Title: The Suicide Squad (2021) Director: James Gunn Writer: James Gunn Stars: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Jaws, Crisp Ratt, Sylvester Stallone
Note: James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad has grown on me in 2021. Every time I’ve watched it, I’ve liked it even more, and it has now come to the point that the initial review I wrote for Norwegian media after the initial press screening is no longer is accurate. This is my revisit of The Suicide Squad, or re-review, if you will.
You can find The Suicide Squad on HBO Max.
A group of hardened mercenaries, soldiers, criminals has just arrived on a small island nation in South America. With them is a girl who can talk to and control rats, a lunatic lady wielding a spear, a guy in a jumpsuit with the ability to hurl lethal polka dots and a hungry half-man half-shark with a taste for human meat. They’re all here to kill a giant starfish from space.
Of course, they are!
So, The Suicide Squad. Just about now, you might wonder, “Wasn’t that a mediocre movie with Will Smith and some witch from a few years back?” True, there have been some attempts at adapting DC Comics’ gang of misfits and anti-heroes to the screen. The one you might remember is David Ayer’s 2016 attempt, which, confusingly enough, also starred Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. And these characters have appeared in other media, such as the “Arrowverse” series, consisting of Arrow, The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
But it is James Gunn’s 2021 The Suicide Squad we’re here for. The American director is known mostly for the two The Guardians of the Galaxy films, which brought Gunn’s special brand of heart and humor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before that, my first encounter with his film came in the form of the completely bonkers science fiction horror comedy Slither, which I recommend to anyone interested in that genre.
Right, so with all this cleared up, let’s take a look at the story and setup of James Gunn’s 2021 The Suicide Squad. The beforementioned gang of criminals, misfits and lunatics has just landed on the beach of this small South American island nation. They’re here because of a deal each of them made with a shadowy US government organization: complete the extremely dangerous mission and get a decade struck of their sentence. As an insurance policy, a bomb is implanted in their skulls to prevent any attempts at escaping.
Yeah, this has Gunn’s signature all over it!
This is a story about characters, so let’s meet the gang. First up is Bloodsport (played by Idris Elba), who can transform anything he picks up into a lethal weapon. Next is Peacemaker (played by John Cena) with his ability to transform anything he picks up into a lethal weapon (wait, what??). Oh, and he also wants world peace, no matter how many he has to kill to achieve it!
Joker fangirl Harley Quinn is also back in this one, again played by Margot Robbie. This spear-wielding lunatic steals just about every scene she is in, and even though we’ve seen her in both Suicide Squad from 2016 and Cathy Yan’s 2020 Birds of Prey, I felt that it was first now with the direction of James Gunn that she really got to go all out with this iconic role.
Next, we have Ratcatcher 2 (played by Daniela Melchior). Accompanied by what has to be film history’s greatest rat, Sebastian (played by rats Jaws and Crisp Ratt and voiced by… of course… Dee Bradley Baker), she can communicate and control rats in large numbers. Ratcatcher 2 is the group’s heart, bringing warmth and empathy to this gang of misfits.
David Dastmalchian plays Polka-Dot Man, and… what? Yes, that’s his name. As I was writing, David Dastmalchian plays Polka-Dot Man, who can throw lethal polka-dots (bear with me here). This tragic character resulted from experimentation by his mother in DC Comics’ Star Labs, and he now bears a grudge, seeing his mother everywhere.
And then there is King Shark, a half-human/half-shark descendant of an ancient Shark god. Voiced by Sylvester Stallone, no less, King Shark has an enormous appetite (for human flesh, of course) combined with a tiny intellect and childlike wonder.
Leading the group on the mission is Colonel Rick Flag (played by Joel Kinnaman). No powers, no mutations, and not a lunatic. Colonel Flag just wants to make sure everything goes as planned (which it doesn’t) and everyone stays in line (which they don’t).
And I haven’t even mentioned the large cast of minor characters, played by well-known actors, comedians and Gunn regulars!
As expected, there are some great banter, conflicts and even fights between these characters, but what surprised me the most with The Suicide Squad was the empathy and heart that builds up between them. The film is an ode to the little guy, the underdog, the different one. And despite it being an action-filled gore-fest with special effects in just about every shot, it is a film I will remember for the dialogue and chemistry between the main characters. The expressions and friendship Ratcatcher 2’s rat friend Sebastian shows when he wants to give a leaf to make friends. King Shark’s childlike realization when Bloodsport points out that the monster is “nom-nom.” The father-daughter relationship that forms between Bloodsport and Ratcatcher 2… These, and many more, are the moments that make The Suicide Squad such a gem in the superhero genre.
The Suicide Squad is a great example of what you can achieve if you pick the right directors for the right projects and just let them work with unfiltered creativity. And if this is the kind of action, humor and wit we can expect from the upcoming Peacemaker spinoff series, we’re in very good hands. I can’t wait to review it early next year!