The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad ★★★½

There are two things that James Gunn does better than just about anyone else on the planet: One is making glossy mega-budget superhero movies that still march to the beat of their own drum (e.g. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”), and the other is making over-the-top gore-fests so gross they straddle the line between indie cinema and outsider art (e.g. the darkly satirical “Super,” which in hindsight seems like a mission statement). Gunn might be the only person to direct blockbuster tentpoles for both Marvel and DC, but he’s still the guy who co-wrote Troma’s “Tromeo and Juliet” at heart. And by the time the opening credits of “The Suicide Squad” are spelled out in the head blood that seeps from a supporting character’s freshly exploded skull, it’s clear that he always will be.

The most fun and least depressing superhero movie in a very long time, Gunn’s deliriously ultra-violent “The Suicide Squad” wears the yoke of its genre with a lightness that allows it to slip loose of the usual restraints, if not quite shake them off altogether. It must be liberating to make a $150 million (give or take) mulligan for a widely maligned disaster that still managed to gross almost a billion dollars despite becoming a punchline along the way, and that’s really what this unhinged carnival of R-rated cartoon mayhem amounts to at the end of the day: Not a reboot of or a sequel to 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” but rather a second draft.

In the brief yet purgatorial history of superhero movies — which once gave us three different Spider-Men in the span of nine years — we’ve never really gotten the chance to watch such wildly divergent takes on the same characters, played by several of the same actors, in the same cinematic universe. And while the tone of Gunn’s film isn’t far removed from that of its misbegotten predecessor, this one actually has the chutzpah (and the creative freedom) to make good on Harley Quinn’s whole “we’re bad guys — it’s what we do” routine. Sometimes the difference between a strike-out and a home run is just a slightly harder swing at the ball and some help from a giant alien starfish who grows bigger each time one of the vile flying pods it excretes from its body face-hugs a new victim and indoctrinates them into the hivemind (or hive… central nervous system). But we’ll get there.

~this review continues on IndieWire~