Motley crew: ‘The Suicide Squad’ an anti-Captain America romp – Albuquerque Journal

Motley crew: ‘The Suicide Squad’ an anti-Captain America romp

From left, Joel Kinnaman, John Cena, Margot Robbie, Peter Capaldi and Idris Elba in a scene from “The Suicide Squad.” (Jessica Miglio/Warner Bros. Pictures)

One little article separates James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” from David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.” But, oh, what a difference a word makes.

Just five years after the train wreck that prompted Warner Bros. to retool its DC Comics universe, James Gunn’s nearly wholesale redo exists in an entirely different movie galaxy. “The Suicide Squad” may go down as one of the greatest, and quickest, do-overs in blockbusterdom.

Like Gunn’s two “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, “The Suicide Squad” is a chaotic, freewheeling inversion of much of what’s expected in a comic book movie. Here, heroes die (a lot of them). Most aren’t really heroes, either. Some aren’t even human. But they’ve been sprung from prison for a kamikaze mission on behalf of the U.S. government. In this motliest of crews, no one has anything like a sleek shield or a clean caped suit.

Gunn came to “The Suicide Squad” (which opens Aug. 5 in theaters and on HBO Max) in a brief window opened by social-media scandal. Disney fired him from Marvel for some old, dug-up tweets, only to, after the protests of his “Guardians” cast, be rehired to direct “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” But in the interim, Warner and D.C. poached the writer-director, one of the few filmmakers in the genre with the nerve and talent to not exactly buck the system but deconstruct it, and turn superhero myth into slapstick farce.

Gunn has said he was initially offered the chance to direct a Superman movie, but it’s telling that he turned down the crown jewel of DC for the likes of Polka-Dot Man, Ratcatcher 2 (who communicates with rodents) and Nanaue, a cartoonish walking shark in jams.

David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, King Shark, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, John Cena as Peacemaker and Idris Elba as Bloodsport in Warner Bros. Pictures’ superhero action adventure “The Suicide Squad.” (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

But if most mainline superhero movies ultimately exalt American ideals like justice, individualism and might, Gunn goes exactly the other way. “The Suicide Squad” is the anti-Superman, a madcap rejoinder to Captain America. In Gunn’s hands, the America superhero is grotesque, brutal and ridiculous. Like Gunn’s previous movies, “The Suicide Squad” boasts wall-to-wall needle drops (the Pixies’ “Hey,” Louis Armstrong’s “I Ain’t Got Nobody”), yet leaves out maybe the most fitting song, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.”

Early on in “The Suicide Squad” we get a sense that the mission is dubious. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) summons a bunch of prisoners for Task Force X program. Exactly who are to be our main characters and who’s head is about to sliced like a melon takes some sorting out. But in a clown-car of a superhero movie the most central protagonist is Idris Elba’s Bloodsport, a mercenary coaxed into joining the team only when Waller threatens prison time or worse for his teenage daughter (Storm Reid, very good).

With him are Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior, a standout), a laconic, warm-hearted Millennial with a very polite pet rat named Sebastian on her shoulder. The skills of Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) are initially hard to decipher, but the shy, stunted Abner proves surprisingly capable, even if he, himself, sheepishly apologizes for having such a “flamboyant” power.

There is also John Cena’s Peacemaker, easily the most jingoist of the bunch, a kind of Captain America knockoff. Just what each squad member feels about their home country and its role in international backwaters is prominently in play in “The Suicide Squad.” The gang is sent to a dictator-controlled South American island in the midst of a populist uprising to keep safe a secret, locked-away alien species housed in a concrete tower. This is the sinister unseen side to American glory; a monstrous extraterrestrial starfish picked up on a seemingly triumphant space mission. Unclear is whether the task force is there to prevent an apocalyptic threat or shroud a dubious offshore U.S. experiment.

But there are others, too. Nanaue (voiced with monosyllabic perfection by Sylvester Stallone) is a worthy heir to Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy” and a man-eating reminder to how very close to cartoon Gunn’s movie is. The group’s more serious, highly trained field leader, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, is a kind of straight man to the antic gang.

Also in the mix is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. It’s her third film in that character but the best yet in capturing Quinn’s chipper mania.

Does “The Suicide Squad” overdo it? Of course

But as over-the-top and thoroughly R-rated as “The Suicide Squad” is, it’s not nihilistic. That’s maybe a questionable argument to make for a film that includes an inside-the-body close-up of a dagger piercing a beating heart. But as much as Gunn steers his movies into chaos, they have a surprising amount of heart and thoughtfulness to them.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop


Way Out West Film Fest features 88 movies with ...
Twenty-two feature-length films.Sixty-six short films shown ... Twenty-two feature-length films.Sixty-six short films shown in 10 shorts programs. ...
'A sense of pride': Film festival aims to give ...
When he was growing up Chinese ... When he was growing up Chinese American, most of the films Paul Jew would watch presented stereotypi ...
NM film industry braces for Monday strike
ABQnews Seeker
Governor backs union members, hopes for ... Governor backs union members, hopes for 'productive dialogue'
In the pink: Three breweries host virtual 5K to ...
Albuquerque News
Three local breweries are teaming up ... Three local breweries are teaming up to help women battling breast cancer with their Dash & Drin ...
'Incredible machine': Ben Mehl thrilled to join cast for ...
Ben Mehl didn't know much about ... Ben Mehl didn't know much about the TV series "You" before he auditioned for the third season. ...
Fruitful reunion: Former classmates at Santa Fe University of ...
It's been nearly 20 years since ... It's been nearly 20 years since Sam Quinn and Connor McLean met as theater students at the Santa Fe ...
Just for laughs: Albuquerque Funny Fiesta features local and ...
Albuquerque News
Albuquerque's comedy scene is full of ... Albuquerque's comedy scene is full of talent.For the second year, Albuquerque Funny Fi ...
Humans vs. nature: 'Thunder Rises' explores conflict between wilderness ...
Evan Curtis began filming the stop-motion ... Evan Curtis began filming the stop-motion animated film "Thunder Rises" in fall 2019.H ...
'A good space to be in': Singer-songwriter Jonathan Foster ...
It's a chilly day in Portland, ... It's a chilly day in Portland, Oregon, and Jonathan Foster is taking part of the day for himself.

Street smarts: Thai Street eatery offers tasty, spicy Southeast ...
Dining Reviews
As restaurateurs go, Michelle Waterson ... As restaurateurs go, Michelle Waterson and Joshua Gomez have unorthodox backgrounds.< ...