What separates 2016’s “Suicide Squad” from 2021’s “The Suicide Squad”? The “The,” for starters. But there is a vastly more important difference: DC’s new film is watchable.
Clearly the comic book movie studio and Warner Bros. were aware of the trash they had rotting in their bin with the hideous first film. (Some crazed obnoxious fans will loudly disagree with me on this). The original’s director, David Ayer, who has never delivered a decent film, has been scrapped and replaced by James Gunn of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Most of the earlier movie’s cast and characters have also sat this one out.
Running time: 132 minutes. Rated R f(strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity.) In theaters and on HBO Max.
Good riddance. The Squad is dead! Long live The Squad!
The scrappy new crew is infinitely better and more fun, but the thrust is the same. A band of bottom-of-the-barrel villains (No Lex Luthor or Darkseid here!) are sent on extremely dangerous missions in exchange for getting 10 years knocked off their prison sentences. If they bail on their task, a bomb planted in their skull explodes. Managers everywhere are salivating.
Thankfully sparing us a trite origin story, Gunn’s reboot-y thing begins immediately with a deadly assignment. Well, first we watch the gruesome executions of several characters played by notable stars (Pete Davidson lovers might want to save their $15). And then comes the assignment.
The demon boss Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Peacemaker (John Cena), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Polka-Dot Man (Daniel Dastmalchian) and Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior) to a fake South-American island nation to destroy something called Operation Starfish.
There has recently been a coup on Corto Maltese, and the country is now run by a pair of high-living, murderous dictators who plan to use Starfish — some kind of alien technology — for nefarious purposes.
So, in comes the Squad. Gunn, who had a ball with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” borrows some of the Marvel movie’s comedy dynamics, most obviously with King Shark, who is a slightly better-spoken version of Groot. His instincts are spot on, and the film is very funny for it.
But the best of the Squad is Robbie as Harley Quinn, which explains why she’s one of the only returning cast members. Robbie’s take on the Joker’s on-again-off-again girlfriend is so looney, demented, girly and unfiltered, she exists in a funhouse world all her own. Harley also has a brilliant fight scene where she kills an untold number of foes all the while acting like a little girl jumping rope.
So, the ending. It’s basically that nightmare you had that time you scarfed an entire bag of Sour Patch Kids at 3 a.m. A giant starfish called Staro wreaks havoc on Corto Maltese, destroying buildings and mind-controlling the locals with its tiny offspring that latch onto their heads and eat their faces. Staro and its babies are then attacked by a swarm of hungry rats. And we all wake up screaming in a cold sweat.
You’re reminded of an old Godzilla movie before the MonsterVerse sought to give the big lizard and Mothra dramatic motivation and respectability. Unlike Zach Snyder’s “Justice League,” there is nothing serious about “The Suicide Squad.”
That’s a good thing.