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.

July in film: My recommendations

Black Widow

©Marvel Studios 2021

It’s the start of July so that means it’s time to take a look at what’s coming out this month!

Freaky
I have been excited to see this film for more than a year and I’m thrilled it’s finally coming out in the UK. It’s a gender-bending body-swap comedy starring Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn as a high school girl and serial killer who swap bodies. It’s very funny and really gory and seeing Vaughn playing a teenage girl brought me so much joy. In cinemas from Friday 2nd July.

Another Round
This Danish movie rightly won the Best International Feature Film Oscar earlier this year. Mads Mikkelsen is fantastic in this comedy-drama, about a group of friends and teachers who experiment with varying blood alcohol levels throughout their workday. This film has one of the best endings in recent memory. Read my review here. In cinemas from 2nd July.

Black Widow
It’s been a while since we’ve had a Marvel movie to watch on the big screen! I’m very excited by the fact cinema has recovered enough for it to happen! This standalone movie is led by Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and explores what she got up to between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. In cinemas from 7th July and on Disney+ from 9th July.

Gunpowder Milkshake
To be honest, I don’t know exactly what Gunpowder Milkshake is about because I avoided the trailer but all I need to know is that it’s an action-thriller starring Lena Headey and Karen Gillan as hitwomen. Sign me up! They are supported by more kickass assassins played by Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh. Hell yeah! In cinemas from 14th July.

Old
M. Night Shymalan‘s latest thriller looks wild. A family go for a day out at a secluded beach which somehow causes them to age rapidly, reducing their entire lives into a single day. I can’t wait to find out the explanation for this. The film stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie and more. Shymalan’s recent work hasn’t blown me away but this looks so intriguing. In cinemas from 23rd July.

Jungle Cruise
Another movie based on a Disney theme park ride, this action-adventure stars Dwayne Johnson as a steamboat captain who agrees to guide a British scientist and her reluctant brother – Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall – on their mission into the jungle to find the Tree of Life. This looks like great fun. In cinemas and Disney+ from 30th July.

The Suicide Squad

I’m excited to see Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn again tbh! This sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad follows a group of imprisoned convicts – some familiar, some new – who are sent to destroy a Nazi-era prison and lab. The trailer for this movie, directed by James Gunn, is awesome so I have high hopes. Robbie is joined by the likes of Idris Elba, Joel Kinnaman and John Cena. In cinemas 30th July.

Dead Pigs: Film Review

Dead Pigs

Cathy Yan‘s debut feature Dead Pigs received critical acclaim and caught the attention of Margot Robbie when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018 and landed her a blockbuster directing gig in the form of 2020’s Birds of Prey – but then it never got released. Finally, after three years, Dead Pigs is coming out.

The film follows the trials and tribulations of an odd mix of people, as thousands of dead pigs mysteriously float down the river towards Shanghai, something which actually happened in 2013. There’s Xia Xia (Meng Li), who crashes her car after a night out at a restaurant and ends up in hospital; Wang Zhen (Mason Lee), who finds her phone and helps her out while she’s hospitalised and also likes to get into accidents to make money; his father Old Wang (Haoyu Yang), who is up to his neck in debts and his pigs have all mysteriously died; and his sister Candy Wang (Vivian Wu), a prized pigeon-keeping beautician who is refusing to sell her house to a redevelopment company and stays in her property as an act of protest when its the only house still standing in the proposed new site.

Dead Pigs is a darkly funny and quirky social satire which deals with themes such as social change, globalisation, capitalism and the increasing inequality of wealth and employs a random assortment of characters, who are all developed well, thanks to Yan’s impressive screenplay. She makes bizarre choices in places though, for example, a random musical number that comes out of nowhere with singalong lyrics onscreen. What the hell? I was so baffled by this decision.

The most interesting storyline was Candy Wang, a beauty parlour owner who refuses to leave her home in case it gets knocked down, like the rest of her old neighbourhood. The Golden Happiness company are confident she will sell at the right price, considering she is now surrounded by rubble, but she cannot be bought – she was born and raised in that house and it has sentimental value, whereas her brother is a sad pathetic drunk who begs her to sell to help him out of his hole. Zazie Beetz also has a small and inconsequential appearance, so don’t be mislead into thinking she “stars” in this, because she really doesn’t.

Dead Pigs is a real mixed bag and a bit too long, so it didn’t completely gel for me, but it’s a strong debut feature from Yan – I’m not surprised she got hired for a big-budget movie (one on a whole other level in terms of scale) off the back of it.

Released globally (except China) on MUBI on Friday 12th February

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dreamland: Film Review

Dreamland

Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote.

After impressing as Michael Gray in Peaky Blinders, British actor Finn Cole finally gets to prove his leading man chops by starring alongside Margot Robbie in Dreamland.

The film is set in a small Texas town in 1935. Local teenager Eugene Evans (Cole) decides to go on the hunt for wanted bank robber and suspected murderer Allison Wells (Robbie) to collect the handsome reward, but he doesn’t need to go very far – turns out the wounded Allison has been hiding out in his family’s barn. He becomes torn between helping and capturing the seductive fugitive.

Dreamland looks impressive, with stunning Depression-era landscapes set in the Dust Bowl, an area hit by a severe drought in the ’30s, but there’s not much going on under the surface. It had the potential to be much more, but the screenplay by Nicolaas Zwart is shallow and doesn’t amount to an awful lot. The film is narrated by Eugene’s younger sister Phoebe (Darby Camp) 20 years later (voiced by Lola Kirke) and it seemed like a cool idea at first but didn’t get used to great effect and ultimately felt rather unnecessary.

The movie is also described as a thriller but that doesn’t feel particularly accurate. It didn’t ever feel particularly exciting or thrilling. Not as much happened as I was expecting it to as the first half of the movie is spent with Eugene falling in love with Allison as she recuperates in the barn. More action comes in the second half but it’s fleeting – a glimpse of what we could have had – and the finale, which should have felt dramatic and poignant, made barely any impact at all.

Robbie, who also produces, is as captivating, alluring, and magnetic as always but as good as her performance is, she doesn’t steal the shine from Cole. She lets him lead and he does well as Eugene, particularly towards the end when he has more emotional heavy lifting. Individually they were strong, but I never once bought their romance; it was not remotely convincing, but that’s mostly down to the screenplay – the twists and turns of their love affair didn’t feel earned or ring true. I also didn’t understand why Garrett Hedlund signed up for such a small role – perhaps it was chopped down a lot in the edit?! That’s the only explanation.

It sounds like I hated Dreamland but I didn’t at all – it was a simple and easy enough watch and I enjoyed watching the two actors I like work with each other, but I’m frustrated because I wanted it to be better and it had the potential to do so.

In cinemas from Friday 11th December

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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