Polka Dot Man. Peacemaker. King Shark. Who? Not heard of them? Well, you have now and, thanks to James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, you’re hardly likely to forget them. The previous outing for everybody’s favourite band of supervillains – in the hands of David Ayer in 2016 – has thankfully faded into the background, after a drubbing from critics and fans alike. But, in moving from the MCU to DC, Gunn has pulled off an eye-poppingly spectacular piece of entertainment that will keep both pundits and enthusiasts more than happy.
We’re back at Belle Reve prison, with the formidable Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) putting together a squad of crazy cons for a deadly mission. Success means a ten year reduction in their respective jail sentences – if they survive, that is. With Bloodsport (Idris Elba) at the helm and rival Peacemaker (John Cena) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) alongside him – among others – they’re dropped onto a small island under military rule. The task is, surprisingly, not to overthrow the new regime, but infiltrate a tower where experiments are underway which could affect the future of the entire world. And the key to getting in there is sinister boffin, Thinker (Peter Capaldi).
Gunn’s working with a different, and decidedly more eccentric, gang but has also performed the same trick as with Guardians Of The Galaxy in his MCU days. And done it with the same level of success, if not more. He’s taken a rag-tag group of obscure and unknown characters to make up his Suicide Squad, this time keeping a couple from the previous outing so there’s a loose connection, but not enough for his movie to be considered either a sequel, prequel or reboot. The gang also includes a CGI man creature and a furry animal. GOTG had the monosyllabic Groot and the abrasive Rocket Raccoon. This time it’s King Shark – an abbreviation perhaps? – who has slightly more vocabulary than Groot and is constantly on the look-out for friends and nom-nom, sometimes confusing the two. He’s also voiced by another muscle-bound actor, this time Sylvester Stallone. The furry creature is more of a let-down. The rat that lives on Ratcatcher 2’s shoulder is expressive in its gestures, but is no Rocket. But we can forgive that. Just look at the bigger picture!
Davis isn’t the only connection with the previous film, because the inimitable Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) returns in all her glory but, instead of being its saving grace, she finds herself in a great double act with Elba’s Bloodsport. They’re not always together, although they do share some scenes, but when one or other of them isn’t on the screen, we miss them sorely. They’re the two star turns – Elba seems especially at home in both the role and supervillain context – but they have great support in the shape of John Cena, much more in his comedy/action comfort zone than in F9, and it shows. David Dastmalchian’s mournful Polka Dot Man, with his mother fixation, is the source of one of the best running gags and Capaldi, with a striking sputnik-like head, is a suitably evil scientist.
Essentially, The Suicide Squad is a standalone, a different vision and interpretation, but that doesn’t matter overmuch. The end result does – and it’s a huge, noisy, colourful, wickedly funny and very violent piece of entertainment designed to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. A proper cinematic experience, and boy do we need them right now! You don’t even have to be a DC fan to have a complete blast. But we should say that if you’re not keen on rats, just consider yourself warned!
Action, Comedy | Cert: 15 | Warner Brothers | Cinemas | 30 July 2021 | Dir. James Gunn | Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Viola Davis, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Sylvester Stallone.