Supervillains Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and many other of the most notorious villains from the DC Universe are recruited by Amanda Waller to join a mission to liberate the South American island of Corto Maltese from a murderous regime that’s conducting shady experiments. In, exchange the villains get 10 years off their prison sentences if they successfully complete the mission, but if they fail, they’re dead.
DC’s ambitious 2016 endeavor Suicide Squad was a massive failure and disappointment that’s easily at the bottom of the DC Extended Universe ranking when discussing quality. This new sequel, written and directed by James Gunn, the man behind the Guardians of the Galaxy films, is without a doubt at the top of that ranking. The Suicide Squad does its brilliant concept justice this time, throwing away everything that didn’t work about the original and acting as a hilarious, goofy, energetic action-packed wonder that stands beautifully on its own. While the first film aimed to be goofy and comedic, it still had this dark, gritty edge to it which it struggled to balance with a PG-13 rating and fantastical, world-ending conflicts. This movie is colorful and indulges in the goofiness without ever taking itself seriously, yet the characters and story hit home further. The action set pieces are memorable and the R rating helps this movie fully realize its potential with balls-to-the-wall, cartoonish violence that fits with the twisted nature of the characters while still injecting humor and fun through the R rated violence and jokes. The movie also diverges from many superhero movie tropes by focusing less on the huge fantastical concepts and letting you know that nobody is safe.
The characters in this film are even sillier than in the first movie, and some even viler, but the movie makes them incredibly fun and lively to watch, even when there’s carnage to behold. There’s no way you can get enough of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn — she adds so much to the movie and both this and Birds of Prey have made the style as insane as her, to make her this psychotic yet somehow lovable and exciting protagonist in the most awesome way. However, the other cast members’ work rival hers here. Idris Elba can do no wrong as Bloodsport and he has some great banter with John Cena’s Peacemaker — they’re both very foul people but have some of the best moments of the movie. Joel Kinnaman also has some memorable moments this time as Rick Flag, and Viola Davis plays the menacing Amanda Waller who is trying to make the Suicide Squad do some good but may be more hatable than all the actual criminals in the film — which is a testament to Davis’ terrific casting and presence. A standout has to be Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melchior who gives the movie lots of heart and empathy. Like I said before, the movie continuously embraces the ridiculousness it presents without trying to put a “sane” lens onto it, as shown with wild concepts like characters named Polka-Dot Man and King Shark (a talking shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone). James Gunn’s direction adds a twisted comedy yet so much care for the story and the people in it while not trying to contribute to the bigger DC universe with forced sequel setups which we’ve seen plenty of lately. From the eye-popping action set pieces to the daring style to the standalone nature of the story, it stands out not just as a great comic book movie but as a great movie, period.
The Suicide Squad shows what the DC universe can do when it gives filmmakers full creative freedom and don’t take themselves too seriously. Even with other R-rated superhero comedies like Deadpool around, The Suicide Squad feels really fresh and with the success of Joker and the entertaining Birds of Prey, DC has been figuring out how to make some gems that stand well on their own while differentiating themselves from Marvel and other superhero iterations.