THE SUICIDE SQUAD Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Earlier this year, Warner Bros. released Zack Snyder's Justice League to HBO Max. Whilst absolutely improving on the theatrical-cut, the end result was a bloated 4 hour vanity project which almost made me understand why Warners had previously insisted on being so hand's on with the final cut of many of their superhero movies. Some directors clearly need to be reeled-in and have someone who isn't afraid to tell them "no" every once in a while. I'm sure a million people will disagree with me but Zack Snyder is, IMHO, one of those directors. The critical response to his earlier efforts in the DC Extended Universe, when he had carte blanche with both Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice, led directly to Warner's micromanaging, with one of the worst affected being David Ayer's 2016 take on Suicide Squad. Thankfully, it seems as if James Gunn has been allowed to bring his vision to the screen without any, obvious, studio tinkering, as The Suicide Squad is exactly what you'd think a James Gunn Task Force X movie would be...

Action-packed, gory, sweary, full of heart, and a whole load of fun!

There are no major spoilers within this review as, from the wonderful fake-out opening segments through to the ridiculously OTT climatic battle, it pays dividends going in as cold as possible. The action scenes and set-pieces are paramount but, really, The Suicide Squad is an impressively cast character driven movie. Gunn weaves in a lot of emotional backstory for several of the main players, meaning it's quite easy to forget that in the here and now they are actually criminals, responsible for many terrible things, and just get drawn into the events unfolding in front of you, rooting for pretty much all of them to survive the seemingly suicidal task ahead and overcome their respective traumas. Not all of them do survive though, and some of those deaths really hurt, but that's just more evidence of the great storyteller James Gunn is.

Among the cast and characters returning from the first outing are Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Both are far better realised and utilised this time round, with Robbie giving easily her best performance of the crazed criminal to date. She's still as nutty as a fruitcake, even moreso, but equally gets moments where she feels heroic and relatable (which as I type is unnerving to think, given her obvious psychosis). Will Smith passed on a second turn as Deadshot so in his place we have Idris Elba as Bloodsport. Gunn went on record stating that he wrote the story with Smith's Deadshot in mind and didn't really change it when Elba came along instead. Smith's loss is all of our gain. I like the guy and have a lot of time for his movies but Elba feels much more suited for this type of role, and it really helps the story arc he's given here that we have no previous point of reference.

If it feels odd that Elba's Bloodsport and Smith's Deadshot are similarly capable characters then the inclusion of John Cena as Peacemaker might initially beggar belief. The characters are almost identical in ability, although certainly not attitude, and the reasoning behind his inclusion does become apparent in the third-act. But Cena barely sells it. In among the killing and cussing and shutting the world out; Elba brings the emotion, Cena is stoic and cold. It does the latter no favours sharing the screen with Elba and leaves you feeling that, of all the characters, Peacemaker is the least desirable to head his own spin-off. I'm hoping that was the point of the portrayal here and that I'm going to be pleasantly surprised by the Peacekeeper TV series. Time will tell.

It's not just comparisons in abilities with Bloodsport alone that makes Cena's Peacemaker feel the weak-link in the bunch, there are, quite simply, so many other richly diverse supervillains appearing on screen. Including Peter Capaldi's meta-human scientist The Thinker, Sean Gunn's disturbingly looking anthropomorphic Weasel, Michael Rooker's Savant, and Nathan Fillion's T.D.K. (finding out what the initials stand for is almost worth the price of admission). All of these new characters play their part in either advancing the storyline of hitting the important beats Gunn is laying down.

Also among the new recruits of Task Force X on their latest mission we have David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man (you'll likely remember him as Kurt from Ant-Man) and Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2 (not 1). Both have very unique abilities, are given perfectly plausible (for a comic-book movie) origin stories and satisfying character-arcs. The latter especially as Melchior's Ratcatcher 2 is very much the heart of the movie. She sees the good in everyone, including this team's trump card, Nanaue aka King Shark. Voiced by Sylvester Stallone, the man-eating fish-human hybrid, Nanaue has that Drax the Destroyer vibe about him, which is very much a good thing.

In fact, it would be easy to just sum-up The Suicide Squad is Guardians of the Galaxy meets Deadpool. It's hard not to draw the comparisons as we have two comic-book team-up movies directed by the same person, and with Gunn being such a strong storyteller there was always going to be a similar feeling between the two, and given the freedom of not pandering to the younger MCU audience the violence and cursing is dialed-up to 11 à la Deadpool. However, if you've seen Slither or Super (the latter especially) then you'll know that this was always in Gunn's arsenal and he'd been turning it down for Guardians. It makes perfect sense why he jumped at the chance to helm this franchise.

The Suicide Squad is easily the most fun DC comic-book movie of recent years - although given the rating it would be unfair to compare this to, say, Shazam! - and it feels as if James Gunn has absolutely delivered what he intended to do without studio tinkering along the way. Whilst not entirely perfect - a secondary storyline about a team of rebels attempting to overthrow the Corto Maltese government peters out after an initially staged joke sequence, and John Cena's Peacemaker is a weak link in an otherwise incredibly impressive cast - The Suicide Squad is the polar opposite of Snyder's original darker approach to the DCEU, and it's all the better for it.

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