Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
USA/Canada/United Kingdom, 2021. Warner Bros., DC Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, The Safran Company. Screenplay by James Gunn. Cinematography by Henry Braham. Produced by Charles Roven, Peter Safran. Music by John Murphy. Production Design by Beth Mickle. Costume Design by Judianna Makovsky. Film Editing by Fred Raskin, Christian Wagner.
Five years after the critically lambasted but surprisingly financially successful David Ayer film, the squad is back with some rearrangements in the cast and a brand new attitude. While the previous entry was an enjoyable romp with an unimpressive villain and a weak ending, this follow-up has fully committed to a rebellious sense of amoral glee, bringing on director James Gunn to give us the self-reflexive humour tinged with retro nostalgia of his Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but pumping the content up to an R rating so that no skull is left unsliced. Viola Davis is once again a harried top-secret government operative who plucks a host of dangerous, incarcerated criminals from their jail cells and assigns them a case so dangerous that only someone with no future could do it: Joel Kinnaman’s Colonel Rick Flag leads dueling powerhouses Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Peacemaker (John Cena), socially awkward Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), the sensitive Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone as this film’s Groot) and the always unpredictable and unwieldy Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) on a expedition to a fictional central American island, where a former Nazi research laboratory houses a project that could be dangerous for the universe. A starfish-like creature from outer space is being kept under lock and key by mad scientist Thinker (Peter Capaldi, who very surprisingly makes absolutely no impression) and has the power to turn all human beings into brainless minions who join with its consciousness. Our team lands on the island’s shores and must first survive the messiness of a succession coup (partly involving Spanish heartthrob Juan Diego Botto in a funny supporting role) before making their way to their ultimate goal. There are points at which the jokes are a bit too self-consciously desperate to make sure we know that this is a superhero movie for cool people, as if D.C. is so worried about its reputation for dark and broody movies that humorous dialogue has been created bhy a market research group focusing on what will sell, and it doesn’t help that most of the personalities doing the selling are only mildly amusing. Kinnaman, who has struggled to achieve star power in his previous efforts, is shamelessly underused despite showing off a previously unseen sexy charisma that easily outdoes Elba, who has yet to figure out how to have enough fun to become a movie star, and Cena, who is always far too anxious to make sure we know he’s more than a pile of muscles. Robbie expresses her usual kinky madness but the character is a tired gimmick at this point, it’s only her brief affair with Botto that has much spark because, finally, a superhero movie acknowledges the existence of human sexuality, but she is herself outdone by newcomer Melchior’s understated vulnerability. For the most part the irreverent violence and good-natured camaraderie between characters is comfortably paced alongside an adventurous plot that then devolves, as many films of its kind do, into a conclusion that is far too loud and relentlessly messy and goes on far too long, but that’s the only major flaw in an otherwise pleasant experience.