Dir: James Gunn (15, 132 mins)
Following a Twitterstorm involving dodgy tweets from years earlier, writer/director James Gunn, who had marshalled both volumes of Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy to box office success, found himself booted off the third film and looking for a project. Marvel competitors DC instantly snapped him up to try and boost the reputation, and hopefully entertainment value, of The Suicide Squad sequel after its awful first stab: a woefully unfunny mess with little charm, apart from Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Gunn has subsequently been restored to the Marvel fold with Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3, his next mixtape. This, however, has allowed him to indulge some of his splattery, harder-edged roots in the likes of early films Slither and Super.
Gunn has applied his dark humour and flair for off-kilter banter in this gory followup, with lashings of glib violence and occasional laugh-out-loud moments. The ragtag band of supervillains overseen by Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller get another mission with some fresh faces, many of whom do not last long – the body count is very much higher this time out. Sent to destroy information about an extraterrestrial experiment on the turbulent Latin American island of Corto Maltese, Waller pressgangs Idris Elba’s Bloodshot, who can kill anything with anything, into leading the mission in a bid to save his wayward daughter from being thrown in prison herself.
Joining him are Robbie’s Harley Quinn, John Cena’s shiny-helmeted Peacemaker, Daniela Melchior’s sleepy but sweet ratcatcher, David Dastmalchian’s curiously powered Polka Dot Man and the rather excellent King Shark – a CGI creation voiced by Sylvester Stallone. There are many others: some returning from the original, like Joel Kinnamons’ Rick Flagg and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang, whilst others are dispatched with quickly and violently. Gunn has embraced the Dirty Dozen aspect of the setup, expendable supervillains on a mission they won’t survive. There are some outlandish set pieces: a Kill Bill-esque rampage with cartoon flowers replacing blood, a violent stealth kill-off between Elba and Cena and a final CGI kaiju-esque showdown with a giant starfish.
There’s a lot going on, but Gunn creates empathy with some of the characters, making sure it’s more than just a continual brawl, although at times that’s exactly what it is. Elba finally gets a role that suits him in a blockbuster, Cena makes the most of his peace-at-any-price fascist, and Robbie has her own B-plot. The Suicide Squad is not for the squeamish: very much a nastier, more cynical film than Gunn’s Marvel work, some expositional politics added via a reference to Guantanamo Bay/extraterrestrial torture and Peter Capaldi’s villain Thinker. The violence, although cartoonish, is at times rather excessive and there’s a whiff of familiarity with the likes of Amazon’s The Boys covering similar territory. Still, this has Gunn’s unique sensibility and is a great deal better than its predecessor.
Out now in cinemas
words KEIRON SELF
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