The Suicide Squad: Film Review

The Suicide Squad

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The original Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer and released in 2016, wasn’t exactly received well (to put it mildly) so it would understandable if you had some reservations about this standalone sequel, but let me assure you that James Gunn‘s outing is very different and totally awesome.

Once again, inmates of Belle Reve prison are recruited by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to become a part of Task Force X – aka The Suicide Squad – in exchange for shaving time off their sentences. This time around the convicts – including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Nanaue/King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) and Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), among many more – are sent to the South American island of Corto Maltese to destroy the Nazi-era lab Jotunheim, where inhumane experiments have been conducted for years under the watchful eye of Gaius Grieves (Peter Capaldi). It is also said to contain Project Starfish, an extra-terrestrial that could be used against America.

Ayer’s 2016 movie was very dark and serious and Gunn does a complete 180 and makes his version of Suicide Squad incredibly fun. It is an absolute blast from start to finish. It is hilarious – there is so much black comedy in this – boisterous, loud, ballsy, chaotic and such a riot. It is also seriously violent and gory, with blood and guts everywhere, so it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.

If you’re familiar with Gunn’s previous work – such as Slither and the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise – then you’ll have an idea about his sense of humour and know what to expect with Suicide Squad. I’m a big fan of his work and I think his writing is extremely funny so this suited my tastes perfectly. The film doesn’t take itself seriously at all and most of what you see is very tongue-in-cheek. The action is also pretty non-stop and there are a few very cool setpieces, with my favourite being Harley’s escape scene.

Unlike those Marvel movies, it seems Gunn was given pretty much rein to make this film as adult, provocative and gruesome as he liked, and given that it’s a standalone movie, it also seems like he was allowed to do what he liked with the characters. There are so many (the list above just scratches the surface) and none of them are safe (theoretically speaking, there are some DC would never kill off). Some of them are dispatched in a shockingly violent fashion and that felt refreshing, not knowing exactly who would make it to the end.

Gunn has absolute control over the tone and the style he’s going for. Each character looked like a superhero from a different era, which was deliberate, and Harley’s look has been paired back to her classic red and black colour scheme. There are also some very cool stylistic flourishes elsewhere. For example, for the chapter headings and time stamps, Gunn uses materials in the scene to spell out the words – sometimes these were hard to read but I appreciated the idea.

Robbie’s Harley is always the star of the show and she once again steals every scene she’s in. She has so much unhinged chaotic energy and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I also enjoyed Elba as the reluctant leader Bloodsport and his banter with Cena’s Peacemaker over who is a more formidable opponent. King Shark is a fantastic addition, his need to feed on humans is very funny (and violent), and there’s a running gag with Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) that cracked me up every time. Most of the characters have the opportunity for comedy, with the exception of Flag – who is as bland as ever – and Ratcatcher II, my favourite newcomer. She is the heart of the film and it was like a breath of fresh air having such a nice character to get invested in. And she has a pet rat named Sebastian!

I cannot overstate how much fun The Suicide Squad is. I highly recommend it!

In cinemas from Friday 30th July

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Fast & Furious 9: Film Review

Fast & Furious 9

Courtesy of Universal

If you like your Fast and Furious movies silly, ridiculous and illogical then you already know you’re going to have a great time with Fast & Furious 9, also known as F9.

So, here I go trying to explain the plot: Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are retired and living a quiet life on a farm when they are summoned by a video message from Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), who informs them that he had captured the villain Cipher (Charlize Theron) but then his plane was attacked by rogue agents. The team – also consisting of Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) – go to help and discover one half of a device named Aries, which can hack into any satellite or computer system when paired with its other half and an activation key. After Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena) rocks up and steals the first half, the team must track him down and make sure he doesn’t get the other pieces.

It’s pretty tricky to review Fast and Furious in the same way you’d review anything else because they’re a whole different beast. You know exactly what you’ll get going in – high-octane action, fast cars, ridiculous stunts that defy the laws of physics – and that’s almost become their appeal nowadays. Heck, the audience at my screening whooped and applauded at the big dumb setpieces! You just have leave your mind at the door and laugh at how insane it all is.

Taking all that into account, the ninth instalment is still definitely one of the weaker ones. Sure, the action is absurd (that’s nothing new), but my biggest issue here was mostly to do with how flimsy the plot was. It is so thin and forgettable – it’s generally just Ramsey dropping the next load of exposition to get the actors from one cool location and action setpiece to another. This time they bring in electromagnets to mix up the sequences and I like that they’ve given us something new, even if their usage is very inconsistent. But, you know, all the characters seem to be invincible despite the death-defying stunts, so I shouldn’t be expecting realism. The films have become less high stakes as they’ve gone on as nobody seems to get injured or die anymore and if they do, they miraculously return at some point anyway!

Surprisingly though, this film tries to give us some character depth and delivers backstory on the beef between Dom and Jakob via frequent flashbacks to them in relation to the death of their dad. Vinnie Bennett was well cast as the young Dom but I couldn’t stop laughing at Finn Cole from Peaky Blinders being a young John Cena. That didn’t work for me. I can appreciate what director Justin Lin was trying to do with these scenes but it sometimes felt like I was watching two different films.

Diesel is the man who runs the show but he is actually the most boring to watch onscreen in this, with Rodriguez coming in close second. Outside of the action sequences, in which they’re very physically capable, they just have this brooding and serious presence and not much else. So bland! I also think it’s hilarious they just decided to give Dom and Mia (Jordana Brewster) a brother after nine movies! Jakob is pitched as their toughest nemesis yet but Cena doesn’t have a threatening presence, not compared to Theron’s cold and calculating Cipher (who is wasted this time around).

There are some wins for the ladies though. Brewster has been given an upgrade and gets to do some stunts of her own, Helen Mirren is back for a fabulous but completely unnecessary car chase, and Ramsey is given much more to do. She’s my favourite of the ladies and I like that she’s the brains and tech whiz of the team, is funny, and is getting more involved in the action sequences.

But my favourites overall are Roman and Tej. They are the best because they lean into the silliness more than any of the others. They offer up fun, levity, personality and humour in a film often devoid of it, bring much-needed comedy and lightness to proceedings and they make me laugh the most. The space gag wouldn’t have worked in other hands and I love how they point out the ridiculousness of events like the audience would, with Roman getting to the bottom of how Han (Sung Kang) is alive, asking the questions we needed (it still doesn’t make much sense but just roll with it). If you’re a fan of Tokyo Drift, make sure you keep an eye out for some of Kang’s old co-stars too.

Fans of the Fast franchise will probably eat up this instalment in a heartbeat, even if it is weaker than numbers 7 & 8.

In cinemas from Thursday 24th June

Rating: 3 out of 5.

June in film: My recommendations

In the Heights

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The cinemas are back open and there’s lots of exciting releases coming up this month!

So without further ado, here are my top recommendations for June (released in cinemas unless stated otherwise):

A Quiet Place Part II

Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds are back for more in this sequel to the amazing 2018 horror. This one continues right where that first film finishes off and follows the Abbott family as they try to find a new home. Expect more jumps and plenty of unsettling tension as they encounter the monsters, which hunt by sound. My review is already live, check it out here. Released: 3rd June.

The Father

This release is supremely delayed but you’ll finally be able to find out why Anthony Hopkins well and truly deserved his Best Actor Oscar win! His performance as a man suffering from dementia is absolutely devastating and if the final 10 minutes don’t reduce you to tears then you have a heart of stone! This film is clever and deliberately disorientating to put us in the shoes of somebody with dementia. Can’t recommend enough. Here’s my review. Released: 11th June.

In the Heights

I loved Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s stage musical so I’m very excited about the movie adaptation, directed by Crazy Rich Asians’ Jon M. Chu! This film tells the story of different characters living in the Washington Heights neighbourhood of New York City, and judging by the trailer, I’m going to love every second of it. Cannot wait to see all the singing and dancing on the big screen! Released: 18th June.

Luca

I always expect a very high standard from Pixar’s films and so I have high hopes for Luca, an animation based in 1950s Italy. It tells the story of best friends Luca and Alberto who are both hiding a secret – they’re sea monsters! It looks so good! Released on Disney+ (with no premium fee): 18th June.

F9

The ninth instalment in the Fast and Furious franchise looks set to be the most ridiculous one yet! But wouldn’t you be disappointed if they went for realism instead of defying the laws of physics?! Blockbusters are certainly back in business. Newcomer John Cena joins the franchise as Vin Diesel‘s onscreen brother and nemesis. Released: 24th June.

Supernova

Now for something a little different. This lovely drama stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as Sam and Tusker, a couple who go on a trip in an RV to visit their favourite spots and people before Tusker deteriorates further in his battle with dementia. Two dementia films in one month! I saw this at the London Film Festival and cried so I’d definitely recommend tissues for this one. Here’s my LFF review. Released: 25th June.

There are other honourable mentions coming up, including Dream Horse, In the Earth, Land, Shiva Baby, Nobody, and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.

Playing with Fire: Film Review

John Cena proved he was a good sport and surprisingly funny in Blockers so I felt hopeful about his next role in Playing with Fire, but I shouldn’t have been. The movie is pretty bad.

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Bumblebee: Film Review

The Transformers franchise hasn’t exactly been held in high esteem for a while now (although I didn’t mind The Last Knight, in all honesty) but I let out a groan when Bumblebee was announced because it seemed like an obvious cash cow. Turns out, there was an interesting story to tell and it is so good it has revived my interest in the franchise.

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Blockers: Film Review

I have to be honest, I thought Blockers was gonna suck. I had the lowest expectations for it, so I came away pleasantly surprised by how funny, modern and relevant it was. A teen comedy for the ‘woke’ generation, if you will.

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Trainwreck: Film Review

wreck1

Trainwreck has been out in the U.S. for a while now and the reviews have been great so I was expecting a lot from this Judd Apatow rom-com, written by the star Amy Schumer, and it totally delivers. The genre has died off in recent years because they get so formulaic and samey, but this is super smart, witty and totally hilarious.

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