After one botched attempt to bring The Suicide Squad to the big screen, with the dourly competent David Ayer at the helm, this time DC Comics stumbled upon a more successful formula. The key: a director with a taste for anarchy, who crawled out of the same toxic sewer sludge as most of the characters. And in James Gunn, who cut his teeth working for gonzo shocksploitation production company Troma (Class of Nuke ’Em High, Tromeo and Juliet), they got just that.
It’s a real meeting of sick minds, this revamp of the comic-book convict task force comprised of mutant sharks, killer clowns and the criminally insane. Gunn gleefully performs an initial bait and switch that is almost as unexpected as the Drew Barrymore cameo in Scream. The titles have barely rolled before the camera is drunkenly weaving like a bluebottle over the steaming entrails of characters we might have assumed were central to the story. Not to give too much away, but it pays not to get too attached to anyone. That said, Margot Robbie, returning as a perkily psychotic Harley Quinn, and Idris Elba, as literal killing machine Robert DuBois, are the ones you’d want on your side in a bar brawl.
But the film’s main asset is Gunn’s imaginative vision: a fight scene is shot in reflection, distorted in the shiny helmet of Peacemaker (John Cena); two massive men grapple in an insalubrious urinal. The Suicide Squad has found its place in the superhero pantheon: the gutter, and proud.