Greetings Red Mango Readers. Editor Jules here. Last week the latest DCEU film The Suicide Squad was released. It is a sequel/soft reboot to 2016’s Suicide Squad and was helmed by James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. It follows Bloodsport, Harley Quinn, Peacemaker and other members of Task Force X as they head to the troubled nation of Corto Maltese on a deadly mission to uncover the secrets of a mysterious project called “Starfish”.
With a movie this big one review just wouldn’t do. So we’ve got five! With a kaiju-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s blow your minds (poor choice of words there, my bad) with five The Suicide Squad reviews. And kicking things off is guest writer Tracy J Hutchings. Take it away Tracy!
Review 1: *Guest Writer Tracy J Hutchings aka The Detachable Tracy
“These violent delights…”. If ever there was a phrase to describe THE Suicide Squad, it’s probably
that. Violent, visceral, disgusting and dynamic. James Gunn did the impossible for me: he made me want to see [technically] PART TWO to a franchise I didn’t care for. And it is safe to call it that; a technical sequel to the first. James not only brought back ladies Viola Davis and Margot Robbie
(Amanda Waller and Harley Quinn respectively) and master Courtney and Kinnaman (Boomerang and Rick Flag) but he brought back the excitement I felt when the first couple of trailers for that 2016 WB fiasco dropped. We won’t go back there, save to say that like 1989’s Joker, I too have a name for my pain and it is Tsujihara [Warner’s former head].
Back in the present, THE Suicide Squad (from posters to actual movie) felt like a cool throwback to late eighties war films WITHOUT feeling cheesy like one. And given that this iteration is based on the John Ostrander Suicide Squad comic run, that tracks well. In fact, THE Suicide Squad does “read” like a graphic novel. Visually stunning, bright when it needs to be, dirty and grimy at times. Even text is alive and tactile in this film.
This movie has a surprising amount of heart to it. Which, in a film this big, you’d expect some of that to be lost or glossed over but if James can make you care [cry?] over a tree that says three words, best believe that he’d make you care about a shark-man hybrid or a guy who throws polka-dots out of his hands. That being said, try not to get too attached to any one character because you never know how and WHEN they’d say sayonara to the screen. Honestly, even towards the end of the movie, I was watching to see who’d live.
Everyone has their time to shine and I LOVED seeing my girl Harley back in the game again. Her evolution in the past three movies really shows, though I am partial to my Birds of Prey Harley. For me though, the surprising standouts for me was Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher 2, who inherited the title after her father’s passing, and John Cena’s Peacemaker who killed that role with style! It’s funny, I got to see John in another film this year (Fast 9) but it’s his role as Peacemaker that really wins out. And I highlight these two because you EXPECT great performances from Elba, Stallone, Robbie, Dastmalchian and Fillion among others. But the way Daniela and John owned those roles with a measure of vulnerability, humor and grace was something to watch. That said, the deliciousness of Idris “Black Superman” Elba does shine out as
Bloodsport, who moves from reluctant leader and grump to redemptive soul who faces his fears and phobias in the end.
Like I said earlier, it’s dirty and grimy. The best way to put it, is that there are moments in this film where it feels like pre-special edition Star Wars where Jabba looked almost gross and you felt the grime coming through at you. This is true for the film’s main villain, Starro, an alien being who feeds on the energy on people, turning them into zombie-like drones and extensions of its will. With Starro, it doesn’t feel like a CGI-fest. And yes, I know, all these things are made of CGI but from the bumps on its skin to the way the mini-Starros eject from the body, it felt real (and happily, really gross). But Starro isn’t the only villain in this piece. In a film filled with morally ambiguous people, I liked the turn they made in the third act with one of the characters. It’s going to be hella interesting moving forward.
Of course, this film has its flaws. The use of flashbacks do jump around a little bit; a problem I heard some had with Birds of Prey. But where it was understandable that in BOP it’s from Harley’s twisted memory, I don’t know if TSS needed the constant back and forth. The other thing veers towards how the US views the world. The film takes place in Corto Maltese, a small South American island which trades one dictator for another and cue a band of US Commandos entering in the dead of night and raining more havoc. It’ll be a talking point for sure. Still, as someone who (mostly) just wants to enjoy things, I was able to move on.
All in all, THE Suicide Squad is excellent and EARNS its R-rating. A fun and violent film with TWO
fantastic soundtracks—the John Murphy Score (listen to “Ratism”) and the Various Artiste album
featuring “Rain” by Grandson and Jessie Reyez.
The Detachable Tracy’s Score: 9 out of 10 (I HIGHLY recommend this movie)
PS: Stick around for the post-credit scene. It’s important.
Review 2: Alice Oscura aka Queen Shark Alice
What do you call a skilled team of psychopathic killers sent on a treacherous government mission? The Suicide Squad, of course! James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is meant to be both a sequel and reboot of 2016’s highly criticised Suicide Squad. One of the main areas of criticism at the time was the PG-13 rating. Luckily, we were able to get our R-rated movie this time around and a sequel that improves on the original. There’s also the fact that we got a director who knows what to do with the material. The first major change is the 80’s inspired color palette in comparison to David Ayer’s darker, muted tones.
The Suicide Squad concept is to create a hero out of some mentally-deranged supervillains and as a reward, they would get reduced sentences. Of course, they still needed to survive and if you tried to escape Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) would quickly make their heads explode via a chip implant. Well, who can say no to an offer like that, huh? But, of course, send some killers to do a black ops government job and you are not going to get a neat, clean result.
Gunn’s version ramps up the energy and craziness that was so badly lacking in the original film. The violence and gunplay are deliciously over-the-top, the jokes are filthy and yet the story does find the time to take a peek into the killers’ broken minds. However, there were still characters that I would have liked to see a bit more of in terms of the depth of their story. Some unnecessary filler materials caused the film to drag slightly in the uneventful sequences. Another issue is that I felt saturated with particularly American films always seeming to use South America or Latinos as their fodder for villains.
The costume designs also get some high points in this version. Bloodsport’s (Idris Elba) helmet was an awesome nod to something alien (hint hint) while his weapon was made up of an infinite number of pieces. Harley’s (Margo Robbie) iconic half red and half black hair is my favorite version. As a side note, Robbie’s main sequence was extremely pleasing to the eyes despite the rawness of the violence and the emotional trigger. It was an iconic moment and seems to be opening the path for the character’s future status. Fellow comic book fans might be able to pick up on it pretty quickly. Special mention goes out to King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), who made me want to give him a big ole hug even though he may eat me. But then again, I don’t think that he eats friends anymore!
While the film is being hailed as one of the top 5 films in the DC Universe, I wouldn’t go as far to say that just yet. It was an extremely wild ride, fun to watch, engaging and entertaining. However, there is still a disconnect with a few of the main characters and the pacing was still too uneven, assisted by ill-timed jokes. One must not forget that these are characters representing persons with broken psyches and it is in bad taste to make or poke fun at people that suffer from varying forms of mental illness or have just had traumatising histories. So, it was better but not perfect enough to revive DC’s fractured universe.
Queen Shark Alice’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
Review 3: Wayne ‘Nanaue’ Rock
I don’t have much to add to the positive ravings of the masses about James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, because for once I am largely in agreement. Gunn has not only produced something special, but also something that exists almost as an antithesis to Task Force X’s previous live action outing. Whether it’s the colourful, fantastic visuals seemingly pulled directly from a comic book (providing a sharp contrast to Gunn’s signature gory style) on full display in R-Rated glory or the added-depth to the choice of Z-list DC villains that got me to care about a shark, a man who grows polka dot pimples, a woman who can control rats and Joel Kinnaman, Gunn has crafted a delight of a film.
It’s difficult not to compare it to 2016 Suicide Squad, but at the same time, it makes the entire universe that this film takes place in feel entirely different, almost to the point where it’s better if we just pretend the first film didn’t exist. One plot point that really made me switch gears was during the introduction of Idris Elba’s Bloodsport. As he approaches his daughter on the other side of the prison glass, I shook my head, ready to be critical. “Oh great. Another marksman character with a sympathetic backstory and a daughter he cares about that Waller can use to manipulate him into doing her bidding.” Then the characters started cursing each other, revealing an entirely different dynamic. And yes, Waller does use Bloodsport’s daughter to manipulate him, but the explosive almost hateful nature of their relationship is a better starting point for the character from a growth standpoint. He isn’t a ready-made, sensitive, loving father who only does crime for the sake of his family. He grows into that role through his interactions with the other characters, particularly a stand-in for his daughter in Ratcatcher 2.
In fact, all the members of Task Force X are fleshed out and given meaningful backstories that helps the audience connect with every single one of them. The best part is this isn’t always delivered in a boring exposition dump (El Diablo anyone?), but at times in the most subtle of ways. In one scene where Bloodsport is musing about his abusive upbringing by his father, Peacemaker (John Cena) just silently nods in quiet acknowledgement, bringing profundity and nuance to a previous joke-line about them being the same. The little moments like these are what makes The Suicide Squad something special.
Can we also have a round of applause for what I think is the most comic-accurate live action portrayal of Harley Quinn, ever? Even more so than in her own solo film! That scene with Luna alone wiped the floor with Birds of Prey and made me say out loud “A lot of people forget that Harley Quinn is a psychologist…”. Not James Gunn apparently. I really want to go on and on about Nanaue and Polka Dot Man and Peacemaker, but this review would be 200 pages long. Just trust that they’re all great. And don’t even get me started on the soundtrack.
With his choice of Starro the Conqueror, Gunn has also put to bed the myth that a Suicide Squad movie should be reserved for smaller-scale stakes, something that I bought into wholesale before this movie. I really believed that having this small team of under-powered misfits save the world could not work, but apparently it was all about the execution. Instead of the team being assembled to save the world from the get-go, the movie slowly ramps up to that over-the-top climax, which added to the sense of chaos, that no one, not even Waller herself could’ve predicted the outcome. Even more so, the reveal of Peacemaker having his own separate mission within the main mission, was such a Waller thing to do and once again Viola Davis brought the house down with her performance. I loved how the film played with the different concepts of how the teams functioned as a “suicide” squad and thankfully there were no cringeworthy lines this time around.
Of course, the film isn’t perfect. No film is. But I’m not going to dwell too long on the shortcomings. Sure, it felt a tad too long and The Thinker was kind of just, there, even though he was functionally the secondary villain. The entire civil unrest of Corto Maltese along with the power changing hands four times in one movie was mostly played for laughs, but really didn’t amount to anything. What’s really important is that while I was writing this review, I really just wanted to rewatch the movie, and that’s very rare for me. James Gunn has earned his title as the king of the ensemble movie, and I really look forward to what else he has planned (Guardians 3?).
Wayne Nanaue’s Rating: 8 out of 10 (and an immediate rewatch)
Review 4: Sommerleigh Pollonais aka Ratcatcher 3
Talk about a complete 180! How do you go from the a generic, problem-riddled movie with some likeable but ultimately wasted characters, to a story that’s equal parts unpredictable, funny, surprisingly heartfelt and darkly comedic with the kind of over-the-top violence you’ll never see coming? Why you hire James freakin’ Gunn of course!
I don’t know what I was expecting when I sat down to watch DC’s The Suicide Squad but it certainly wasn’t this, and I mean that in the BEST way possible. Gunn’s near perfect blending of the more fantastical elements you would find in the pages of any comic book and the realistic (almost insanely brutal at that) depiction of violence and madness come together to make a comic book adaptation the likes of which no one has ever seen before. The closest thing I could compare it too is the television series The Boys and even then, this is not that.
Gunn and his team also make the smart choice of choosing to highlight characters that most everyone would be unfamiliar with. This way we start with a clean slate and an open mind. With the exception of a few returning faces like Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) and of course Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), we’re invited to join an entirely new squad of D-listers on their impossible mission. This time around we also have main players Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), Peacemaker (John Cena), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and Sylvester Stallone (yes, you read that right) as the cutest murderer ever brought to screen, King Shark. And when I tell you you’re gonna fall in love with each and everyone of these people, I am not exaggerating.
I don’t want to waste time comparing this movie to the one that came before, but I just have to mention how absolutely bonkers it is James Gunn made the time to give us one-on-one moments with each and every single one of these squad members without bringing the pacing or the energy in this movie to a halt. I teared up over Polka Dot Man and that’s a sentence I never thought I would ever write.
It goes without saying the actors here brought their A-game and more to their roles with the aforementioned Polka Dot played by Dastmalchian bringing both laughs and real emotion to his part. Equally so was Melchior in her role as Ratcatcher, excuse me Ratcatcher II. A very important distinction since the one and only Taika Waititi plays the role of her father, the man she takes her name from and the player who also made me choke up a bit with his/their tragic story. I would be remiss in my review if I didn’t stop to talk about Robbie absolutely slaying it as Harley Quinn. She has some of the coolest, most memorable stand out moments in this movie with her monologue on why she did that thing she did (no spoilers) showing us a side of Harley that has never effectively been brought to the screen before. And can we talk about her action sequence? Are you kidding me?!! This is one of those moments I mentioned where Gunn uses his genius to blend the comic world with the real one. It gave us a “look” into the way HQ’s mind works as she blocks out the truly horrific things she’s doing in a way only Harley can.
John Cena as Peacemaker was intense and I honestly didn’t expect such great things from him. His role was the one that made me think most of Garth Ennis’ series The Boys and I genuinely look forward to seeing more from this character. Last, but never ever the least, let’s talk about the cutest thing in the room. No I don’t mean Sebastian the rat, (although, yes, he’s a cutie in his own right). No my friends I wanna talk about King freakin’ Shark! Gunn and Vin Diesel made Groot the character everyone wanted to take home with them and now the same can be said about Stallone’s King of the Ocean, or in this case, a possible demi-god named Nanaue. The choice to play him as a child-like creature with the appetite of a great white was brilliant, and there was never a scene where Shark with his inquisitive nature and his need to have more “nom-noms” didn’t steal the show. I can’t wait to get my hands on a plushy version of this guy!
With one memorable action sequence after another, Gunn keeps audiences on their toes and made sure The Suicide Squad lived up to their name. There was more than one moment where I was shocked by which character died next and I loved every minute of it. From that opening scene that felt like a replay of D-Day to the final act of our last remaining anti-heroes going up against the unthinkable and unstoppable (by the way, I’m so glad I avoided the trailers and articles as I honestly didn’t know who the villain was supposed to be) every one of these scenes outdid the next and I was never left wanting.
And can we talk about that soundtrack? Such a HUGE difference from Ayer’s choice to just stick every single iconic song in his movie, whether it worked in the scene or not. Here Gunn once again shows his love for the obscure but fitting songs,the way he did with Guardians of the Galaxy. I have a couple of friends who are gonna be loving themselves with this soundtrack and its scores.
So are there any negatives? Well it’s always hard to pin these down after just one viewing when you’re all hopped up on adrenaline and excitement, but if anything comes to mine for me it would be the first act. It took me a minute to adjust to the tone of this new story and it felt a bit jarring as things settled into a rhythm. But that might just be me as I wasn’t expecting a movie such as this to have such a wonderfully weird tone. I also wished we got more Amanda Waller. Viola Davis is as elite an actress as they come and she was one of only two things I enjoyed in the first movie so I was hoping for more time with The Wall. Although to be fair, what I got was everything you would expect from this character (for those who know her well) and once again Davis proves there’s no person more terrifying than the woman with her hand on the literal red button.
Last but not least was Idris Elba’s Bloodsport. Easy now folks, put down the pitchforks and torches, I’m not saying I didn’t like this character. What’s not to like?! That has to be one of the coolest-looking suits I’ve ever seen and the way it works was all kinds of awesome. Idris also delivers on some powerful moments in this movie especially when we’re talking about the more emotional stuff. I just felt like compared to the rest of them, Bloodsport got a bit lost in the background. Maybe it’s because he sometimes feels like you’re seeing Deadshot in another form or maybe because with so many memorable characters to choose from, Bloodsport just falls a bit lower on the totem pole for me.
The villains (with the exception of the big guy himself) didn’t leave any impression, as well as the freedom fighters who sadly were only in this movie as scene stoppers and cannon fodder. Poor Alice Braga. Will this woman ever find a role in a comic book adaptation that isn’t forgettable?Again, this is just my personal nitpicks and as of right this second, I can’t think of any reason not to call James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad a home run of comic book movie making. I could go on and on about this but then I would be writing a novel and not a review, so I’ll just say I loved the tone, the music, the action, the characters, the editing, the pacing, the visuals (OH MY GOD, THE VISUALS!) and of all the comic book movies out there, this one in my opinion will be one of the most rewatched in times to come. Good luck to future directors of this series who has to take up the baton and run with it. You’re gonna need it!
Sommer aka Ratcatcher 3’s Score: 8 out of 10
For more of my thoughts you can check out my video review below:
Review 5: Editor Jules aka Polka Dot Kid
There are a few movies that after ten minutes I know I’m going to love it. And that was the experience with The Suicide Squad. I ADORED this movie and it felt like everything the 2016 misfire wanted to be and should have been. But let’s stick with 2021 and take it from the beginning.
It’s a James Gunn film, so you know Michael Rooker is going to show up sooner or later. The opening on him as low-tier villain Savant in prison set to Johnny’s Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues was just perfect. And of course he’s going to kill that poor bird. Bird’s free; he’s not. To paraphrase CinemaSins Gunn is a d–k to birds in this movie. But it is part of his theme of freedom and control that runs throughout the film. And the whole set-up with the Task Force X B-squad who end up all but massacred was hilarious, and reminded me of Deapool 2, though this film did it better. I was sorry to see Captain Boomerang taken out as he was one of the best characters from the first film but I presume the intention was to show that no one was safe. My favourite scene was The Detachable Kid’s ineffectual attack. That made me laugh out loud.
The film pivots to the Task Force X A-team (I love it when a plan comes together) and sets up Idris Elba’s Bloodsport as the protagonist. And apparently Gunn watched the first film and the whole Deadshot-wants-to-do-right-by-his-daughter storyline and thought, “Man, I could do this much better.” And he did. The conversation between Bloodsport and his troubled daughter Tyla (A Wrinkle in Time’s Storm Reid) is sweet, profantity-laden, funny and relatable. It perfectly fleshed out their relationship without excessive flashbacks. And Gunn was highly economical in setting up the characters in the film, utilising dialogue and action scenes rather than the clumsy file graphics breakdowns in the original.
The director has shown his skill in balancing ensemble pieces in both Guardians of the Galaxy films and he does it well again here. Each of the members have their own arcs and moments to shine, and the banter between them is thoroughly entertaining. Everyone loves King Shark, and he was hilarious, but I want to shout out Polka Dot Man. He is easily one of the most ridiculous comic book characters ever but Gunn made him feel like a real person and gave an understandable reason for his powers. His fixation on his mother was pretty funny too. The fact that when he died there was an emotional impact is just testament to this director’s skill in characterisation. And speaking of ridiculous, leave it to Gunn to take an over-the-top and silly looking villain like Starro and make it feel like an actual threat.
What else can I say? Everything works here. All the performances are on point, with John Cena and Daniela Melchior being two of the standouts. I am really stoked to see that Peacemaker series now. Margot Robbie is fantastic as Harley Quinn which was no surprise, but Gunn truly gave her the best material so far to work with, both in comedy and action sequences. Viola Davis does not get much to do as Amanda Waller but she delivers both in the comedic and dramatic moments. Doctor Who’s Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi also did not get much screentime as the Thinker but man he killed it. “Unclutch your f——-g pearls.” That is one of the greatest movie lines ever!
Beyond the performances the gory action was great, the soundtrack was pitch perfect, the pacing was mostly well done, the humour was masterful, the set pieces were exhilarating, and it was just a whole lot of fun. After watching it I immediately wanted to rewatch it. That is also a very rare experience for me. I tip my hat to you Mr Gunn. To quote Tracy, this is THE Suicide Squad.
Editor Jules aka Polka Dot Kid’s Score: 8.5 out of 10
* A very special thanks to our guest writer Tracy J Hutchings. Always great to have you. And well done to the RMR team as well. You each get ten years off your sentence.
So that’s our reviews. How would you rate The Suicide Squad? And who was your favourite character? You can check out more great DCEU content below: