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4K Ultra HD Review: The Suicide Squad

November 2, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is a soft reboot of David Ayer’s 2016 film Suicide Squad (sans the “The”), a film that had potential but was massacred by studio interference and reshoots to add more humour. This was ironically done by Warner Bros. in an attempt to make it feel more like Gunn’s delightful Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now things have come full circle with Gunn directing his own film featuring DC’s Suicide Squad, which came about when he was temporarily dropped from directing the third Guardians film over the resurfacing of old tweets (which, to be fair, were pretty disgusting). Before Disney rehired him, Warner Bros. jumped at the opportunity to offer him carte blanche to make whatever movie he wanted.

The result is The Suicide Squad, a deranged but very entertaining mix of superhero blockbuster and B-movie splatter film that feels like maybe the most wholly James Gunn film James Gunn has ever made. This is Gunn unhinged. Free from the restraints of a PG-13 rating, the filmmaker goes wild with the gore, delivering an unapologetically R-rated comic book film that is punctuated by brutal, over the top violence. It’s basically everything that he couldn’t get away with over at Marvel, in one surprisingly cohesive and enjoyable package.

This isn’t a sequel to the 2016 film, despite having a few characters and a name in common, with Gunn instead setting out to tell a mostly standalone story that forges its own path. This film finds Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, reprising her role from the first one) assembling a mostly new team of supervillains from Belle Reve prison to send on a secretive, highly dangerous government mission in exchange for reduced time. They are each implanted with a chip that will explode if they go off-mission, hence the group’s nickname.

At the forefront of the new team are Bloodsport (Idris Elba), a deadly mercenary, and Peacemaker (John Cena), a ruthless vigilante who is guided by a jingoistic ideology and will do anything in the name of peace and freedom. Think a douchebag version of Captain America. Their field leader is Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, reprising his role), a returning character who is presented in a more comic way this time around. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who was the biggest highlight of the first film, is also back, of course, and is given some of her finest onscreen moments.

Rounding out the ragtag group are Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), a tragic figure with mommy issues who has a condition that allows him to shoot deadly polka dots at people; Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), a young woman who is able to communicate with rats and call them with her glowing orb; and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), a dopey but oddly adorable great white who walks around on land looking for people to eat.

Gunn’s film doesn’t waste too much time getting down to business, and instead sends these unique characters right into battle following some speedy introductions. Their mission is to travel to the island of Corto Maltese, which has undergone a military coup, to destroy a lab containing evidence of Project Starfish, a scientific experiment involving a gigantic alien starfish called Starro the Conquerer, who will play a big role in the film’s monster movie finale.

Right from the opening sequence, which introduces a whole other team of villains including Savant (Michael Rooker), Blackguard (Pete Davidson) and Weasel (Sean Gunn), it’s clear that none of these characters are guaranteed to make it out alive, which gives the film a sort of unpredictable, live wire energy. Gunn has described approaching this film like a war movie, and it often has a grittier, 1970s aesthetic to it. In this vein, Gunn’s script satirizes U.S. involvement in Vietnam and other foreign wars, slyly working in some political commentary to go with the action and humour.

The jokey banter, irreverent one-liners and kick-ass music cues will all be familiar to fans of Gunn’s two Guardians films, but this feels like a darker, slightly older cousin to them. Like in the Guardians movies, Gunn’s screenplay for The Suicide Squad works because he is able to take a bunch of weird characters and make them feel like a family. To give credit where it is due, his ability to make a character like King Shark weirdly endearing, and to provide an emotional arc for Polka-Dot Man, surely one of the silliest characters in comic book lore, is no small part of why this film works as well as it does.

Cinematographer Henry Braham (who also shot Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 for Gunn) brings a captivating visual style to the film, from the obligatory slow-motion hero shots to some eye-catching flourishes such as a flashback shown in the window of a bus and a fight reflected in Peacemaker’s shiny chrome helmet. The action set-pieces are exciting and vibrant, with the highlight being an impressively choreographed escape sequence involving Robbie’s Harley Quinn.

A marked improvement over the 2016 film in pretty much every way, The Suicide Squad is a fun movie that works much better than I was initially expecting it to. It’s simply a good time. Despite running over two hours, the film moves at a good pace, doing a fine job of juggling its different characters and giving them moments to shine. It was a box office flop (which can partly be blamed on the pandemic), but it has already gained a following as a fan favourite, and it’s easy to see why.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K Ultra HD set that I was sent for review features the film in 2160p resolution with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. The package also includes a regular 1080p Blu-ray disc, which is where most of the bonus features are held, though there are two on the 4K disc as well. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which comes with a shiny silver slipcover.

4K Ultra HD:

Harley’s Great Escape (Scene Breakdown) (7 minutes, 17 seconds): A look at the planning and shooting of that insane prison escape sequence, and how it was done using practical effects with Robbie doing her own stunts.

Commentary by Director/Writer James Gunn

Blu-ray:

Deleted & Extended Scenes (17 minutes, 27 seconds): A mix of extended moments and cut scenes that pad out parts of the movie, including an especially good sequence involving Polka-Dot Man and King Shark.

Gag Reel (10 minutes, 23 seconds): Goes on longer than it probably needed to, but still has some amusing behind the scenes moments.

Bringing King Shark to Life (5 minutes, 40 seconds): A welcome look at designing the character of King Shark, including how actor Steve Agee (who also plays one of Waller’s employees) portrayed him on set, and how he really came alive when Sylvester Stallone was brought in to voice him.

Gotta Love the Squad (11 minutes, 37 seconds) John Ostrander, writer of the original comics, comes on board with Gunn and others to help break down the different characters in the film, their costumes, and accuracy to the comics.

The Way of the Gunn (7 minutes, 50 seconds): Members of the cast and crew talk about their experience working with Gunn on set.

Scene Breakdowns: A look behind the scenes of four of the film’s main set-pieces, and how they were pulled off on physical sets, using practical effects whenever possible.

It’s a Suicide Mission (6 minutes, 37 seconds)

My Gun’s Bigger Than Yours (5 minutes, 44 seconds)

Harley’s Great Escape (7 minutes, 17 seconds)

The Fall of Jotunheim (5 minutes, 38 seconds)

Starro: It’s a Freakin’ Kaiju! (6 minutes, 17 seconds): A look at the impressive visual effects work that was done to bring this massive creature to life onscreen.

War Movie Retro Trailer (3 minutes, 24 seconds): A fake trailer done in the style of a war movie.

Horror Movie Retro Trailer (1 minute, 23 seconds): A fake trailer in the style of a horror movie.

Buddy-Cop Retro Trailer (1 minute, 17 seconds): A fake trailer in the style of a buddy-cop movie.

Commentary by Director/Writer James Gunn

The Suicide Squad is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 132 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: October 26th, 2021

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 3, 2021 9:16 am

    I just did not like this film. The story was underwhelming and the finale was just silly and not in a good way.

    Like

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