AT THE MOVIES: The Suicide Squad is fresh and exciting

By Doug Laman
Special to the Anna-Melissa Tribune
Squad goals: Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior, from left), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), King Shark and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) head into action in "The Suicide Squad."

Rather than emerging as a Greatest Hits compilation of writer/director James Gunn's prior works or a rehash of its maligned predecessor, The Suicide Squad is something as fresh as it is exciting. A whole new vision of what a collection of DC Comics supervillains being forced to go on a mission would look like, The Suicide Squad, like the best of Gunn’s works, is a rollicking good time soaked with both blood and affection for its weirdo protagonists.  

The Suicide Squad picks up with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) using an assortment of incarcerated supervillains to infiltrate the fictional South American country of Corto Maltese. Among these evildoers are Bloodspot (Idris Elba), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), the violent patriotic Peacemaker (John Cena), the quietly tormented Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior). Given a bomb in their neck that will go off if they don't follow all of Waller's orders, this motley crew must eliminate some world-threatening scientific endeavor known as Project Starfish. Of course, given that this crew includes a giant shark who wants to eat anything in sight, that could be a little tricky. 

"The Suicide Squad"
King Shark from "The Suicide Squad."

The Suicide Squad continues Gunn's streak of loading up a story with all kinds of grimy dark humor and bleakness but counterbalancing all of that with genuine moments of sweetness. This is especially apparent in Ratcatcher 2, who early on states that she'd rather die from trusting others than living a detached life. That's the thing I enjoy most about Gunn's works. Even going back to the days of Slither, the guy regularly puts on the airs in his movies of being too cool for schmaltz before revealing a softer side that does, in fact, pride the idea of people working together or sacrificing themselves. That always makes for a fun combination, especially in a project like The Suicide Squad. 

This particular production also sees Gunn returning to R-rated territory for the first time since Super in April 2011. Comic book movies with R-ratings are no longer unprecedented thanks to the Deadpool movies, Birds of Prey, and Logan. However, there is a uniqueness to how Gunn utilizes all the wacky possibilities of R-rated carnage. He unleashes a flurry of gory mayhem more akin to an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon than something aiming to use the more adult-friendly rating for more "realistic" means. It's mighty entertaining to watch the various ways limbs go flying across the screen, particularly in an opening sequence that establishes just how vividly violent the proceedings will be. 

Idris as Bloodsport and VIola Davis as Amanda Waller in Warner Bros. Pictures’ superhero action adventure "The Suicide Squad."

The whole cast of The Suicide Squad delivers sublime work that helps the film click as a whole. Gunn leans hard on the rapport between the individual players and that pays off in dividends thanks to richly detailed turns from people like Daniela Melchior. Also great to see Idris Elba finally get a substantive role in a big-budget production that utilizes his gifts as an actor, what a concept! The standout of the main ensemble, however, is David Dastmalchian, whose quietly tormented depiction of Polka Dot Man is such a thoughtfully realized creation. Every time he walks on-screen, you just wanna give him a hug. In the hands of this actor, a DC Comics punchline becomes someone far more fascinating. 

The Suicide Squad isn't a perfect film, because those don't exist. But what needs to work in The Suicide Squad, though, works like gangbusters and it's just so fun to watch, especially since Gunn keeps delivering a bunch of effective pathos to accompany all the moments where King Shark graphically devours human beings. Suffice it to say, The Suicide Squad is slightly better than its predecessor, even without "my bodyguard Katana...who can cut you down like she's mowing the lawn." 

This image provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Joel Kinnaman, from left, John Cena, Margot Robbie, Peter Capaldi and Idris Elba in a scene from "The Suicide Squad." (Jessica Miglio/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

A lifelong movie fan and writer, Douglas Laman graduated from UT Dallas and is currently a graduate student at the University of North Texas. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, far left), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) take the fight to a formidable enemy in "The Suicide Squad."
"The Suicide Squad"