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The Suicide Squad: James Gunn’s magic touch

When superhero films fiop, it usually means that the characters lose any second chance at silver-screen stardom.

DC hasn’t made a Green Lantern movie since the character’s disastrous first outing in 2011, Daredevil and Constantine have stuck to television since the failure of their films, and the less said about Steel, the better.

I was certain that “The Suicide Squad” would suffer the same fate after their disastrous 2016 film, but thankfully, I was mistaken. In its wake, James Gunn polished this franchise into a diamond.

“The Suicide Squad” starts off with the titular team landing at the small nation of Corto Maltese to sabotage the government’s ominously-named “Project Starfish.”

The mission’s operatives include foul-mouthed assassin Bloodsport (Idris Elba), perpetually-lethargic Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), soft-spoken psychopath Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), freak of nature King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and Peacemaker (John Cena), a man who loves peace so much he would kill for it.

If they sound dysfunctional, don’t worry – they are.

Two Squaddies from the previous film return here: government liaison Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and, of course, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). After Robbie’s fantastic performance in “Birds of Prey,” it was great seeing her back as Harley for this film.

From the start of this film, it immediately shines in ways the original never could.

The most prominent advantage it has over its predecessor is the main cast, and especially how they interact with each other. Bloodsport both gets into pissing contests with Peacemaker and becomes a father figure for Ratcatcher II, all while she befriends King Shark, despite his taste for human flesh.

Despite how bizarre this sounds, each and every relationship feels genuine, making the cast feel like both a proper superhero team, even as they’re brutally murdering Maltesian soldiers.

Ratcatcher II in particular is my favorite character in the film, with Melchior giving a stellar performance. Her screen presence is captivating in a way that belies this being her first role in an English-language film.

I also have to give props to Kinneman’s return as Flag, elevating the character from a generic military liaison to a proper member of the team. The bond he has with Harley in particular feels incredibly genuine, despite them barely interacting in the previous film.

The action is also well worth commenting on. James Gunn has a clear knack for creating interesting combat scenarios, from Harley single-handedly slaughtering a hallway of soldiers with nothing but a javelin to the walk-through raid of an enemy camp.

The petty arguing between Bloodsport and Peacemaker in the latter scene, as they’re brutally

slaughtering their targets, is legitimately top-tier character writing. It’s also darkly hilarious in a way that most comic book films wouldn’t even dream of attempting.

The gorgeous visuals help to enhance these scenes even further. Unlike the first film, which suffered from a heavily muted color palette, every scene in “The Suicide Squad” is packed with color and life.

This is best exemplified by the aforementioned Harley Quinn hallway scene, during which we get to see into her deranged mind as the world around her transforms into a cartoon paradise. It brings to mind

Gunn’s collaboration with niche game developer SUDA51 on “Lollipop Chainsaw,” an eye-popping hack-and-slash video game.

Amidst all this praise, I unfortunately can’t comment much on the plot. Following the start of the group’s mission, the movie swerves in so many fantastic ways that it’s best to go in completely blind.

However, I can mention that the film’s unexpected dive into political commentary, in a way that seamlessly meshes with the plot, makes it one of the boldest comic book blockbusters to ever release. And that boldness extends to raise the stakes through the roof.

To put it bluntly, by the end of the movie, I was legitimately scared of any character dying.

In a film called “The Suicide Squad,” that’s an impressive feat.

Rating: A+, It feels really good to be bad.


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