The Suicide Squad, Qith Idris Elba and John Cena

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Margot Robbie in The suicide squad.
Photo: Warner Bros.

James Gunn’s The suicide squad – following in equal parts and restart of 2016 very vilified but ultimately profitable Suicide Squad – offers so much rapid-fire irreverence that sometimes it’s hard to know if it’s even meant to be a movie. With its relentless profanity, ridiculous counting, and trolling sense of humor, Gunn’s film often seems content to exist in a constant state of tugging. Lots of fun but little forward momentum. He relentlessly kills supposedly major characters and upsets the noble virtues of superheroes with such indulgent joy it can feel repetitive at times. But sometimes the fruit at hand is also the sweetest fruit. It’s hard to hate a movie in which Sylvester Stallone voices a giant talking shark who pretends to read a book so people think he’s smart. “Book read,” he growls, adorably, holding the book upside down. “So smart, me. Enjoy the book so much.

Of course, the concept of Suicide Squad has always been meant to overturn the noble virtues of superheroes. This is an elite team of killers assembled from a variety of supervillains serving time in jail. They are allowed out on special, secret missions at the behest of a ruthless government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), and they don’t fight because they’re trying to save the world; they fight because they’re bribed and coerced, and they also have bombs implanted in their necks that Waller will detonate if they get out of line. Sometimes they fight because they can kill. Sometimes they switch sides because they are, after all, bad guys at heart. That’s what made the Suicide Squad comics among the most interesting titles in the superhero firmament: They were often so deliciously unpredictable.

It’s also a fun idea for a movie, as the best iterations of the genre tend to live or die by force of their villains, and this concept is villains all the way. It actually seemed welcome in 2016, when Marvel’s colorful joke took a turn for the self-important and DC’s seriousness was supercharged by movies like Batman vs. Superman. Most critics scorned the first crack of a Suicide Squad movie, directed by David Ayer (Fury, End of the guard tour). It had its refreshingly mean moments but had clearly been hacked into post-production. Apparently, a company that made trailers would have had to recut it, which may be why much of the image looked like a random assembly of a much more interesting effort. Ayer has since anything but disowned the movie. It’s easy to see, in hindsight, how his street-level badass sensibility might not have provided the R-rated but still youthful geekery that DC and Warner Bros. were looking for. Gunn, who delivered one of Marvel’s most entertaining and colorful hits with the first guardians of the galaxy and who spent the first part of his career working in the Troma mining salt mines, is clearly better suited to this stuff than Ayer ever was.

Yet despite its tonal departures, this new Suicide Squad brings back some of the characters from the previous film, including Davis’s Waller, the alleged team leader, Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Australian psychopath Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and, most importantly, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who has since had her own solo film release in the highly regarded Birds of prey. They are joined this time around by, primarily, Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Peacemaker (John Cena) – both expert snipers and assassins – as well as Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior). , two of the most clumsy superhumans. He throws deadly peas; she controls armies of rats. There are also a variety of minor villains such as Blackguard (Pete Davidson), TDK (Nathan Fillion) and Savant (Michael Rooker, a regular at Gunn, whose bewilderment in the opening scenes of the film makes him a good audience substitute). . The plot is too generic to deserve more than a simple mention: our heroes must sneak into the fictional island nation of Corto Maltese, which has just suffered a violent coup, and enter an ancient fortress to destroy an experiment. Secret alien nicknamed Project Starfish.

Of course, the story isn’t really the topic here, and you can feel the film deflate whenever it has to deal with any sort of storytelling affair. Gunn, who also wrote the screenplay, doesn’t seem particularly interested in grounding these characters in something that looks like the real world. Perhaps because he struggles whenever a scene calls for sincerity: a first prison conversation between Bloodsport and his teenage daughter is presumably meant to create emotional stakes for the character, but when the parent and l ‘kid start throwing “fuck yous” at each other, it’s hard not to feel Gunn the screenwriter raise his hands in the air. The various revelations and betrayals in the film’s final act, meanwhile, are so predictable that you might forget about them even as they happen.

The suicide squad works best when Gunn the director can go to town with the dirty jokes and overkill shooter. He’s a skillful filmmaker, that’s for sure. He turns the action clean and has a flair for visual punchlines that make his more grotesque indulgences acceptable. A throwaway example: A character who mercilessly kills a bird at the start of the movie has his head ripped off later, and Gunn makes sure to cut the same type of bird that lands on the man’s bloody neck and removes a piece. of shredded flesh. (And it was someone that we love.) A subsequent slaughter, when Bloodsport and Peacemaker quietly fight over the highest number of kills, is filled with free background gags (guys explode, get chopped, get electrocuted, etc.) humor with an extremely sense of style. confident – like Steven Spielberg making a dick joke.

But a little of this stuff goes a long way, and it’s possible The suicide squad is too much of a good thing and not enough of a better thing. There are plenty of memorable scenes and lines in the movie, but it’s hard to feel like it all amounts to anything. The lack of narrative momentum or compelling character arcs starts to weigh you down. Jokes get old too. The best line from the movie comes from The Polka-Dot Man, which Dastmalchian plays with a weird, strained voice: “I don’t like killing people, but if I pretend they’re my mother, it’s easy”, he said early. on, and it’s kinda creepy and hilarious, perfectly pitched. But Gunn doesn’t stop there. The character then explains why he hates his mother so much. Then we see through his eyes and realize that everyone around him has his mother’s face. The first time this happens, it’s pretty funny. The third time, it looks like a gag stuck in the ground. The film has humor and style to burn, and not much else. For some, this will be more than enough.

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