I’m just gonna cut to the chase. There are only two reasons you are reading a review for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. If you’ve already seen the film and you’re curious to know what I thought of it, I loved it! It was super fun, super gory, and I’m probably going to see it at the drive-in again this weekend cause I’m a movie-going maniac. If you haven’t seen it and you’re on the fence about whether or not you want to pay for an HBOmax subscription or take the trip out to the movies, I’ve got plenty of good reasons why you should do just that. But let’s get the boring details out of the way first.
Written and directed by James Gunn (Slither), The Suicide Squad stars Margot Robbie (Birds of Prey) as Harley Quinn, Idris Elba (Prom Night) as Bloodsport, John Cena (F9) as Peacemaker, Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, 2014) as Colonel Rick Flag, Daniela Melchior (Mulheres), as Ratcatcher II, a scene-stealing Sylvester Stallone (Rambo: Last Blood) as King Shark, and a cameo appearance by Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman (#ShakespearesShitStorm). Of course, in true Suicide Squad fashion, this is only half the cast. The whole movie is loaded with guest appearances from your favourite, lesser-known DC Comics villains and genre film character actors. Just don’t get too attached cause this dang movie has one hell of a body count and you might be surprised who gets their damn head exploded into a million gooey bits.
“[…] The Suicide Squad is a $165 million Troma movie…with *slightly* fewer dick jokes”
The “Suicide Squad” is a rotating group of merciless mercenaries rounded up by the unscrupulous prison warden/shadow government agent(?) Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). When the mission is super-secret, super dangerous, and has a low chance of survival, the superheroes are pushed aside and The Suicide Squad is called in. The Mission: infiltrate the fictional island of Corto Maltese and destroy all evidence of the cruel experiments an oppressive regime has been conducting on its citizens in an effort to harness an alien lifeform as a weapon of mass destruction. Everything goes wrong, naturally, and the members of the suicide squad are left with a limited crew of sharpshooters and ballbusters to successfully carry out this (wait for it) suicide mission. If all that sounds like boilerplate comic book junk, rest assured that this ain’t no PG-13 tights-and-a-cape movie. This is a hard R Gore-O-Rama from start to finish.
In some respects, The Suicide Squad is a $165 million Troma movie…with *slightly* fewer dick jokes. Heads explode, faces are ripped off, a giant alien starfish monster shoots little baby starfish monsters out of its armpit to suction cup onto people’s faces and turn them into a walking, talking zombie horde. Don’t get me wrong- this is still a big-budget, Hollywood studio movie and no major studio is ever going to greenlight a $165 million Troma movie. It’ll never happen, but The Suicide Squad is probably as close as we’re ever going to get, so why not kick back and enjoy the wild and weird antics of a movie that relishes every opportunity to throw a bucket of blood at the screen.
Hollywood movies are as formulaic as they come, and this one comes from the same template. It’s a tab-a-fits-into-slot-b style of storytelling where everyone must have an emotional arc, nearly character must be redeemable (regardless of whether or not they are the bad guys), and it must have a happy ending. The similarities are even more granular than that when you really start to break it all down but there are approximately 6 stories in blockbuster filmmaking. You need only to plug in your specific characters and their “unique” motivations, and poof! you’ve got yourself a movie. The artistry of multi-million dollar movies lies in the tiny space between those copy+paste beats. Yes, The Suicide Squad has all the junk every superhero movie does but James Gunn’s ability to stretch those tiny spaces into full setpieces and warp that Hollywood template into something this absurd is pretty damn impressive. A quick back-and-forth between Bloodsport and Peacemaker sums up Gunn’s approach to this big-budget, batshit, shoot ’em up pretty well I think; “No one likes a show-off…unless what you have to show off is dope as fuck“.
What makes The Suicide Squad so special (and why horror fans will really enjoy this silly action flick) is James Gunn. Some directors get their start in horror and abandon the genre as soon as they can, looking back on those early films as an embarrassing means to an end. James Gunn, on the other hand, has never forgotten where he came from. You can’t really see the James Gunn that wrote Tromeo and Juliet in Super or the James Gunn that directed Slither in Guardians of The Galaxy but he’s always been there. His movies have always been a little weirder than most. He can spin a thoughtfully constructed story that asks itself why the caged bird sings, but you better believe it’s also going to be the kind of movie where a person gets torn in half by a giant shark, peppered with butthole jokes and gross-out gags. The Suicide Squad is a highly entertaining synthesis of that young, brash kid trying to make a name for himself, and the polished studio filmmaker he is today.
This review turned out to be a lot more of a love letter to James Gunn than I had expected (and I’m probably just high on the fact that I can go to the movies again!) but I don’t think he gets enough credit for his talent as a storyteller. And the same can be said for Lloyd Kaufman, the indie film pioneer that gave Gunn his start. Kaufman’s and Gunn’s films can be shockingly poignant and prophetic when you look past the splashy attention-grabbing qualities of their respective genres. For Troma, it’s crass humor and gooey schlock. For Gunn’s studio pictures, it’s million-dollar movie stars and action-packed fight sequences. Like the (wo)men-on-a-mission in The Suicide Squad James Gunn has infiltrated the studio system of modern Hollywood to bring his weird-ass ideas to life and there is no shortage of weird-ass shit in the wickedly fun moneymaker.
Superhero fans seem to also appreciate the unexpected insanity of this movie but The Suicide Squad is made with midnight madness audiences in mind. If you’re the kind of film fan that isn’t buying a ticket until you know the walls are being painted with someone’s brains, you are going to be pleasantly surprised by this parade of practical effects. Limbs are melted! Intestines are left dangling out of a bisected human guinea pig! A cute little birdy eats pieces of a person that’s been turned to mush! It’s also loaded with hilarious gags and immature humor delivered expertly by a cast that is fully on board for the Gunn’s unparalleled, but still somehow commercial, lunacy. The Suicide Squad is maybe the first superhero movie made for the weird kids and it’s one hell of a good time at the movies. Everything good you’ve heard about it is true and the icing on the cake. There is a deeper layer to the movie that examines the cruelty that exists in our quest for peace, and it’s all wrapped up in a [SPOILER ALERT] surprise Kaiju movie! Despite the trappings of the modern Hollywood formula, The Suicide Squad breaks the mold as best it can with a multi-million dollar budget that spared no expense when it came to blood & guts 🤘
“[…] a hard R Gore-O-Rama from start to finish.”
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is available now on HBOmax and at your local multiplex. Let us know what you thought of this hilariously gory superhero spectacle over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.
Review: THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)
Superhero fans seem to also appreciate the unexpected insanity of this movie but The Suicide Squad is made with midnight madness audiences in mind. It's maybe the first superhero movie made for the weird kids and it's one hell of a good time at the movies. Everything good you've heard about it is true and the icing on the cake. There is a deeper layer to the movie that examines the cruelty that exists in our quest for peace, and it's all wrapped up in a [SPOILER ALERT] surprise Kaiju movie! Despite the trappings of the modern Hollywood formula, The Suicide Squad breaks the mold as best it can with a multi-million dollar budget that spared no expense when it came to blood & guts 🤘