If you visited review aggregate sites this week, it seemed like James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad was one of the best movies of all time, what with its 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes a few days ago! This has dropped to 97% at the time of writing this but still, The Suicide Squad is no 9 out of 10 flick either. Yes there’s some good ideas in there (and of course it goes without saying that this sequel-slash-reboot is far superior to David Ayer’s 2016 dull mess) but there’s lots of dross in there too. The Suicide Squad is one-hell of an overrated superhero movie; for me, this is the very definition of an average film.
When a film critic calls a movie “bonkers”, brags about its “R-rating”, or says it contains “profanity”, what this really means is that the current crop of mainstream critics are either living sheltered lives or are arse-licking, yes-men… “Ooh look, some blood and mentions of ‘buttholes’, I must avert my eyes! “Bonkers” is just a polite way of saying “nonsensical”, I mean take a look at the plot: Superhero convicts of Belle Reve penitentiary are coerced and sent as members of “Task Force X” to the South American island of Corto Maltese to destroy Jotunheim, a Nazi-era prison and laboratory which holds captive Starro, a giant, parasitic and telepathic alien starfish. This synopsis makes Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker seem grounded in reality. Granted, a daft plot can sometimes be great fun but in this case it’s not. The first-half of the film is quite boring, and the flick as a whole is very predictable (the demise of the first crop of Task Force X, lots of rats and lots of star-fish – how will that pan out I wonder? – not to mention the “mystery-purpose” javelin, all being very obvious plot-devices).
Given that Gunn made two classic comic book movies for Marvel (Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2) it looks to me like DC hired him in order to emulate his successes for their company. In lots of ways therefore, The Suicide Squad resembles a bootleg-Guardians and makes James look like a one-trick pony filmmaker in the process. With a ragtag group of mismatched anti-heroes including the Groot-esque King Shark and a weasel instead of a racoon, The Suicide Squad looks like it’s attempting to be a darker-toned Guardians Of The Galaxy, but because of some crap cinematography and piss-poor editing, the end result looks like a mediocre TV special rather than a summer blockbuster (which I guess fits in with its HBO Max at-home release in the US). For anyone dragging their arse to the cinema, you’re basically paying to watch a cheap imitation of Guardians Of The Galaxy with some added bullet wounds and a few swear words; think Watchmen meets Deadpool.
I have to reiterate how bad the editing is. Peacemaker’s line “I cherish peace with all my heart. I don’t care how many men, women and children I need to kill to get it” is brilliantly satirical, but this along with Polka-Dot Man’s depression, is funnier in the trailer. With a less snappy version taking place in the film, the comic-timing is off, not to mention we’ve already heard the best punchlines in the movie’s promotion. Whilst on the topic of comedy, constantly seeing Polka-Dot Man’s mother could have been funny, had the actor playing her not looked so irritatingly bland and nothing like an abusive parent (plus “John” at the penitentiary command centre is also an annoying character).
From the opening Johnny Cash number to The Jim Carroll Band’s “People Who Died”, I was at least hoping for another Guardians Of The Galaxy-style soundtrack but by the time we get to The Fratellis, Grandson, and Jessie Reyez, you realise this is more of a “Not-So Awesome Mix Vol. 1”. While I’m criticising The Suicide Squad, I may as well also mention that the prospect of having to watch Pete Davidson for two hours almost dissuaded me from seeing this movie but thankfully his role is very short.
The Suicide Squad does have a few redeeming qualities, if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be on this site. Firstly, given Gunn’s previous inclusion of emotion and heart in Guardians Of The Galaxy 1 and 2, there’s some familial subplots with Bloodsport’s daughter and Ratcatcher 2’s father (the latter failing to bring a tear to the eye since we don’t spend time with Taika Waititi’s character for more than a few seconds).
Aside from the heartfelt aspects, there’s also some commendable commentary on US foreign policy, torture, experimentation, and war, with arsehole patriot Peacemaker, and Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. being double-dealing, backstabbing bastards and Corto possibly being a comment on GTMO. The line by Starro during the finale (“I was happy floating, staring at the stars”) means that even the villain of the piece is a victim of America which makes this a unique plot for Hollywood. I guess when you wrap-up a non-mainstream opinion in a “bonkers” storyline, most people don’t notice it. Had these positives been more prominent, The Suicide Squad could have been a great movie, but without Guardian‘s art direction and tone, this film doesn’t come close. There’s a decent cast of likeable actors (Idris Elba and David Dastmalchian to name but two) and the writing is potentially humourous and quotable, but unfortunately there’s no magic here. Hopefully James Gunn will be able to conjure it up once more for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 or go away and do something new instead of churning the same concepts over and over for different studios.