“The Suicide Squad” pulls out all the stops with unhinged action sequences, extreme gore, and iconic characters

Noah Levine, Life and Arts Reporter

A shark, rat whisperer and polka-dot man walk into a bar …

“The Suicide Squad” has finally blasted back onto the big screen with James Gunn’s highly anticipated soft reboot of the 2016 hit. The new film, featuring returning cast members Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis and Jai Courtney, follows the infamous team of supervillains as they embark on a mission to uncover a twisted science experiment on the island Corto Maltese. James Gunn infuses insane villain antics with a megacast of zany DC Comics’ characters in what is quite possibly the most bizarre comic book film to ever hit the big screen. 

The infamous “Suicide Squad” comic is well-known for its ‘no one is safe’ mentality, frequently eliminating several characters alongside the various dangerous journeys. Gunn’s film adaptation is no different, sparing none of the characters any mercy despite their A-list casting ranging from Sylvester Stallone to Pete Davidson. Standouts include Margot Robbie’s seamless reprisal of the maniacal Harley Quinn, David Dastmalchian’s bizarre yet touching performance as Polka Dot Man, Idris Elba’s strong-willed portrayal of Bloodsport and rising star Daniela Melchior’s heartfelt Ratcatcher II. The beauty of the film comes from the intimate character moments that often make the viewer forget they are watching a superhero film and feel more like a dramatic character study. 

Melchior’s journey as Ratcatcher II is the beating heart of the film, culminating in an eye-watering emotional catharsis. Elba’s Bloodsport serves as the film’s moral compass, leveraging his desire to do good by his estranged daughter while also keeping himself alive. Joel Kinnaman’s Colonel Rick Flag and John Cena’s ridiculous Peacemaker riff about who is the true embodiment of an American hero is a dynamic that feels directly inspired by that of Kinnaman and Will Smith’s Deadshot character from the 2016 film. Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man has his own demons, and he confronts them in a bizarrely satisfying way that only James Gunn could achieve. Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn never fails to entertain, infusing every scene with her signature dark humor and energy. Viola Davis’ reprisal of Amanda Waller is as menacing as ever.

While its character moments shine, “The Suicide Squad” is still very much an unhinged comic book experience. It’s evidently clear director James Gunn was given a hands-off approach when it came to creative freedom. The film’s storyline jumps from one overtly violent and darkly comedic scene to the next spanning several locations, time periods and groupings of characters. Unique title cards are often immersed directly into the visuals of a scene, providing context for viewers who may get lost in the sporadic plot. While almost all of the film’s bizarre scenes are effective, the constant jumping between characters and locations does muddle the focus at times. Once the narrative settles onto the true protagonists of the story, it finds its footing.

“The Suicide Squad” taps into nearly every genre from its dramatic war-style opening sequence to its eventual descent into a chaotic creature feature with a gigantic evil starfish. Moments of body horror and extreme gore are sprinkled about, calling back to Gunn’s original foray in the horror genre. Rick Flag and Peacemaker’s scuffle lends itself to political thriller style elements and Harley Quinn’s romantic interest in villain Silvio Luna, played by Juan Diego Botto, gives the film its own little dark romance story. The variety of film genre DNA in “The Suicide Squad” will make it appealing to so many different types of fans and only adds to the unhinged scope of the narrative. 

The costume and production design of “The Suicide Squad” is certainly one of its strongest elements. Peter Capaldi’s Thinker has a bizarre bulbous head complete with protruding antennas, yet he sports typical nightclub attire as he goes out on the town. Cena’s absurdly colorful Peacemaker outfit is comedically juxtaposed with the dark and ominous suit that Elba’s Bloodsport wears throughout the film. The sets and locations range from war-torn beaches to the elegant penthouse of villainous political players. James Gunn and his team have truly crafted a world that feels as if the insanity of DC Comics has slowly begun to merge with reality. 

“The Suicide Squad” shows the potential of DC’s new creative strategy. By emphasizing the unique voices of its creators as opposed to a strictly connected greater “universe,” the films are able to retain their own identity and make their own mark. Gunn’s artistic style is on full display in this absolutely absurd entry in super-hero cinema. 

4 Polka Dots out of 5