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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Suicide Squad

Title: The Suicide Squad

Describe This Movie In One The Untouchables Quote:

MALONE: Oh, what the hell. You gotta die of something.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Supervillains might be super screwed.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 4 of Limp Bizkit's third album out of 5.
Tagline: "They're dying to save the world."

Better Tagline: "Num num."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The world is in danger once again, thanks to something called "Project Starfish" located on the island nation of Corto Maltese. This leads government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to activate "Task Force X," colloquially referred to as the "Suicide Squad." But what Task Force vets Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) don't know — to say nothing of newcomers Bloodsport (Idris Elba), King Shark, and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) — is that Waller's interest in Project Starfish isn't entirely related to national security.
"Critical" Analysis: The Suicide Squad, the standalone sequel to 2016's Suicide Squad, asks that age-old question: what happens if you give a Troma guy Warner Bros. money and a hard "R" rating? The answer, mundanely enough, is you get what The Toxic Avenger might have looked like with a decent effects budget and a better soundtrack.

Director James Gunn, the Troma guy in question, sure is having the last laugh. Canned (temporarily, as it turns out) from his gig directing Guardians of the Galaxy flicks in 2018, he was hired mere months later to helm this. And if you'd predicted the resulting product would be DC's best movie since The Dark Knight, people would've said you were more full of shit than Mike Cernovich.

The Suicide Squad is as much a jeering middle finger to the wannabe ratfuckers who got Gunn fired from Disney as it is a joyous rejection of the so-called SnyderVerse. Gunn embracing the ridiculousness of characters like Polka-Dot Man and King Shark — combined with 2019's Shazam! and 2020's Birds of Prey — makes it look like Warner Bros. might finally be extricating themselves from the sludgy gloom of their recent superhero efforts.

[Not that grimdark aficionados have anything to worry about. After all, the trailer for Matt Reeves' upcoming The Batman features a downbeat version of Nirvana's "Something in the Way."]

Maybe it's because the Suicide Squad movies, like those other examples, work best as an adjunct to the DC Universe as a whole. We had a glimpse of Batman in the first one, and Bloodsport is in Belle Reve Prison because he put Superman in the ICU. There's also (mercifully) none of Jared Leto's Joker. The entire enterprise exists both on the fringes of cinematic mythology and wholly within the realm of the comics themselves.

Gunn also tosses aside the traditional economy of superhero characters by killing off a surprising number of them over the course of the film. A certain, obvious franchise favorite is probably safe, and the emotional center of the movie is, perversely enough, the one with the affinity for rats, but for everyone else, all bets are off.

And yet, part of the movie's success comes from how it makes us care about unlikely tertiary characters like Polka-Dot Man (a deceptively soulful David Dastmalchian) and King Shark (Sylvester Stallone).

Saying much more would ruin a lot of what's already been spoiled in the trailers (still can't believe Gunn managed to put a version of Bill the Cat in a movie). If there are any complaints, it's that Peter Capaldi (The Thinker) isn't given nearly enough to do, and that Warner Bros. needs to figure out what to do with Harley Quinn. Robbie is great, as usual, but her character is marking time after showing growth (of a sort) in Birds of Prey.

Freed from the PG-13 constraints of the MCU, James Gunn has delivered a grotesque wonder. The Suicide Squad is profane, excessive, and surprisingly moving. Whether this movie marks a departure for Warner Bros. from the exsanguinated efforts of recent years (Wonder Woman notwithstanding) or just a jumping off point for a new TV series, it's an anarchically ultraviolent breath of fresh air.

The Suicide Squad is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar