James Gunn has always been a delightfully rambunctious, perennially irreverent filmmaker whether he’s exploring the realm of sentient alien slugs, sad-sack superhero wannabes or comic book property, which he gets to do once again in The Suicide Squad, one of his very best films yet. He feels more at home in the world of DC than he does in Marvel and it’s not just the larger playground that a hard-R rating gifts him, although that is a *huge* factor given his stylistic tendencies as an artist and his roots in horror, which are on gooey display here as well. The DC stable, particularly villains, just has this dark, perverse edge to it that Marvel can’t match and in creating a maniacal palooza of second tier baddies in a subversive, heavily violent extravaganza he has found a groove and achieved an aesthetic that for the entire two plus hour runtime I wasn’t bored by once. Some of our familiar favourites from the other Suicide Squad naturally return including Harley (Margot Robbie, resplendent in the role of her career), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) as well as welcome new additions like Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior), Savant (Gunn totem Michael Rooker looking like he walked in from a Rob Zombie flick) the scene stealing Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), impossibly adorable King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and of course Viola Davis as their game warden Amanda Waller, the cunt to end all cunts. Their missions here include the overthrow of a South American country, constant bickering, shocking team casualties, betrayals, clever skewering of American patriotism, a giant alien starfish, bountiful loads of gratuitous and blessedly gory violence and a clever balancing act between lighthearted, frothy banter and a darker undercurrent of thematic heft that sneaks in the back door and lands with an effective, grounded touch. Obvious comparisons will be made to the 2016 Suicide Squad and I’d like to sideswipe that other than to say I love both films, they’re both very different and the 2016 is what it is, it has its reputation. I do believe this to be the stronger film but I think they both have their place on my shelf, they are M&M’s and Skittles, Pepsi and Coke, or Warheads and Airheads to reference a junk food as obscure as the characters on display here. Gunn has made a rollicking, badass, bizarre yet strangely accessible piece of pop art nutso comic book madness here with many standout moments including an emotional monologue by Ratcatcher (she’s the soul of the film), some stunning technicolor gore effects that call to mind Lovecraft and Carpenter, an Easter egg hunt of many hidden film and literary references, a ballsy, nihilism laced opening sequence wherein some of the characters brutally live up to the title of the film, one instance of Waller *finally* getting a modicum of what she deserves, some painfully on the nose political satire and, in my favourite sequence the film has to offer, a brilliantly placed and paced opportunity for Robbie’s ever awesome Harley to work through the trauma of her past and absolutely TAKE DOWN toxic relationships like the badass boss bitch we all know she is. A wonderful, weird, wild and fantastic film.
Tag: Joel kinnaman
The Secrets We Keep
What if you were sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that your neighbour or someone living close to you in the area was in fact a dangerous war criminal who committed unspeakable atrocities towards you in the past and, like you, has escaped the fog of war to start a new life? Noomi Rapace’s Maja faces this dilemma in The Secrets We Keep, a deeply emotional, unbearably suspenseful dramatic thriller that showcases the actress at the most raw and vulnerable I’ve ever seen her, and if you’re familiar with her work at all you’ll know that’s saying a lot. Maja is a Romani girl from a small town whose entire family was abused, violently assaulted and terrorized by a marauding band of German SS officers on their way to escape from Bucharest sometime near the end of the war. She alone made it out, and went on to start a new life in postwar United States, where she meets a husband (Chris Messina) and has a child. But wounds of the past don’t heal too easily, especially when she notices Swiss newcomer to the town Thomas (Joel Kinnaman), who she instantly recognizes and believes to be one of the officers who brutalized her fifteen years ago. She kidnaps him, keeps him in her basement and pulls her skeptic husband into a deadly, highly emotional interrogation game as she tries to get Thomas to admit who he is, which he simply won’t do. Does she have the right man? Is Thomas really this person or has her trauma clouded judgment and altered her personal reality into projecting onto someone innocent? Things get complicated when Thomas’s wife (Amy Seimetz) comes looking for him and the whole situation threatens to blow up in everyone’s face. This is a thriller for sure and there are some moments of tension so extreme that I forgot to breathe, but at its core this is a story about how the psychological scars of war never really heal, and through Rapace’s staggeringly good, heartbreakingly intense performance that theme comes across achingly clear. They live in one of those idyllic, Shangri-La 1950’s postwar neighbourhoods you’d see in something like Malick’s Tree Of Life, made of picket fences, pastel houses, tranquil evenings, children playing on the streets and air drying laundry billowing in the breeze like angel wings keeping sentinel watch on the inhabitants. But not even angels, allegorical or otherwise, can eradicate the devils present during a war, or even cause those affected by it to forget what happened to them and the trauma always, always follows them home in one way or another. Its a terrific guessing game, a visceral captivity thriller and and an affecting interpersonal drama but for me it works most effectively as a harrowing character study of one girl, the memories that won’t die and her struggle to live some semblance of a normal life after enduring unimaginable horror. Great film with an absolutely beautiful, diamond knockout performance from Noomi.
Suicide Squad: A Review by Nate Hill
Suicide Squad has left me so torn. On the one hand I just want to belligerantly profess my love for certain key aspects which I have salivated for for a long time now, to blindly just say ‘nope. Fuck it, it’s great’, like that one stupid kid in class who just won’t back down from an argument he is clearly losing. On the other hand I do have to come to terms with the very real, very problematic aspects to the whole thing, weigh it out rationally (not something I’m great at) and make heavy mention of what didn’t work (not something I enjoy doing). I also have a massive bias towards DC as well, particularly all things Batman and foes, so that needed to be taken into account too.
Let’s get what didn’t work out of the way: everyone is hearing that the film is a mess, and I can indeed say that yes, it’s one huge jumbled mess, like twenty unmade beds tossed into a washing machine together. It’s heavily edited in places that could have used fluidity, and flatlines in other spots where a bit of frenzy would have worked better. It’s scant on character, frankly because there are too many, packed with a soundtrack that has it bursting at the hastily sewn seams, drastically and obviously cut in specific places that are noticeable holes in which you could drive the Batmobile through, and burdened with a lazily assembled antagonist who doesn’t deserve the heroes they rumble with. That’s just off the top of my head.
Now, what worked: There’s a silver lining to the inane madness of the film, because in it’s confusing symphony of random candy coated antics it almost finds a trace of a beat, a rhythm that’s almost decimated by the chorus. I’m not excusing the hackjob of editing or cuts, merely saying that with all taken into account, it kind of takes on a life of it’s own that while completely tone deaf, is never boring. Let’s talk about Harley Quinn and The Joker. When the Blu Ray comes out with all them deleted scenes, I’m going to make a personal fan edit that sheds the spotlight on all the nastier stuff we missed in the theatrical version. The stuff we do get to see with Harley is pure magic, and Robbie owns the film. Maddeningly sexy, sketchy, dangerous, cute, and gloriously insane, she nails it to the wall in terms of what makes the character so special. Jared Leto as The Joker is…. different. While I didn’t like the laugh (he sounded like a geriatric hyena), I really took a shine to the direction they went with the clown this time around. A pasty ghoul who is sick with weirdo ‘love’ for Harley, this is a Joker who is way more in tune with the comics version than Ledger was. There were a few off key mannerisms and questionable little things, but for the most part I’d say he rocked it, and I’m stoked to see him square off with Batman in a standalone flick.
So, the rest of the squad. They’re a random bunch of nut bars who are hastily and over enthusiastically hurrah-ed onto stage by stone cold suit Amanda Waller (a terrifying Viola Davis), who is far more villainous than any of them. Davis is the consummate amoral politician, fuelled by gnawing xenophobia and given the power to push her unholy agenda to scary heights. Will Smith is a hoot as Deadshot, he just needed a little less mirth and a tad more menace in the mix. A joke or three sits well with me, but I don’t like wading through quip stew with thoughts of serious threat on the other side, only to find a backbone replaced by pining for his young daughter. Nothing wrong with pathos, but remember guys, Deadshot is a villain, and too much mush takes away from the street cred. Killer Croc is great when he’s around, which isn’t much until the climax where he gets a nice action bit, but still overall underused. I’ve been an avid non fan of Jai Courtney thus far, he’s just reeked of blandness. Well crikey, the guy does a nice job here of being the rambunctious bad boy of the pack, even if the reason for his inclusion in the squad doesn’t extend much farther than ‘he robbed every bank in australia’. Like… what? Joel Kinnaman holds his own as special ops asset Rick Flagg, and Cara Delevingne much less so as the gyrating, Grudge inspired Enchantress. She’s just not a powerful villain in any way, but damn if she didn’t turn heads in that little outfit. Cara actually fared way better as Dr. June Moon in what little time we spent with her, of which I would have loved to see more. Jay Hernandez is on fire (sorry) as Diablo, a flammable ex gang banger who grew a conscience to go with his pyrotechnic prowess. As far as Slipknot (Adam Beach) goes, there was literally no reason, no reason at all for him to be in the film. Introduced as ‘the man who can climb anything’, he climbs like… one wall that anyone with his tools could scale….and then dies. Poor Adam. Karen Fukuhara is cool as Katana, but we’ve seen the hot Asian samurai shtick done to death, so it’s nothing altogether new.
No, the film rests on Joker, Harley and to a lesser extant, Batman. Old Bats is in it for two crucial scenes, one of which had me give out a roaring cheer, as it’s the type of thing I signed up for when I shelled out 22 goddamn dollars to see this in VIP mode. I kept wishing the whole time that I could make my own edit with all of David Ayer’s footage, because there’s so much gold found onscreen, and I know there’s more to be mined on the floors of his editing room, left there by the prudish anxieties of studio heads that just don’t. Ever. Learn. I want to see Batman and his villains thunder out in this blooming DC franchise, and while the rest of the more obscure faces in the squad are fun, I was in it for the core villains. All the stuff with Joker and Harley is inspired, and the car chase where the Batmobile tears after Joker’s purple Hotwheels Lamborghini is pretty much the best part of the whole film. I want more Batman and Co., for shit sake. In any case, there’s a lot of fun to be had, an endless grab bag of stylistic tricks, fonts, gimmicks, colors, sounds and chaotic hullabaloo running around. Some of it works. Some of it doesn’t. Tough shit. It’s certainly not a terrible movie, and I feel many critics resorted to the oft employed ‘knee jerk’ reaction instead of internalizing it all before brandishing pen and keyboard. Critics are a spastic lot of baboons who have have a tendancy, especially these days, to jump the gun and hurl verbal feces at stuff before it’s had a chance to sink in. I’ll concede that there are huge issues, but huge amounts of fun can be found too. Or not. It’s up to you. I certainly had some fraction of a blast watching it, and the only way I can describe the thing as an whole is the Looney Toons having a food fight with a bunch of fluorescent Lucky Charms. If that abstract picture chimes with you, chances are you’ll at least get some kind of kick from the this baby, and probably be just as perplexed by certain areas as I was. Good luck.
Safe House: A Review by Nate Hill
Safe House is cut from the same cloth as many a spy movie, but this horse doesn’t have quite as much piss and vinegar as other ones in the stable, notably the Bourne trilogy. It’s more of a slow burn, peppered with a few purposeful action sequences and quite a lot of time spent with Denzel Washington’s world weary spook Tobin Frost, a veteran operative who has gone severely rogue after escaping the grasp of a nasty CIA interrogator (Robert Patrick). He’s soon in the hands of rookie agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) who has been left to guard an agency safe house in Europe, now overrun with shadowy special ops dudes out to snuff Frost. The two of them are forced on the run together, and attempt to smoke out those behind the chaos, who turn out to be a little closer to home than they thought (don’t they always, in these types of movies?). Weston is young, naive and idealistic, Frost is bitter, jaded and ready to burn the agency down around him for what his career has made him do. They’re a formulaic pair made believable by the two actors, both putting in admirable work. Brendan Gleeson is great as Westons’s dodgy handler, Vera Farmiga shows moral conflict in those perfect blue eyes as another paper pusher in Langley, and Sam Shepherd smarms it up as the CIA top dog. It was nice to see Ruben Blades as well, who doesn’t work nearly enough, and watch for a sly cameo from Liam Cunningham as an ex MI6 agent. It’s not the greatest or the most memorable film, but it does the trick well enough, has a satisfying R rated edge to its violence and benefits from Washington being nice and rough around the edges. There’s a downbeat quality to it to, as Weston watches the futility inherent in the life of a spy unfold in Frost’s actions, which are leading nowhere but a self inflicted dead for a cause that’s bigger than both of them, but ultimately leaves them in the dust. Solid, if just above average stuff.