At its best, Gunn manages to wed the team-of-misfits goofiness, garnished with a pinch of heart, from his “Guardians of the Galaxy” films for rival Marvel with the cheerful gore and irreverence of “Deadpool,” catering to fans eager to see heroes (or villains) allowed to utterly cut loose.
It’s the specifics of the mission, actually, where “Suicide Squad” breaks down a bit, with the team dispatched to a fictional island nation known as Corto Maltese, one that has recently experienced a coup, putting at risk a secret facility where an alien intelligence is reportedly being held.
The squad’s job is to penetrate the country and destroy said facility, wading — with a whole lot of hiccups — through a seemingly endless supply of soldiers set up to be folded, spindled and mutilated in creative and colorful ways.
In a sense, the mere fact that movies have the latitude to play so intricately off comic-book lore reflects the genre’s cinematic maturation, as does the blood-soaked canvas upon which Gunn is allowed to paint, speckled with dark comedy and even commentary about US foreign policy. Just in terms of boundaries, DC (like CNN and Warner Bros., a unit of WarnerMedia) has circled back to territory that “Watchmen” occupied a dozen years ago.
Still, it becomes increasingly apparent that “Suicide Squad” is essentially in a contest to keep topping itself, meaning if there’s a particularly gruesome sequence early on, expect something specifically designed to up the ante before it’s over.
What the movie really lacks, finally, is an antagonist worthy of the team. Then again, thanks to its other upgrades, “Suicide Squad” seems even less likely to stay dead this time around, so perhaps that’s a shortcoming that can be addressed in the next edition.
“The Suicide Squad” premieres August 6 in US theaters and on HBO Max. It’s rated R.