Per IGN' Author: Joshua Yehl
The Suicide Squad isn’t so much a reboot or a sequel to 2016's Suicide Squad as it is a complete do-over -- and this time, they knocked it out of the park. In fact, this irreverent, ultra-violent romp featuring F-list villains is DC’s best film in years.
The story is, essentially, "The Dirty Dozen but With Supervillains," and it's one hell of a great time. Once again, a group of incarcerated super-criminals is sent on a lethally dangerous black ops mission, allowing the thoroughly R-rated movie to live up to its name in gruesome fashion. While we've come to expect costumed heroes and villains to have plot armor so they can show up again for the next franchise installment, the characters of The Suicide Squad enjoy no such luxury. It's made abundantly clear that no one in its colorful cast is safe. That gives it a rare sense of danger, like the good days of Game of Thrones where any scene might have been your favorite character’s last.
And when these characters are killed off, it’s not pretty, as director James Gunn taps into his old gory days as a gross-out provocateur. Characters don’t just go down; they get sliced and diced, incinerated and exploded with blood and guts galore -- the kind where you can see chunky bits in the viscera. Sometimes these over-the-top deaths are done for shock value, sometimes for humor, and sometimes to pull our heart strings. But they'll always inspire some kind of significant reaction, and that’s why the film works so well.
The Suicide Squad allows Gunn to lean into everything that he does best. He masterfully weaves action and drama with wit and humor, which we’ve come to expect from the Guardians of the Galaxy director, but there’s something more ingenious at work here. Gunn is Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, manic gleam in his eye, taking us on a perverse and strangely emotional rollercoaster ride with a surprise around every corner.
The film may be a superhero war caper on the surface, but underneath, it’s a fascinating examination of DC’s bottom-of-the-barrel baddies. Even the weirdest of the weird like Polka-dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) are shown to have depths worth exploring. Gunn clearly has a soft spot for outcasts and misfits, and here, he creates a twisted, yet touching, tribute to DC's sad and broken supervillains.
Gunn has previously professed his love for the classic Suicide Squad comic book run from 1987 by the legendary John Ostrander, and while the movie isn’t a direct adaption of that story by any means, it wears its influence with pride. The tone is gritty and tense, Viola Davis is again a force of nature as Amanda Waller, and there are all manner of high-stakes twists and turns, betrayals and deceptions. Those elements are generously lathered with Gunn’s crude, belligerent, and absolutely wild sense of humor, which is also offered to the spectacular cast.
Idris Elba and John Cena are hilarious as rival assassins Bloodsport and Peacemaker, especially in a violent sequence where they try to out-kill each other that’s nothing short of brilliant. Sylvester Stallone voices a walking, talking shark named Nanaue, delivering a performance more silly and charming than it has any right to be. Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flag is, thankfully, spared the sort of cheesy lines he was forced to work with in 2016's iteration, and is someone worth rooting for. His dynamic with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, a rare friendship based on mutual respect, is a highlight of the movie. And speaking of the Maiden of Mischief, the film is by far Robbie’s best turn as Harley Quinn -- she’s funnier and more unpredictable than ever. Gunn distills her into pure insanity and The Suicide Squad can’t help but go off the rails to follow her down the rabbit hole.
If there’s a weak point to be found, it lies with the squad's one-dimensional antagonists. In particular, Peter Capaldi’s Thinker feels underutilized -- a single dim bulb in a lineup of dazzlingly bright lights. The film doesn’t suffer much from this, though, because it mines more than enough tension and danger from the team member themselves to keep us invested.