Director: James Gunn
Starring: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney and Peter Capaldi
It’s been five years since the first Suicide Squad came out and disappointed audiences worldwide, in that time the DC Extended Universe has managed to redeem itself with Wonder Woman 1&2, Aquaman, Shazam and Birds of Prey. Zack Snyder’s Justice League was also released earlier this year and is a great improvement on the theatrical version. Harley Quinn was the stand-out character from the first Suicide Squad, with a stellar performance from Margot Robbie. This was carried on to the spectacular Bird of Prey early last year. Sadly, The Suicide Squad feels like a step backwards compared to these releases.
Being marketed as ‘from the horribly beautiful mind of James Gunn’ The Suicide Squad is a barrage excess. It’s clear that the studio let Gunn do what ever he wanted. There is no feel of studio interference here, like there was in Ayer’s original and that’s definitely a good thing, but there’s nothing reining it in either.
There is a saying that writers must kill their darlings, meaning that they must edit and remove words, scenes, sub-plots, if they don’t add enough. It feels like Gunn didn’t get round to that part of the process here. There are way too many characters and most of them don’t do have enough to do. The shark, Nanaue voiced by Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Rambo), is a great character, but serves nothing to the story. Harley Quinn is side-lined for the majority of the film with her own sub-plot and doesn’t real serve a purpose for the main plot, although again Robbie is great in the role. Idris Elba (Luther) as Bloodsport and John Cena (F9) as The Peacemaker are too similar and only one is really needed. Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) as The Thinker is criminally underused.
The entire cast is great, but there’s too many of them. The film is bloated and most of the characters are given enough to really shine, and that’s without going into the endless cameos. On top of that there are so many jokes, with about two thirds not landing. Almost every line of dialogue is either a joke or heavy-handed exposition. It’s really telling that some of the jokes work better in the trailer since lines were cut out. When you see them in the full film they are clunky. There is also a joke where Polka-Dot Man sees his mother as everyone and it’s funny the first time. It just keeps going.
It can’t be stressed enough that the performances are all great and everyone is doing the best with the script they’ve been given. The direction is also stylish as hell, there’s a scene where Harley mows down a load of soldiers, with flowers flying out of their wounds instead of blood, a fight sequence that is shot through the reflection of a helmet. It looks great and the action is well choreographed. When the fights are taking place, it’s entertaining and thrilling. The violence is also unhinged, shockingly so for a comic book film. It’s over the top in the best way. The only thing that isn’t good about the direction is the slow-motion. It’s overused. There are so many sequences of the characters walking towards the camera in slow-motion, most of which felt like they were shot for, and ended up in, the trailer.
Somewhere in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is a really good film, it’s just hidden in a really bloated film. It’s better than the original, but not by that much. If the script was tighter, with less bad jokes, and some of the characters were removed (which is a shame as they are all good, it’s just they don’t have enough to do) this would be an excellent film. The Suicide Squad is a disappointment and could have been a lot better. It’s really stylish and directed beautifully, but the excess of jokes and a silly amount of slow-motion makes it ultimately boring.