‘I’ ON CULTURE
As most people who read this column know, I usually don’t like sequels. Most just depend on the good will of a successful predecessor to make quick bucks. One exception The Suicide Squad, a sort-of sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad. Notice that there’s no “2” in the title. That is deliberate. This is a totally different kind of movie.
The first one was an attempt at an A-level film; a few well-known actors, a lot of special effects, a supernatural story all dolled up and pretty. And it went nowhere. The new movie is definitely a B movie, meaning it was gritty and nasty and actually enjoyed being tough.
The story was not wildly different overall. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a vicious bureaucrat, forces some of the nastiest supervillains to take on difficult (really meaning suicidal) missions in exchange for getting 10 years off at the Belle Reve prison, known for the highest mortality rate for prisoners.
So Colonel Flag (Joel Kinnaman) leads a group of nasties in an invasion of Corto Maltese, a mythical island off the coast of South America, to track down special weaponry. It is a suicide mission: Flag disappears and only crazy Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) survives and is captured. It turns out that the whole mission was a diversion so another team headed by Bloodsport (Idris Elba), a sharpshooting mercenary whose daughter will be imprisoned if he doesn’t cooperate, gets to shore. The group includes Peacemaker (John Cena), a psycho version of Captain America; Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), who controls rats; Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), a really weird guy with major mommy issues; and King Shark (voice of Sylvester Stallone), a combination of shark and man and maybe god.
Bloodsport and Peacemaker argue about who is the better killer, and they compete to wipe out the bad guys holding Flag. They kill them all only to find out that these were the people on their side. As I wrote earlier, B movie. Harley has been dolled up and taken to the home of President Luna (Juan Diego Botto), who is totally charming and treats her wonderfully, and so she kills him. She then goes through the required damsel in the dungeon being tortured scene, which she turns into a mass slaying of bad guys, and joins the rest of the crew to attack the real target, a weapons lab. The enemy is a giant starfish named, what else, Starro, who takes over people’s minds by shooting baby starfish onto their faces. Lots of fighting follows.
The movie is unpretentious. Director James Gunn, who did both Guardians of the Galaxy films, recognizes the grindhouse quality of the piece. When people die, body parts go flying. We have that dungeon scene. We have disputes among the heroes/supervillains. There are bad puns throughout, and there are more holes in the plot than Swiss cheese. But it moves quickly and is a lot of fun.
The acting is particularly good. Robbie has Harley Quinn down to perfection. She’s a bit less over the top than she was in the Birds of Prey film and even the first of the Suicide Squad films. But she still manages to be both nutsy, vicious and lovable. Elba is exceptional as the center of the film. He is wildly flawed but sympathetic and heroic. Dastmalchian plays his very strange character really well. Cena is great as Pacemaker, a so-called hero with a mean streak. Melchior was really good, actually rather moving in a part that could have been played for laughs. And Davis is exceptional as the really nasty Waller.
The special effects are not what you would expect from the big budget films. Clearly, some of the time there is actually a person inside the King Shark costume instead of CGI. The sci-fi elements are held down here while the bad guys versus the even worse bad guys gets the full treatment. But it’s great fun, and since it’s on HBO Max, it’s a good way to see a fun movie for free if you have that app. If not, it’s worth time at the movies. Understand, this is not a good movie, but it is a fun movie. It is rated R, and deserves it.