wonky and misplaces its nuances / context from time to time. I think if the film’s narrative was a bit more streamlined and less entangled with various character story plot points that the movie could’ve been better.
In addition to that point, Gunn’s madcap adventure sees a lot of violence and gory and, while I do like all of it, it just seems a bit repetitive in some parts. It’s little bit like what happened with 2019’s Hellboy, which was unnaturally R-rated with its violence just for the sake of being R-rated. It’s obvious that Gunn wanted to try something different from his more “family friendly” approach to superhero comic book adaptations as seeing in his two Guardians of the Galaxy at Marvel / Disney, but I just have strange feeling that The Suicide Squad is just trying to be edgy / violent just for the sake of being so, with the contrast of Gunn’s craftsmanship between the two comic book franchise. It’s quite clear of this and the result is something of a mixed bag. Not something completely disastrous or terrible, but one of those things that one can obviously tell Gunn is trying a little too hard to unleash his anger at Marvel / Disney by giving them the somewhat “finger”. Maybe that’s just me, but I think that movie could’ve been toned down a little on its violence and gruesomeness and still achieve the same amount praise and affirmation from moviegoer.
As a whole, The Suicide Squad showcases plenty of characters throughout the movie and sometimes drops the ball in trying to create some type of well-roundness to the feature. Again, as I mentioned above, I knew that this was going to be a sort of a problem, so it wasn’t a super big deal. However, it might be a problem for some out there, with less focus on certain characters, with a lot acting more as “joke gags” of Gunn’s violent punchline. Also, the second half of the film feels a bit underwhelming, with Gunn deciding to lose focus on certain aspects and make the feature’s main point. This is most apparent with the film’s third act, which tries to go “big” with a climatic large-scale battle, but ultimately backfires and feels underwhelming and bloated; finding Gunn’s work fumbling and lacking the necessary cinematic superhero punch that the feature needed / wanted to be. Basically, the first half of the movie is great, and I loved it, but the second half kind of looses steam.
The cast in The Suicide Squad has a buttload of characters throughout the entire movie, with some major ones, some minor, and some that are somewhere in-between (you know what I mean…. when you see the movie), with the talented selected up to the task to play whatever roles that are set for the feature’s various characters. While there is plenty of characters in the movie, the feature certainly focuses on the two particular characters that I would consider to be “lead characters” of the film, with Suicide Squad characters Robert DuBois / Bloodsport and Cleo Cazo/ Ratcatcher 2, who are played by actor Idris Elba and Daniela Melchior. Elba, who is known for his roles in The Losers, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and The Wire, has proven himself to be a capable in the lead role position and demonstrates that again in this movie. Sure, its not his grittiest nor meatiest role for the actor to play, but its quite obvious that Elba is having blast playing the role of Robert DuBois. It’s kind of amusing to see Elba in such a ridiculous and totally bonkers movie, but he surely does fit the part and helps ground the feature as the de facto leader of the group. Likewise, Melchior, known for her roles in Parque Mayer, Massa Fresca, and A Herdeira, does a great job in character role of Ratcatcher 2 (yes, there is a reasoning behind the name). She’s not a relatively well-known actress, but The Suicide Squad gives her a great platform for most viewers to show her acting talents of which handles quite well. I actually didn’t think she was going to play such a large part in the film from when I initial saw her, but she does develop throughout the entire film. In truth, both Bloodsport and Ratcatcher have the greatest growth in the movie and have the greatest emotional arc in the feature, with both Elba and Melchior demonstrating what they are capable of achieving within the performances in the film.
Other members of the new Suicide Squad consist of several humorous / unique characters that are fun to watch throughout the movie. Perhaps one of the favorites (of the entire movie) would have to be the character of Christopher Smith / Peacemaker, who is played by former wrestler / actor John Cena. Known for his roles in Blockers, F9: The Fast Saga, and Ferdinand, Cena seems right at home with his character of Peacemaker, who is just as deadly / ruthless as Elba’s Bloodsport, but has a bit more of more humor, which is thanks to Cena’s spot-on dialogue delivery. Plus, I love the whole rivalry between his character and Bloodsport, which produces some of the best laughs in the film. As a whole, there is a bit of a twist to his character, which I won’t spoil, but it actually works well in the movie, and I like it. Behind him is the character of Polka-Dot Man, a shy and fragile man with some unique powers he can’t fully control yet. Played by actor David Dastmalchian (Prisoners and Animals), the character starts out a bit of uninteresting / weird character, but slowly develops throughout the course of the feature, with Gunn’s attention on him becoming more and more engrossing. Plus, I think that Dastmalchian does a great job in the role as the character of Polka-Dot Man comes up as the surprise hit of the feature.
Another fun character in the movie would have to be the character of Nanaue / King Shark, a man-eating human hybrid creature. Voiced by Sylvester Stallone (Rocky and Rambo), Nanaue is played up for laughs as the big, oafish character with one-liners, something like Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy or Grogu from The Mandalorian; acting more as a physical character rather than character of words and philosophical ideologies. That’s not to say is walking trope of goofy sayings, which are still quite a riot to what he says, as Nanaue is deadly fighter of pure force and some of the more violent gory scenes involve his character. Plus, Stallone’s voice is perfect for his character. The only “new” character that I was a bit disappointed with was Gaius Grieves / The Thinker, who is played by actor Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who and The Thick of It). I just think that there could’ve been so much more to this character as well as Capaldi, who is a great actor. The Thinker just comes off as a throwaway character, which I known that this movie is quite known for, but I just believe that the character could’ve been more of a sizeable threat or least have more to do.
Of the 2016’s Suicide Squad cast, several of them do return for this new film, with most prevalent being the character of Harley Quinn, the crazed psychopath criminal with once ties with the clowned Prince of Gotham (aka Joker), with actress Margot Robbie returning to play the infamous character. Robbie, known for her roles in The Wolf on Wall Street, I, Tonya, and Goodbye Christopher Robin, is quite familiar playing the character of Harley Quinn, with The Suicide Squad being her third time playing the psychotic criminal (i.e., Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey) and it is clear to see how much the character has grown from those two features. Robbie demonstrates how much Harley has achieved more skilled / deadly prowess within her acts of violence as well how much she (as a person) has grown. While she isn’t the heart of the feature, I do think she gets a lot of character-built moments for Robbie shine through…and she does.
Behind Robbie’s Quinn, the character of Rick Flagg, the field leader of the Suicide Squad / Task Force X, returns, with actor Joel Kinnaman reprising the role. Kinnaman, known for his roles in The Killing, RoboCop, and House of Cards, was pretty good (in my opinion) in the first Suicide Squad movie, so it was great to see him return to reprise his role in this 2021 sequel feature. Plus, I kind of like how he once again acts as the field leader by trying to manage everyone as well as his mutual relationship with Harley. Lastly, the character of Amanda Waller, the government director of A.R.G.U.S. who runs Task Force X program, returns with actress Viola Davis (How Do Get Away with Murder and Fences) reprising her role. The 2021 The Suicide Squad showcases that Waller is not weak link, with Davis demonstrating that ruthlessness and extreme measure that Waller will go to complete her mission. However, while Davis is great actress (and I’m glad that she has returned), all that she does for most of the movie is threat people and scream, especially during the second half of the feature. Heck, I think there was more development of her character in the 2016 film. Still, I think these three characters / actors (Robbie’s Harley, Kinnaman’s Flagg, and Waller’s Davis) form the backbone of The Suicide Squad, with their effective performances as a whole.
Rounding out the rest of the Suicide Squad members are some of the more minor team members of this assembled group that make appearances in the movie. This includes actor Jai Courtney (Terminator: Genisys and A Good Day to Die Hard) retuning to reprise his 2016 Suicide Squad role of George “Digger” Harkness / Captain Boomerang, actor Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy and The Walking Dead) as marksman Brian Durlin / Savant, actor Pete Davidson (The King of Staten Island and Saturday Night Live) as mercenary Richard “Dick” Hertz / Blackguard, actor Nathan Fillion (Castle and Firefly) as detachable appendage Cory Pitzner / T.D.K., actor Flula Borg (Pitch Perfect 2 and actress Mayling Ng (Wonder Woman and Lady Bloodfight) as the alien mass murderer Mongal. As mentioned earlier in this review, there are some characters in the movie that don’t make a lasting impression in this movie and get killed off rather swiftly throughout. This is part of this grouping of characters above, rendering most of them “cannon fodder” for the feature to propel its violent tendencies in gleeful (yet gory) fashion. Again, this didn’t bother me as I kind of heard rumors floating around of how the movie was going to be structured and going to be killing off a host of characters here and there. So, I probably would say that these characters are merely minor supporting roles in the movie. Additionally, I won’t spoil how they die, but just keep an eye opening for when they do.
Rounding out the rest of the movie’s cast includes actress Alice Braga (The New Mutants and Elysium) as the leader of the rebel faction on Corto Maltese named Sol Soria, actress Storm Reid (Euphoria and A Wrinkle in Time) as DuBois’s estranged daughter Tyla, actor / director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok and Free Guy) as the original Ratcatcher, actor Juan Diego Botto (1492: Conquest of Paradise and La Celestina) as President General Silvio Luna, actor Joaquin Cosio (Quantum of Solace and Narcos: Mexico) as Mayor General Mateo Suarez, actor Gerardo Davila (The Vampire Diaries and Walker) as General Vera, and actor Steve Agee (Superstore and Adventure Time), actress Jennifer Holland (Sun Records and American Horror Story), and actress Tinashe Kajese (Cold Case and Powers) as Waller’s aides John Economos, Emilia Harcourt, and Flo Crawley. These characters are minor supporting players in the movie, with most having at least one or two moments in the spotlight to focus on. Given the plethora of characters in the movie, these players are limited (yet still effective) supporting characters throughout the film. Thus, there is no complain on their acting talent nor there amount of screen-time given to them.
To gain access on Corto Maltese and discover the mystery surrounding Project Starfish, Amanda Waller restarts Task Force X, with a new team spearheading the mission, and crazy violence to ensue with the movie The Suicide Squad. Director James Gunn’s latest film takes the concept idea that was established in the 2016 Suicide Squad film and expands upon it in a very different way that brimming with more characters, more violence, more visual imagery, and more comic book entertainment throughout. While the film does falter in being overstuffed at a few times, a few rough edges within its plot, and a “eh” third act, the movie still manages to vastly superior to its predecessor, which is due to Gunn’s direction, better colorful characters, a very distinct cinematic swagger, and within its goofy / dark humor of violence and goofy deadpan. Personally, I thought that this movie was good. I think that it wasn’t the superb “best of the best” DCEU installment that many are claim it to be as there are some faults that I have with the film. However, it is indeed ten times better than what the original 2016 Suicide Squad and a had a lot more fun with this movie than I did with previous film. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is quite a favorable “recommended” as I’m sure it will please plenty of DC fans out there, especially those who were turned off of the previous film as well as the casual moviegoers that are looking for some cinematic distractions. With the success that this movie has, it’s almost a forgone conclusion that another Suicide Squad movie will be in the works in the near future, with (I hope) James Gunn returning to direct the next chapter. There is also the Peacemaker TV series on HBO Max, which I am looking forward to seeing and to see where this spin-off project goes. Until then….2021’s The Suicide Squad is crazy, fun, and visual entertaining superhero romp that embraces its violent (yet totally bonkers) persona fully of over-the-top ridiculousness and superhero antics.
3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: August 6th, 2021
Reviewed On: September 5th, 2021
The Suicide Squad is 132 minutes long and is rated R for strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, and brief graphic nudity