[Screen It]


(2021) (Idris Elba, Margot Robbie) (R)

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Superhero Action: A disparate group of anti-hero prisoners are sent to another country on a mission to destroy a lab and the dangerous work and monster inside it.

Following a coup in the island nation of Corto Maltese by Silvio Luna (JUAN DIEGO BOTTO) and his right-hand general, Mateo Suarez (JOAQUÍN COSIO), government official Amanda Waller (VIOLA DAVIS) -- head of the top-secret Task Force X -- has sent a group of prisoners to the island to deal with the situation. Led by Colonel Rick Flag (JOEL KINNAMAN), all but him and Harley Quinn (MARGOT ROBBIE) are killed, but it turns out their presence was just a decoy for the real team and their mission.

Led by assassin Bloodsport (IDRIS ELBA), the second crew consists of Peacemaker (JOHN CENA) who uses deadly violence to live up to his name; Ratcatcher 2 (DANIELA MELCHIOR) who can control rats to do her bidding; Polka-Dot Man (DAVID DASTMALCHIAN) who can eject deadly polka-dots from his body, and the anthropomorphic, dimwitted, and always hungry King Shark (voice of SYLVESTER STALLONE). With the help of local guerilla fighter Sol Soria (ALICE BRAGA), their mission is to find a Nazi-era prison and laboratory known as Jotunheim and destroy it and the work inside.

With Flag and Harley eventually joining them, they must put their differences aside to complete the job, unaware that the lab contains a gargantuan, extraterrestrial starfish monster that won't go down without a fight.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

As we all know based on the evidence presented through the light of movie projectors worldwide, there's little Hollywood and its major studio players like more than sequels and reboots. After all, it takes a lot of time, effort, and moola to get new films in front of people and into their ventral striatums to induce cinematic cravings to see them.

It's a lot easier to reintroduce that which is already familiar, even if doing so feels like little more than a lazy cash grab effort. That said, critics and everyday viewers are likely torn about which they like and/or despise the most -- a direct follow-up that continues a storyline and its characters or a complete restart of a known intellectual property.

With "The Suicide Squad," it's hard to tell exactly what it is, and even Warner Bros. has been somewhat reluctant to peg it in any certain way. Is it a sequel to 2016's similarly named "Suicide Squad?" After all, it seems to be a continuation of sorts with some of the same performers inhabiting the same characters.

Or is it a reboot in terms of sort of pretending that earlier flick never existed and a new approach is being taken to bring the tale and its characters to audiences around the world? Maybe we should call it a re-quel or a se-boot.

Whatever the case, it's decidedly better, more entertaining, and cohesive than its predecessor. And if you don't mind the decidedly R-rated material, you might just enjoy this wild and crazy ride from writer/director James Gunn (who wrote and directed the two "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies).

Like before -- but without much in the way of a detailed explanation (that thus gives off more of the sequel vibe) -- Viola Davis plays a government operative who runs Task Force X that specializes in using prisoners with unique skills and sends them on missions that, well, pretty much seem suicidal in scope and nature.

And that ends up true when all but returning characters Col. Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) end up killed during their nighttime beach invasion sequence. That would seem to significantly truncate the film's potential runtime, but Gunn then shows us that another team has similarly landed on Corto Maltese with the same objective.

They consist of assassin Bloodsport (Idris Elba) who often clashes with his counterpart Peacemaker (Jon Cena). There's also rodent controller Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) who's afflicted with colorful dots on his skin that turn deadly when they're released into the air, and the dimwitted and always hungry King Shark (voiced by Sly Stallone). And their mission -- beyond rescuing the two surviving members of the other team -- is to find an old Nazi lab (natch) and destroy the work and related info that's going on there, all tied to the recently overthrown government.

Compared to the last "SS" film where the comedic bits felt shoehorned in after the fact to join the far-too solemn and stuffy material, the irreverent and campy tone here is consistent from the beginning and carries through for a bit more than two hours. Some of it's quite funny, along with being fairly gruesome at times but it also possesses some surprisingly emotionally touching moments.

Thankfully vanquishing the earlier effort from most of our collective consciousness and psyche, "The Suicide Squad" is a fun and entertaining diversion if you're okay with going along with all its goofy, R-rated moments. Rather than listing it as a sequel or reboot, however, maybe the flick and those promoting it should simply say the title as they do for Ohio State football: "James Gunn, THE Suicide Squad." The flick rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed August 3, 2021 / Posted August 6, 2021

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