For all of the twisted, anachronistic reasons that a powered up meta-human might decide to become a supervillain, there are also a whole bunch of reasons to avoid choosing that grim path. You know, things like having a moral center; or disliking the whole maiming and killing thing; or the simple fact that being hated and detested by … everyone just ain’t much fun.
But for those who don’t struggle with any of that stuff, there’s another large problem with choosing a life of crime.
When you’re eventually caught (and aren’t all baddies eventually caught?), you get locked up. And super baddies get tossed into a place like Belle Reve, a federal penitentiary fortified to hold all the toughies that Superman might be required to take down. When you’re locked up in Belle Reve, you stay in Belle Reve.
For B- or C-level super villians—you know, the ones without laser vision or the ability to detonate like an atomic bomb—that can make for a long, empty stretch of time. No exciting weekends of mass destruction. No nursing-home killing sprees or bank vault-melting parties.
Of course, all that baddie boredom gives the cold-hearted Amanda Waller a foot in the door. She’s little more than a steely eyed bureaucrat. But she’s a bureaucrat with a plan—and a certain way of thinking.
In a world filled with superpowered maniacs, monsters and terrible dangers, there’s only one way to keep things in order: using similarly superpowered maniacs and monsters as your guard dogs. So Walller offers some B-grade baddies a chance at a reduced sentence as long as they go out into the dangerous world and use their powers as she tells them to.
If they’re killed, well, they’re disposable supers who were likely gonna die behind bars anyway. Oh, Waller also keeps these crazies on a short leash. If they wander from her game plan she simply detonates the explosives she’s had implanted in their skulls and boom, no more disobedient guard dog.
Yep, it’s ruthless. But it’s the kind of brilliant ruthlessness that’ll keep the good ol’ U. S. of A. safe, Waller believes. She has considered all the angles, all the ups and downs. And she’s perfectly confident that her plan, her new “Suicide Squad” will be everything she wants it to be.
What could possibly go wrong?
For the most part, nearly all of the characters in this film—from supervillains, to government operatives, to power-hungry dictators and a giant parasite-spewing monster—are ready to kill heartlessly at the drop of a hat. A few try to do what’s right, however. Col. Rick Flag, for instance, is a war hero sent out with the Suicide Squad to keep order. And he steers this crew in rescue-focused directions at times. Even some of Amanda Waller’s government operatives question the ethics of their boss’s decisions at time. One of them stops her from killing several people at a critical juncture.
Near the end of the film, several of the generally heartless villains bravely step back into the path of danger to save thousands of people who might otherwise die. In fact, the worst of them prove to have a line they won’t cross. The completely insane Harley Quinn has a fling with a ruthless-but-handsome dictator, for instance; but she ends up walking away because she sees his desire to murder children as a “red flag.”
Overall, it could be said that the film suggests we all can better ourselves and work for purpose in our lives. Harley Quinn searches for a purpose throughout the film (more on that below); and in a sense, so do several other characters. A man talks to his daughter about his desire to control rats and use them for good deeds. “Rats are the lowest and most despised creatures of all, my love,” he tells her. “If they have purpose, so do we all.”
A dying villain gives Harley Quinn his javelin, but he expires before telling her what she should do with it. Harley wonders what God might want her to do with this weapon. “I’m waiting for God to tell me …” she murmurs to someone just as he profanes Jesus’ name. “Or him,” she replies.
Harley also steps into a rainstorm and says that the rain is “like angels smooching all over us.” A guy wonders if a particularly terrible situation proves that God doesn’t exist.
We see a number of men and women in their underwear, including the very buff villain, Peacemaker, who steps into a scene wearing nothing but a tight pair of white briefs. Multiple women wear cleavage-baring outfits. A dictator’s buxom secretary wears a low cut top and bounces into a meeting.
The camera spies nude male genitals at a distance; later we also glimpse a man’s naked backside as he pulls on underwear after having sex. One or two women are topless in a room full of skimpily dressed dancers.
Harley Quinn meets and lusts over a handsome dictator who steps nearly naked out of a hot tub and then proceeds to woo her. They embrace and kiss passionately. Later, she unzips his pants, and they then have sex (offscreen).
This surprisingly violent film is almost shockingly brutal at times. In fact, the film uses that graphic violence and its grossly bloody aftermath as a form of ironic humor. For instance, the first scene shows a man heartlessly squashing a small bird with a quickly ricocheting rubber ball. Later on, after the man is killed and his body is splayed open in the blazing sun, the same kind of bird flies down to pick at his raw flesh.
In another instance, Bloodsport and Peacemaker (two killers who were both trained from childhood to be flawless assassins) compete against one another to see who can kill in the quickest and most grisly way. They electrocute, behead, detonate and poison scores of men and women with their various weapons—all done with outlandish panache and bloodiness.
Throughout the film, perhaps 80% of the souped-up villains are also killed in viscerally gruesome ways. And hundreds, if not thousands of innocents die in the course of the story.
People are beheaded, disemboweled and blown into chunks regularly. Bodies are torn into pieces and the remains splashed into windows and hard surfaces. The villain King Shark—who looks like a large, muscular shark man—picks up numerous people and rips them apart or devours them in several gulps. In one case, he tears a man’s head off his body and pops it in his mouth to chew on for a while, the man’s eyes still looking around in shock.
Bodies are ripped open in gruesome ways by shotgun blasts and explosives. Necks are snapped and throats are slashed. Numerous people have their faces, or the sides of their heads caved in by high-powered rifle blasts. People are attacked, bitten and devoured by scores and ultimately tens of thousands of rats.
We see an entire family hung by their necks from a suspended beam. A woman is strung up by her wrists, beaten and then tortured with a cattle prod. Thousands of people are turned into remote-controlled zombies by parasitic creatures. And it’s implied that scores of those victims, including children, have been caged, experimented upon and physically tortured for years. We also see several of their dismembered bodies.
During a car chase, trucks and cars crash and explode, and a tactor trailer jackknifes and causes a massive crash. A downed helicopter takes out a troop of men, flaying and igniting their bodies. Etc., etc., etc.
Though profanity flows constantly here, there are some scenes that feel particularly wince-worthy and offensive. One of those is when an incarcerated dad faces off with his tween daughter in a f-bomb-laden scream fest.
We hear about 75 to 80 f-words, as well as other crudities such as “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—” and “b–tard.” God’s and Jesus’ names are misused about 15 times total (god being combined with “d–n” on eight of those). Several people display offensive hand gestures. There are crude references to male and female genitalia.
We see someone inject heroin. It’s implied that he’s a regular user, and he later dies of an overdose. Individuals and groups of people drink wine, beer and hard alcohol at various times in the movie, including over dinner and in a crowded bar. Someone smokes a cigarette.
It’s stated that the American government has taken some particularly heinous and decidedly thoughtless actions in the past with a potential weapon that could kill all life on Earth. And Amanda Waller’s actions certainly point to foul choices at the top, too. One of the killers, Polka Dot Man, is quite psychotic and mentions several times that he hopes he’ll die. He also envisions everyone around him as his hated mother—whom he rends and kills with his flesh-ripping dots.
Director James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame knows how to construct an entertaining movie. And he’s even able to imbue the rabidly nihilistic and generally insane The Suicide Squad with enough humor, humanity and heart to make you root for the deadly crazies he throws up on the screen.
Gunn’s pic is definitely better than 2016’s Squad entry. (Not that that’s much of a high-water mark.)
All of that said, this is undeniably the most giddily gruesome and irreverently foul superhero pic to date. Because of all the disposable B-level meta baddies in Amanda Waller’s prisoner crew, this cacophony of carnage splashes viewers with more grossly gooped flesh and spewed filthy language than you might have thought possible. The Suicide Squad gives a whole new meaning to the term pulp fiction. Thus it dethrones the former nasty-super-pic champ, Deadpool, in a bloody coup.
But, hey, wearing the R-rated crown of crass is such an ephemeral honor. I’m sure Hollywood will crank out something far more nasty any day now.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.