- Movie Rating -

The Suicide Squad (2021)

| August 22, 2021

I don’t want to be this guy.  I don’t want to be the guy who persistently compares the DC Cinematic Universe to its spiritual cousin over there at Disney+.  But I feel that I am given no choice.  The two are working in the same medium but while the MCU greets me with the warmth and excitement of dinner with old friends, the DCU gives me the feeling of a kid telling me a joke and struggling to find a punchline.  These DC movies have a tendency to show every dollar on the screen but also evidence that the filmmakers need a course in Screenwriting 101.

The Suicide Squad is the latest affliction of this; a large-scale multi-million-dollar franchise entry that can’t find a tone, a purpose or a through-line.  It wants to be funny, dark, twisted and ultraviolent but wobbles uneasily between them.  The tone is all over the place and the story hangs on a dozen or so characters of little to no definition.  They are defined by name, by superpower, and by a very vague backstory.

The movie is, I think, a sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad which wasn’t much better.  I came away from that film feeling that it was a scummy and incoherent mess.  This movie is only slightly better in that I kind of have a clearer idea of what is going on – largely due to the fact that this movie feels less like it is trying to build sequels.  But just like the previous film it spends way too much time on introductions to get us into a story that, in the end, is meaningless.  Plus, it isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks it is.  It opens with a bit of misdirection of introducing main characters who are really a diversion.  Very nice, but Deadpool 2 did this joke way better and took less time getting to the point.

The characters here are not really all that important.  They are defined by dark and yet colorful traits but you’d be hard-pressed to accuse them of having a definable personality.  There’s Bloodsport (Idris Elba) who has a gadget-filled suit of armor and an axe to grind.  There’s Peacemaker (John Cena), a mercenary with a strict military code of ethics. There’s Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Malchoir), a Portuguese vagabond thief who can communicate with rats.  There’s King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), a half-man, half-shark with a brute strength and a slow wit.  And there’s Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a daffy homicidal maniac whose purpose was better utilized in Birds of Prey.

The one character that I did like was a disturbed nebbish named Abner Krill but whose nickname was The Polka-Dot Man.  He’s played in a weirdly fun performance by David Dastmalchian as a man who uses polka-dots as weapons and has mother issues so funny that I’m still laughing about them.  The payoff is a pip.

The story is not as much fun.  Just like the last film, the heroes are sent on a suicide mission by a heartless corporate executive (Viola Davis) who sets them up on a do-or-die objective to deal with a nefarious scientist called The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) who is in charge of something called Project Starfish.  Our “heroes” – nicknamed Task Force X – are dropped onto the mysterious island of Corto Maltese to find Thinker and uncover his plan.  What they find isn’t all that surprising, although the starfish angle, I can at least say I hadn’t seen that before.

The Suicide Squad is a long ride – 132 minutes.  Director James Gunn seems to want to bring the same fire and comic energy to this team of ragamuffins that he did to The Guardians of the Galaxy, but those films gave darker and more clearly defined edges to the characters (particularly in Vol. 2) by allowing them to be fleshed out – they were damaged but, in their pain, came the need to form a family.  I never got that from Task Force X.  The movie isn’t focused enough to deal with them on a personal level.  I’m not really sure what the movie was trying to do.  Maybe too little.  Maybe too much.  Either way it’s kind of a mess.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2021) View IMDB Filed in: Action