No one is more surprised to admit that the DC comic-book anarchy of "The Suicide Squad," now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, actually shoots off sparks of blunt-force action and lawless laughs befitting the tale of crimefighting criminals on a mission to oblivion.
Back in the day, I tagged the lame original (it had no "The" in the title) as the worst movie of 2016. I was being generous; it still ranks with worst of the decade. Even filmmaker David Ayer disowned it, blaming studio interference for turning provocation into pablum.
Now, thanks to the renegade miracle working of writer-director James Gunn, who cut his teeth grinding out horror quickies, this sequel/redo has found just the right wizard of creative chaos to turn "The Suicide Squad" into the scuzzy, down-and-dirty whirlwind it was always meant to be.
Gunn, who hit the sweet spot with two tangy "Guardians of the Galaxy" hits, was sidelined in 2018 for offensive tweets he made a decade before. Having escaped cancel culture with this gig on "The Suicide Squad," Gunn emerges battered but with his mutinous spirit mostly untamed.
And, yay, Margot Robbie is back as Harley Quinn, the deranged, Brooklyn Barbie who used to be a shrink until loverboy Joker (Jared Leto) leaned on her crazy buttons. After crushing it again as Harley in "Birds of Prey," Robbie now boosts the role to untold heights of inspired lunacy.
Also returning is Oscar winner Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, the ethics-starved fed boss who injects the necks of squad members with a chip that is set to detonate in case they don't follow orders. Success means 10 years off their sentences at Louisiana's lice-filled Belle Rive prison.
MIA is Will Smith as Deadshot. But that's no loss when charisma icon Idris Elba steps in as Bloodsport, a mercenary with gun skills you don't mess with. There's also John Cena as the ironically named Peacemaker, a butcher who wears a helmet that looks like a toilet seat.
Also among this squad of marauding misfits, known as Task Force X, are Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Savant (Michael Rooker), Blackguard (Pete Davidson) and King Shark, a Great White who wears shorts and speaks, hilariously, in the voice of Sylvester Stallone.
This half-human Jaws clone is hard to beat, but a sensational David Dastmalchian tops him as Polka-Dot Man, a mommy-hating psycho who shoots lethal polka-dots at his enemies but can't assassinate them unless he imagines the face of his mom on their bodies.
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Don't get too attached to the new squad since its members die with startling rapidity. It all serves Waller's allegedly pro-American plan to drop her forces onto the remote jungle island of Corto Maltese, where Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) will direct them on their mission.
Old news? Nah. Just wait. The goal is to destroy a stone tower where crazed villain Gaius Grieves (Peter Capaldi) performs neo-Nazi experiments, such as creating a jumbo starfish that looks disconcertingly like the Stay-Puft cutie pie from "Ghostbusters," except for running amok like a weapon of mass destruction.
You can either reject the cartoonish violence and trippy visual gags of "The Suicide Squad" or lean into the cuckoo surprises being sprung from the gloriously unhinged mind of James Gunn. For disreputable dazzle, nobody does it better.