At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Suicide Squad “2021”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Superhero/Stars: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Alice Braga, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Steve Agee, Joaquín Cosío, Juan Diego Botto, Storm Reid, Julio Ruiz, Tinashe Kajese, Jennifer Holland, Taika Waititi, John Ostrander, Stephen Blackehart, Lloyd Kaufman; Voice of: Sylvester Stallone/Runtime: 132 minutes

I think it can easily be said that the construction of any big Hollywood slice of cinematic pie is one that, among all the other requirements that can be found, is one that depending on the studio where the film is being made might require a degree of compromise to get made. This is because how various resources are divvied up is an issue that is constantly in flux due to more than one or two people and/or interested parties behind the camera who need to be kept placated. Yet lest you think this sounds like excruciating tyranny, it actually is a quite organic component to making a slice of cinematic pie that to make will cost a studio millions of dollars. At the same time though, it does also mean that any movie helmer trying to make said movie has to walk a significantly thinner and narrower line in order to make sure that their vision for what they want the respective slice of cinematic pie to be isn’t completely overrun and negated by all this behind the scenes compromising. The reason I bring this up is because in the last decade or so, there are not that many film helmers who have been able to make their way through this quite perilous cinematic labyrinth on the level that James Gunn has. Indeed it was because of this man’s quite novel style and approach that the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie back in 2014 went from being the biggest, at that time, gamble the MCU had taken to one of the more treasured jewels in its box office crown. Thus after rediscovering that magic in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (with the extremely underrated yet iconic and always delightful to see in a movie performer that is Kurt Russell along for the ride), he has decided, before he jumps back over into Camp Marvel and start filming on the 3rd installment in the Guardians of the Galaxy films, to bring his top-notch style and vision over to DC in the form of their new stab on the iconic supervillain team that is The Suicide Squad. Suffice it to say it was a move that DC can now sit back with a smile on their face and appreciate from now until the end of time. Indeed that is because the 2021 take on this team, appropriately called The Suicide Squad, is one that literally gives off the vibe that it just came to us straight from James Gunn’s brain rather than the written page and suffice it to say that if you are someone who has seen and loved what Gunn has done so far in regards to cinema you are going to have a helluva good time watching this.

The plot is as follows: Operating with a few of the components as the first stab that we got of this team courtesy of film helmer David Ayer in 2016 whilst also not really trying to make a concerted effort to create any degree of genuine continuity whatsoever, the 2021 take on the Suicide Squad swiftly gets underway by recapping its key narrative hook. That of course being that, under the watchful eye of a tough as all get out government agent named Amanda Waller, a rag tag group of supervillains behind bars are assembled to form a covert team known as Task Force X which is then sent out to engage in highly risky operations on behalf of the United States govt. If they are successful in said operations then they get time off their sentences. However if they try to make a run for it then an explosive in their neck is set off and if they are killed in the line of duty then the government claims plausible and full deniability. Thus when we see that a military action with potentially severe fallout begins going down in a country known as Corto Maltese, Waller sets the ball in motion to establish and deploy a pair of Task Force X units with their main mission being to make their way into and annihilate a top secret research facility before the country’s new leadership is able to discover just what is being worked on in there and utilizes it for their own nefarious ends. Thus we see that making landfall on the south beach of the country is team babysitter ehhh field commander Rick Flagg, and team members Harley Quinn, T.D.K., Mongal, Blackguard, Savant, Captain Boomerang, Javelin, and Weasel. Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin we see that making their way to the country’s north beach are Bloodsport, Ratcatcher 2, King Shark, Peacemaker, and Polka-Dot Man. Suffice it to say that, despite having to deal with conflicts with each other, distinct fears, clashing methods, obscure motivations, and a brutal opposing force, this rag tag group must come together as a unit in order to complete the mission even if absolutely none of them have the slightest idea of what exactly is awaiting them at the conclusion of this particular “assignment”.

Now right off the bat it is worth noting that Gunn decides to make the creative choice of giving his stab on a narrative involving the titular supervillain team a non-linear format. As a result, this is one slice of cinematic pie that possesses a narrative that literally goes all over the place and unfortunately, despite the utilization of clever locale-established title cards to aid in the transition process, things don’t always flow on the level that they ought to. For example in the 2nd act of the movie there is a distinct character arc revolving around the iconic fan favorite character that is Harley Quinn and whilst yes it does make for strong material to further flesh her out as a character as well as giving her more in terms of layers to who she is as a person, it also feels like a short film that has just been randomly inserted in rather than an organic continuation of everything we have seen up to that point in the movie. Have said that though dear reader, I did feel that the vast majority of the time the all over the place timeline this slice of cinematic pie’s narrative was working with to be insanely engaging and energetic. Indeed the primary objective that the titular team is saddled with in this movie, without going into spoiler territory, is one that does wind up being made up of a lot of side quests with their own goals and contained in each there are a few twists and wrinkles inserted in for good measure. Suffice it to say be it to take care of a hostage crisis, orchestrate a kidnap, or just blow some stuff up things delightfully never go as planned and a lot of that can be attributed to just how detail oriented and wonderfully sneaky the script penned by Gunn actually is.

Ultimately, I find myself at a bit of a quandary when it comes to telling you just who I feel stands out above the rest in the cast in this slice of cinematic pie, but that is because everyone here is downright incredible and then some. Indeed Gunn is able to conjure up a variety of ways to really strengthen each and every single character in this courtesy of the narrative he is regaling us with courtesy of not only calling to task who they are as individuals as twists in the road present themselves, but also giving each and every character their spotlight at some point in the journey in their own distinct manner. Indeed be it the increasing self-determination of Harley, the delightfully quirky yet also kind rodent-adoring Ratcatcher 2, the obsessed with peace frat boyish Peacemaker, the ferocious yet also oddly lovable King Shark, or even the melancholic to the extreme Polka-Dot Man among others they all have a distinct manner to them that makes them just engaging to watch either on their own or side by side. Yes, much in the same vein as 2014’s first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, not every depiction is downright loyal to who they are in the comics, but every single character in this does have a wonderful part to play in this truly unique cinematic circus. Finally, it should be said that I also really appreciated how the action beats in this really do seem suited to its rag tag titular group to the letter. Indeed where this film distinguishes itself the most from the work Gunn has done for Marvel is in the action beats since in this film Gunn is finally given free rein to go as gonzo as he would like. Suffice it to say that Gunn does not hesitate for one second to take that freedom and live it up the max. Yet the reasons this movie is great don’t just come from the fact that this film is absolutely gory and violent (though that does aid things quite immensely). Rather, it’s also in how Gunn is able to establish a collection of terrific set pieces that do a wonderful job of testing the distinct components that make up this cast of characters and allowing them to be given their due in a way that consistently from beginning to end feels fresh and engaging in the best way possible.

All in all it is downright insane when you realize that the year 2021 is, among other noteworthy things, the decade anniversary of the release of a well done despite the budget it was working with and starring Rainn Wilson and Kevin Bacon among others costume-wearing vigilante slice of cinematic pie that James Gunn also helmed known as Super and then look at just how he has managed to transition from movies like that to some of the finest entries in the genre of movie magic known as the comic book film in the time since. Suffice it to say that in the eyes of this reviewer it quite frankly does not matter in the absolute least if the movie in question that is being made is one that belongs to either the Marvel or DC camp since I feel the whole comic book genre of movie magic as a whole is aided immensely whenever it chooses to have James Gunn at the helm of one of its cinematic adaptations. Suffice it to say that it is that respect that the 2021 take on The Suicide Squad feels very much like a tribute to everything that Gunn has been able to provide both diehard fans as well as the casual movie goer with in this distinct genre. Yes it is completely bonkers and balls to the wall, but it’s also extremely well-acted, incredibly shot, the action beats are riveting, and there is also a significant degree of heart to the proceedings as well. In other words dear reader: this is no more and no less than 110% James Gunn and I can say that I wouldn’t have been onboard with any less than that. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Suicide Squad “2021” a solid 4.5 out of 5.