Directed by : James Gunn
Written by : James Gunn
Starring : Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Sylvester Stallone, Joel Kinnaman, Alice Braga, and Viola Davis
After being unceremoniously ousted by Alan Horn in 2018 — then rehired later the following year. James Gunn returns to make a not-so-quick stop at DC with his pseudo sequel to/reboot of 2016 David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.
In the last few years, DC Films as a whole has been shifting to more isolated stories and becoming less concerned with building a cinematic universe — resulting in high quality, unshackled standalone films such as Shazam, Joker, and Birds of Prey. For the first time in years, DC’s only concern is to make great films instead of playing catch up to Marvel Studios.
Which is where James Gunn comes in, while the filmmaker is now more known for his venture at Marvel Studios with his Guardians of Galaxy films — The Suicide Squad harkens more to Gunn’s early work with Troma and his cult-classic, Slither.
The Suicide Squad is raw and violent, filled with heads exploding and splattering flesh throughout its 2 hour and 13 minute runtime — but despite all of that, it’s sweet. Gunn’s aptitude in crafting damaged characters with emotional baggage shines throughout the film — every character in The Suicide Squad feels fleshed out and they are a joy to watch within every frame. Gunn’s secret sauce is handling the turbulent tonal shifts of hilarious, hyper-violent elements of The Suicide Squad with moments of warmth and wholesomeness with the characters that he has so beautifully written.
It also feels like this is a first time that Idris Elba has been fully utilized — his charm, his grizzled yet father-like persona is so well-presented on screen here that you can’t help but wonder why he hasn’t worked James Gunn before. John Cena’s Peacemaker works as a great foil to Elba’s Bloodsport — utilizing both his comedic chops and he even gets to flex out some of his dramatic skills here ala Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy. David Dastmalchian’s Polka Dot Man — as ridiculous as he sounds — becomes a very lovable character as Gunn has managed to craft his origin story into something that’s actually quite harrowing.
But the absolute scene-stealer in all of this is Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2. She’s very much the beating heart of the movie and does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the more dramatic and wholesome parts of The Suicide Squad.
The returning characters from Ayer’s Suicide Squad managed to feel fresh and revamped without disregarding the tone and past relationships that was set in the 2016 film. Margot Robbie enamors us once again as Harley Quinn with her moments of charming insanity, Viola Davis delivers again as Amanda Waller — this time unshackled by the PG-13 rating, and most surprisingly — Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag was actually a joy to watch this time — shifting from a stereotypical, wooden military guy to a conflicted soldier who’s just trying to do the right thing within this mess of a team.
Overall, Gunn’s sensibilities and his masterful character-work is what drives The Suicide Squad to such great depths. It might seem like a hyper-violent, gut-explosive-palooza at face value, but deep down it’s more akin to the ‘soulful drama’ that David Ayer was trying to accomplish back in 2016.
The Suicide Squad is now playing in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.