The Suicide Squad (2021)

Director David Ayer’s take on DC Comics’ “Suicide Squad” is one of the classic examples of studio interference, and how it can destroy a potentially great project. Director/Writer James Gunn has a talent for highlighting the more appealing and exciting elements of more underdog comic book characters, and with “The Suicide Squad” he shows us how a lot of the time allowing a director to just create and show audiences their vision can be beneficial for everyone.

In top secret prison Belle Reve, enigmatic politician Amanda Waller is back and assembling yet another Suicide Squad (or Task Force X) to infiltrate Corto Maltese, an island filled with potential enemies of the US. Waller deploys the team to learn more about a potential secret weapon known as “Project Starfish.” Led by Superman villain Boodsport, the team of King Shark, Peacemaker, Polka Dot Man, Harley Quinn, and Ratcatcher 2 enter in to the dangerous jungles and get more than they bargained for when they dig deep in to what Project Starfish is and its potential for annihilation.

“The Suicide Squad” is a sequel/soft reboot of the first film that follows the original premise of the comic books and maintains some scraps from the first movie. Gunn keeps some elements that worked while ditching a lot of what didn’t. The over stylization and appeal to Marvel fans is gone, while Gunn manages to successfully emphasize the wooden Rick Flag (Joel Kinneman), as well as accentuating why Harley Quinn is so fantastic. While the first film was mainly about Harley Quinn and Deadshot, Gunn allows the movie to embrace its ensemble potential, casting a brilliant slew of actors to build on some third tier DC comics characters.

One of the better improvements is Idris Elba who lends Bloodsport some interesting dimensions places him front and center. Gunn never forgets that these characters are first and foremost, supervillains, never making them just superheroes with a darker tone, but literally the scum of the DC Universe for once pushed in to doing something noble for once. Gunn makes it clear when establishing these characters that they are not people we’d want to emulate or admire, even though we do tend to empathize with them. There isn’t a single awful performance in the group, as people like Daniela Melchior, and David Dastmalchian are fantastic in their respective roles.

John Cena is also wonderfully obnoxious as Peacemaker, while Sylvester Stallone is hysterical as King Shark. Idris Elba and Margot Robbie take the cake though as Bloodsport and Harley Quinn. They’re two incredibly complex and difficult protagonists that always give us reasons to dislike them, but damnit, we root for them through the very end. Director Gunn is allowed to take a ton of turns and twists, going for an unexpected view of the DC Universe that’s bizarre, very funny, and absolutely ultra violent.

I wish Warner and DC would take more creative leaps, giving us more out of the ordinary comic book movies fueled by masters like Gunn. “The Suicide Squad” is great from top to bottom; it’s fantastic a comic book movie with a Troma gloss, and easily DCEU’s best installment to date.

Now in Theaters Everywhere, and Streaming Exclusively on HBO Max through September 15th.