FlixChatter Review – THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

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Back in 2016, Warner Bros. was trying to catch up to Disney/Marvel’s superhero films by creating the DCEU and Suicide Squad was one of the many films they scheduled to be part of that canon. When the film hit theaters in summer of 2016, it was a financial success, but met with terrible reviews by critics and most DC fans dismissed it. Now five years later, the DCEU is in kind of a mess. So, Warner Bros. decided to bring in writer/director James Gunn for a redo of the same film. Ignoring the previous version, Gunn aimed for livelier take on the lesser villains in the DC world by including graphic violence, vulgar language and stay as true to its comic book form as much as possible.

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Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) represents American interests around the globe, and she’s being tasked by her bosses to take control of a South American Island called Corto Maltese (fans of Tim Burton’s Batman will recognize that name) from the military leaders that overthrew the country. There’s a prison structure known as Jotunheim, which contains the mysterious “Project Starfish” and Waller doesn’t want Corto Maltese’s newly named president Luna (Juan Diego Botto) and his right hand man General Mateo Suarez (Joaquín Cosio) to take control of it. 

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To do this, Waller restarts the Task Force X program and assembled a new Suicide Squad for action, including T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Savant (Michael Rooker), Javelin (Flula Borg), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Weasel, a grotesque creature ready to hit the beaches of Corto Maltese and take the island. The leader of the group is Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). Once they landed on the shores of Corto Maltese, Flag and his retag of would-be heroes were attacked. Unbeknownst to Flag, Waller sent another group of Suicide Squad that consist of Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) to another part of the island and Flag’s team was a decoy. Waller directed Bloodsport and his team to find The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), a scientist who can provide access to Jotunheim. But the team struggles to work together, finding egos clashing and violent tendencies getting in the way of any plans and turning Corto Maltese into a war zone.

Written and directed by James Gunn, the film is full of graphic violence, foul language and probably the most comic book-ish looking of any DC or Marvel films that I’ve seen. The plot is generic, but he was able to give enough screen time of each of the characters for the audience to care about and some of the dialogs were hilarious. I don’t remember the last time I laughed this much watching a movie. Gunn and his cinematographer Henry Braham decided to shoot the film with Red IMAX certified cameras, and it looks spectacular.

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I enjoyed all the performances by the actors. Robbie looked like she had a great time playing Harley Quinn again. I love the bickering between Elba’s Bloodsport and Cena’s Peacemaker; the two alpha males always tried to better one another. Dastmalchian appeared in a lot of movies and TV shows as a minor character, but he got a lot of screen time here and his Polka-Dot Man is kind of sympathetic character. Melchior has some good moments with Bloodsport, who became a father figure to her. And the gag throughout the film about Bloodsport’s fear of rats is hilarious to me. As with many superhero or action films, the villains were pretty weak here. I think they should’ve made Capaldi’s The Thinker into a more sinister character and have him be the main villain. He didn’t really have much to do and by time we find out what Project Starfish was about, he’s out of the picture.

I don’t know where things are when it comes to the DCEU but if they decided to make another Suicide Squad or Justice League film, I want Gunn to be the man in charge. I had a lot of fun with this film and hopefully we get to see more hard R-rated super hero films like this in the future. 

4/5 stars

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So have you seen THE SUICIDE SQUAD? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: F9 – The Fast Saga (2021)

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When The Fast Saga first opened in June 2001 with The Fast and the Furious, I’m not sure many people predicted it would be a mega franchise spanning 20 years. Well, now the ninth movie once again tops box office, having already grossed $300M overseas ahead of domestic bow, so obviously it doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

Having followed the lead character Dom Torreto (Vin Diesel) for two decades, this movie finally gives him his origin story. In numerous flashback scenes, the movie took us to a particularly dark moment in Dom’s life involving his dad Jack and brother Jakob. Naturally, Jack Toretto is a race car driver and the events that happen that day creates a rift between the two young brothers and they go separate ways. I gotta say Vinnie Bennett who played the young Dom is pretty charismatic and can run circles around Vin Diesel in the acting department.

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This franchise always emphasizes that ‘it’s all about family’… I suppose for better and for worse, so it’s to be expected that Jakob will eventually appear in Dom’s life again. At the start of the movie, Dom is enjoying retirement with his toddler son Brian (named after the late Paul Walker‘s character) with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But of course, soon Dom is pulled back to his old life once again when his former team mates Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) inform him news about his old nemesis Cipher (Charlize Theron, swapping her dreadlocks for a bowl cut). If you saw the previous movie, you’ll likely remember Cipher is a cyberterrorist mastermind who blackmailed Dom in her quest to start nuclear war, even went so far as killing his wife (Elsa Pataky). Well, this time she once again enlists another member of Dom’s family, his long lost brother (John Cena).

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You don’t go to see a Fast & Furious movie for its strong narrative (or even just a sensible one), so it’s best not to dwell too much in the story. In fact, I find that when one approaches bombastic action movies like this one as an action comedy, I tend to enjoy it more and just go along for the ride. The plot is pretty much the same as the previous movies, it involves the villain trying to obtain a powerful device, called Ares (which interestingly is the name of the the God of War in Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot who was once part of the Fast family). The resident computer hacktivist Ramsey explains that Ares can hack into any computer weapons system so obviously it’s extremely dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. I find Emmanuel’s character quite boring generally, but here she at least gets to actually do some driving for once.

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Justin Lin is back in the director’s seat after taking a break with the previous two and he’s got some really out of this world action sequences this time around, literally! I know Tom Cruise has been wanting to set the next Mission Impossible movie in space, well the Fast Saga got him beat! Now, the earth-bound action sequences are equally preposterous and ludicrous, which I guess is what one expects from this movie. I’m pretty sure the writers were all tasked to come up with the most grandiose and outlandish idea that would be absolutely improbable to pull off in real life. Whether it’s jumping off from one mountain to another, battling land mines, or strapping the car to rocket and shoot it in space, NOTHING is off limits! I mean they’re even still trying to DRIVE the car in outer space!! One of the eye-roll inducing plot involves an electromagnet in the wild car/truck chase through Edinburgh, Scotland that set off a reckless, destructive carnage in its wake. The amount of car wreckage is through the roof that in a completely different movie, Dom + team would be considered mindless villains.

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Now, Lin and the writers team seem fully aware of the absurdity of it all and it’s as if this movie is spoofing its own franchise. Gibson’s character Roman constantly asks existential questions about WHY the team has always come out unscathed despite all the ridiculously dangerous missions they’ve been on. Roman is definitely the comic relief and the dynamic between Gibson + Ludacris is always fun to watch. I always find it hysterical that every time someone gets thrown from something, whether a motorbike or truck or whatever, Dom somehow always able to maneuver in such a way that the falling person can land ‘safely’ on his car hood!! That’s become the trademark of the franchise which makes me laugh every time!

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The more serious stuff such as the tension between the two brothers Dom and Jakob are cheesy and predictable as they take themselves way too seriously. The supposedly epic mano-a-mano is kind of ho-hum, I had more fun watching Dame Helen Mirren driving (or pretending to drive) a fast car through London and you can tell she’s gleefully happy to be a part of this brainless franchise and not have to act in a movie. As the ultimate betrayal, Jakob is working with Cipher along with a Danish aristocrat Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), but given the theme is always about ‘family,’ you can see from miles away that the two brothers won’t be enemies for too long.

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I have to say I had a pretty good time watching this and was laughing a lot watching the logic-defying action sequences. There’s also the escapism factor with the various filming locations that got me drooling to travel overseas again. This is easily the most outrageous movie in a franchise already chock-full of insane action scenes. Somehow Lin managed to keep the endless car chases to still be mostly exciting despite the 2h 25min running time, though I wish they’d trim down the repetitive flashback scenes.

Martin Scorsese compares the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise to theme parks, which I don’t think is fair as they still have compelling and cohesive narrative across multiple films. I think the F&F franchise is way more akin to a thrill ride as it’s as if you’re riding a roller coaster for 2+ hours. Speaking of mega-franchises, Star Wars fans might find it amusing (or annoying) to hear the banter between Cipher and Otto, though of course it’s not the only SW reference in this franchise. Its own Han (Sung Kang) also has its own resurrection in this movie, after having been killed in Tokyo Drift. I actually have not seen that movie, as I came to this franchise quite late.

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Now, though I was entertained, I do wish it’d behoove the filmmakers and producers (including Diesel) to actually make an effort with at least a somewhat sensible story with the behemoth budget they’re given. I’m not expecting high art or anything, just a decent plot that offers more than incessant risible action set pieces. Alas, they seem to be satisfied for simply being a dumb, loud action flick running at the speed of bats out of hell. Diesel said they’ve got two more movies left before they hit the brakes on the franchise, let’s see if they’d even try to end on a high note.

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Have you seen F9? I’d love to hear what you think!