A brutal blast of superhero mayhem: BRIAN VINER reviews The Suicide Squad 

A brutal blast of superhero mayhem: BRIAN VINER reviews The Suicide Squad 
A brutal blast of superhero mayhem: BRIAN VINER reviews The Suicide Squad 
The suicide squad (15)

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Verdict: Violent but a blast

Jungle Cruise (12A)

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Verdict: Overlong family fun

Some years ago I interviewed a chortling John Cleese, who told me that a U.S. network had paid handsomely to adapt Fawlty Towers.

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The executives then holed up in a hotel for three days to discuss how they were going to do it, finally emerging to share with Cleese their masterstroke: ‘We’ve decided to take the Basil character out.’

I like to think there was a similarly intensive brainstorming session behind the titling of The Suicide Squad, the latest addition to the so-called DC Universe and a sequel of sorts to 2016’s Suicide Squad.

Margot Robbie in a scene from (C)Warner Bros. new film: The Suicide Squad (2021)

Margot Robbie in a scene from (C)Warner Bros. new film: The Suicide Squad (2021)

Adding the definite article suggests endless workshopping, possibly overseen by expensive branding consultants.

Writer-director James Gunn is on record as saying he just couldn’t think of anything else, but I don’t believe him. No title that unimaginative comes without a great deal of effort.

On the upside, The Suicide Squad is an absolute blast, albeit with levels of brutality that explain why under-15s are deemed too young to see it.

I disapprove of superhero movies disenfranchising what in a saner world would be their core audience, but I understand why this one does. The decapitations and garrottings are at the tamer end of the violence spectrum.

The film soon settles into the standard superhero narrative, that familiar bionic twist on The Magnificent Seven as assorted psychos with complementary deadly skills are picked for a hazardous mission by a shady branch of the U.S. government.

Gunn tosses us a red herring or two before the team takes shape, led by a profane Londoner known as Bloodsport (Idris Elba), who has been serving a prison term for putting Superman in intensive care, and quite right too.

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The idea that any of this will be regular superhero fare, however, is quickly and gleefully despatched.

Gunn made the Guardians Of The Galaxy films, so we know he likes a joyride. But The Suicide Squad, despite a largely terrestrial storyline, takes us on some truly cosmic flights of fancy, ending up with (spoiler alert, especially if you’re having your breakfast with the Olympics on in the background) rats swimming inside the eyeball of a gigantic alien starfish.

The starfish has been nurtured by a British supervillain played by Peter Capaldi, his bald head studded with electrodes, and is being pressed into service by a rogue military junta on a South American island.

The Suicide Squad, answering as in the first film to flinty Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) back in the States, are ordered to overthrow the generals.

Helping Bloodsport do so are Captain Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Peacemaker (John Cena), a killer shark in vaguely human form voiced by Sylvester Stallone, Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior), and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), whose somewhat dubious superpower is the ability to turn the dots on his suit into lethal projectiles.

He’s not even very good at doing that, until he visualises his abusive mother as the target.

Gunn makes rather a theme of parent-child issues in this film, but just as you’re beginning to think he might have a kind of touchy-feely checklist, he subverts expectations again.

If there’s a single scene-stealer it is once more Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, crazily weaponising her sexuality like some psychotic standard-bearer of the MeToo movement. She’s a

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