Combustible Celluloid
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With: Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Viola Davis, Sylvester Stallone, Daniela Melchior, Joel Kinnaman, David Dastmalchian, Steve Agee, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, Jai Courtney, Flula Borg, Pete Davidson, Mayling Ng, Sean Gunn, Lynna Ashe, Peter Capaldi, Jennifer Holland, Tinashe Kajese-Boldenm, Alice Braga, Juan Diego Botto, Storm Reid, Taika Waititi
Written by: James Gunn
Directed by: James Gunn
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Running Time: 132
Date: 08/06/2021

The Suicide Squad (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Starro Wars

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Full of gleeful gore and carnage, infectiously silly jokes, and an overall vulgar, irreverent attitude, this wily, invigorating DC superhero movie has surprisingly strong teamwork and lots of heart.

As it begins, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends the new Suicide Squad (a.k.a. Task Force X) to the island of Corto Maltese to infiltrate a secret laboratory, where terrible experiments are underway. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is captured by the local military, while Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) is taken by a band of rebels.

Meanwhile, a second team — consisting of Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) — lands on another beach and proceeds with the mission, stopping to rescue Flag first. After tracking down the mad scientist The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), the team, joined by Harley, finally discovers what they're up against: the mind-controlling alien supervillain known as Starro!

An obvious reboot and quasi-sequel to the 2016 misfire Suicide Squad — with only Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, and Amanda Waller carried over — The Suicide Squad rambunctiously avoids the problems of that earlier movie, barreling over them like a noisy party bus. It's all the work of writer and director James Gunn, who brought a similar dose of energy to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Despite his success, Gunn seems to retain the spirit of the low-budget exploitation studio Troma, where he had his start.

The Suicide Squad feels a little like a guerrilla effort, fast and loose, with crazy invention taking precedence over visual effects. For example, the supervillain Starro may be a giant effect, but its weird, googly eye and flailing movements make it weirdly memorable. But Gunn's secret weapon, borrowed from the Marvel Universe, is that the characters are actually quite lovable and even relatable (as opposed to the gloomy, brooding earlier DC heroes).

The key here is Ratcatcher 2 (so called because she took over the mantle from her father). Her devotion to her fuzzy little rats gives her a strong, touching empathy that spills over to the rest of the characters, even the hard-headed Bloodsport, making this a Squad that we'd certainly want to sign up with.

Warner Bros. Home Video's Blu-ray release is spectacularly explosive in its audio and video transfers (the Dolby Atmos sound mix is superb). Bonuses include a commentary track by James Gunn, about 17 minutes of deleted and/or extended scenes, a 10(!)-minute gag reel, four featurettes: on the creation of Nanaue, about the history of the team, going back to the comics; one on director Gunn, and one about Starro; breakdowns of four different scenes, and three funny "retro" trailers, done in the style of other genres. Highly recommended!

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