DC’s increasingly desperate attempts to rival the success of The Marvel Universe seem to be exemplified by this muddled and over-inflated offering from James Gunn. Not to be confused with David Ayers Suicide Squad, this is The Suicide Squad, but, much like its predecessor, it suffers from a bad case of #toomanysuperheroes. While it’s surely a more successful attempt to put those titular antiheroes onscreen, it still feels overlong, overcomplicated and, quite possibly, just over.
It starts well enough with the ruthless Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, playing it straight) recruiting convicted hitman Savant (Michael Rooker) for a dangerous mission. She offers him an opportunity to reduce his prison sentence if he manages to survive, but adds the pesky complication that, if he tries to bail, a device in his head will explode. We then meet the rest of the team, one of whom we know from the first film and the rest of whom seem expendable. The familiar face belongs to Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and it soon becomes clear that his team only exists to serve as a distraction, while the real squad, led by Bloodsport (Idris Elba), gets on with the actual mission. He’s joined by another character we’ve met before, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and by some very odd newbies, including Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), King Shark (a man with a shark’s head voiced by Sylvester Stallone) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) who… well, suffice to say if you suffer from a fear of rodents, this film may not be for you.
There follow two hours and twelve minutes of fights, explosions, stunts and some explicitly bloody dismemberment, sailing very close to the wind considering the film’s 15 certificate. We’re treated to several shots of King Shark eating his opponents, which is probably meant to be comical, but is way too graphic for comfort. There’s also a sort of plot here, though it’s frankly bananas. The squad are sent to a South American country, where – in a ‘secret’ laboratory – scientists, under the supervision of Thinker (Peter Capaldi), are rearing a… giant starfish called Starro the Conqueror… yes, I know, at times it feels like a hyperactive six-year-old wrote the screenplay.
Like many of these big budget spectaculars, it’s a game of diminishing returns. There are too many punch ups, too many silly one-liners and too long a running time. Around the hour and a half mark, I’m staring to glance at my watch. Robbie’s Harley Quinn is by the far the best character, and she gets the film’s finest moment, an extended sequence where she escapes from prison to the tune of Just a Gigalo, the copious blood spatter replaced by flurries of animated flowers. It’s delightful and, if the rest of it were up to this standard, this would be a more positive review.
As it stands, it’s hard to be enthusiastic. A post-credits sequence which appears to offer a spin-off featuring one of the story’s less likeable characters is hardly an alluring prospect. Maybe I’ll give that one a miss.