TUCSON, Ariz. — With its remake/reboot of "The Suicide Squad," DC finally has its answer to Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy."
"Guardians" director James Gunn crosses the studio line to deliver his combination of action, humor, and superb use of pop music. As wily and unpredictable as its source material, "The Suicide Squad" draws the summer movie season to a close with a vigorous wallop. It's now out in theaters and on HBO Max.
Gunn blew up the franchise and kept a few key pieces around, digging deep into the bowels of DC history to pull out some absurd and oddly appropriate characters.
Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn, but takes something of a backseat to Idris Elba (Bloodsport) and John Cena (Peacemaker). Just as in DC's comics and animation, the Quinn character is more effective as a sideshow. Also back from the original movie are Viola Davis (Amanda Waller) and Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flag).
The new additions, though, are key. Sylvester Stallone delivers a joyously idiotic voice performance as King Shark, David Dastmalchian hops along on his own oddball wavelength as Polka-Dot Man, and Daniela Melchior serves up a saucy femme fatale as Ratcatcher 2.
Made up of kill-crazy criminals recruited to serve out impossible missions in exchange for reduced sentences, the gang forms uneasy, easily-snapped alliances that thrive on fatalistic banter.
They set out to stop a mysterious scientist from unleashing a plague-spreading, psychokinetic monster that intends to enslave the populace. While the plot is standard superhero fare, the execution is exquisite.
You can see Gunn's touches, tweaks, and influence in every corner of the film as he continues to develop his authoritative voice, which is something of a blend of Quentin Tarantino and Shane Black.
The script takes unexpected diversions from the formula, with key characters getting the ax early. You can never quite tell who will survive the war of attrition.
Light and lithe while subtly emotionally impactful, "The Suicide Squad" succeeds in just about every way its predecessors failed. And Gunn is now the undisputed king of both sides of the comic book movie fence.
RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.