By Cat Early
Seemingly striving to distance itself as much as possible from its commercially and critically failed predecessor, The Suicide Squad (James Gunn, 2021) is a sequel that offers a more engaging storyline, greater attention to its characters, and tons of CGI gore. The film begins by reintroducing Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a ruthless government strategist who seeks to reassemble a group of imprisoned criminals to carry out the dangerous task of disrupting a harmful series of medical experiments on Corto Maltese. Perhaps in an effort to start fresh, The Suicide Squad offers us an almost entirely new cast of supervillains – Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) to name a few. Margot Robbie also returns to play her beloved character, Harley Quinn.
Switching rapidly back and forth between its grave storyline and humorous dialogue, the film often struggles to strike a balance with its heavy subject matter and levity, with many of its more violent scenes creating a tonal confusion between the atrocities being committed onscreen and the upbeat music and quirky animation it’s shrouded in. Attempts to lighten the atmosphere often draw focus away from the well-constructed and morally complex plot in order to squeeze in another quippy one-liner. Similarly, the intense plot and heavy violence tends to cast a darker shadow over the more comedic moments.
Nonetheless, The Suicide Squad is absolved of many of its flaws through its refreshing abundance of energy and spirit. Each member of the cast brings their own enthusiasm for their character into the role, forming an impactful and emotionally complex dynamic between many members of the squad that culminates in an exciting and unexpected manner at the film’s climax. As muddled as the jokes tend to be, the comedic value of the film is not lost with many of the jokes landing in much needed moments and the chemistry between the actors helping to deliver the lines in an amusing fashion.
Overall, Gunn’s film offers an enjoyable viewing experience that tries not to take itself too seriously. If taken correctly, The Suicide Squad is a fun romp with moments of palpable poignancy mixed through the layers of hilarity – albeit clumsily. If taken as an attempt at high art, it’s a tonally confused and over-produced nightmare. Ultimately, The Suicide Squad is what you choose to take away from it, and although it is perhaps not quite well suited to the more critically minded, to a more flexible and fun-seeking audience, it can be an amazing time.