Friday, August 6, 2021

Film Friday: The Suicide Squad

There is a, "Suicide Squad," movie, but this one basically ignores that besides taking some characters from it and bringing them back. There are other movies with Harley Quinn in them too, but this flick doesn't stress over that too much either. This movie is, "The Suicide Squad," and it isn't perfect, but it is pretty entertaining.

The writer and director of "The Suicide Squad," is James Gunn. He takes some of the charm of his, "Guardians of the Galaxy," films and adds in a ton of gore and gross-out humor. It mostly works. The movie opens in a bombastic and over-the-top manner full of characters who you think will be important unceremoniously dying. As the flick goes on many other members of the team die and others who you think are cannon fodder surprisingly last quite a while. The crazy opening leads to a solid leadup set 3 weeks before everything went FUBAR (the Suicide Squad needs to infiltrate a fictional South American island nation and destroy any trace of a secret program known as, "Project Starfish), and the movie goes along at a good pace before significantly slowing down around the halfway point.

James Gunn wants to tell us all of these characters are pure cannon fodder. He also wants to take some time out an hour or so into the movie to make us care about some of these characters and their sometimes tragic origins. Gunn kind of wants it both ways, and when he isn't sure whether he wants to be cynical and bloody or heart-touching and thoughtful the movie's tone can feel a little like it's giving viewers whiplash. Then everything picks back up in a fantastic final third when the mysterious Project Starfish breaks free and (almost) all is forgiven by us viewers.

I expected, "The Suicide Squad," to be a bit funnier than it was. It has jokes, but many carry such a dark and mean undercurrent you sometimes aren't sure if the punchline has happened yet. Oftentimes it is a movie that goes for the gut in a literal sense where some special effects are stomach-churning. Heads explore or get sliced off, body parts are ripped open by superpowerful creatures, guns leave big gaping wounds you can see through--this is not a movie that takes its gore lightly. Gunn started out with Troma making some really visceral flicks, and he seems to be returning to his roots a little bit here. I didn't mind the bloodshed as someone who has witnessed some grotesque horror or action movies, but those with a queasy stomach may need to look away during the especially nasty fight scenes.

As I mentioned, there is some heart in, "The Suicide Squad," with a handful of characters truly meaning well among their less-heroic peers. Some may find these bits of earnest emotion to give the movie a smidgen of optimism and others may think the sweet bits stick out like a sore thumb amongst the explosions of viscera. I think it all balances out decently in the end to give us a movie that isn't perfect, but good fun.

"The Suicide Squad," is James Gunn being allowed to make a superhero movie with minimal editorial oversight. He told DC/Warner Brothers he wanted to create a specific film and to their credit, they let him make it. Based on how positive early reviews and word-of-mouth has been mixed with an already solid box office intake from the start of the weekend, DC's gamble on Gunn may pay off handsomely. I say to go see it in the theater or stream it on HBO Max.

4 out of 5 stars.

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