What a difference a ‘The’ makes?! I was not a fan of 2016’s Suicide Squad and had my doubts about watching another group of warped DC Comic Universe villains being forced into another suicidal superheroic mission. So I approached the film with extreme caution, low expectations, and no idea if it was supposed to be a sequel, a reboot, or something else entirely. I’m still not sure about that last one. But The Suicide Squad does generally work as a standalone–even though some characters are back, some are not, and many don’t survive past the first 15 minutes.

Most important, despite testing my threshold for violence and blood spatter, The Suicide Squad is a solid action adventure comedy with an entertainingly twisted ensemble— much better than its predecessor, which was a hot mess. The story, while still preposterous, holds together for the most part and the ‘DCEU’ team dynamic feels refreshingly Marvel-esque. I’ll credit writer/director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) for that vibe. And we can all celebrate the return of Margot Robbie as Joker’s psycho ex-girlfriend Harley Quinn. She was the breakout character of the 2016 Suicide Squad and she is a crazy, quirky and deadly shining light in this one too.

She’s joined on a new super-secret, super-shady ‘Do or Die’ Black Ops mission by a collection of cons that include Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Savant (Michael Rooker), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Javelin (Flurla Borg), Weasel (Sean Gunn) and T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion). They are tasked with destroying a threat – “Project Starfish” -on the remote island of Corto Maltese. To keep them in line, the Squad is led on the ground by Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and remotely on comms by the ambitious and devious government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who is not above extreme blackmail and other means to ‘encourage’ the Squad to complete the mission, or die trying.

No spoilers – for the sake of those who plan to check this out right away in theaters or on HBO Max. You know who you are. And aren’t.

Unlike the first Suicide Squad movie, I’m not sorry I saw The Suicide Squad. The cast of characters grew on me. But I still prefer the more feel-good, less bloody superhero movies with actual superheroes—and fewer rats. But hey, that’s just me…

Note: As to be expected, there is a bonus scene. Two in fact. One just as the end credits are about to roll, and another at the very, very end of the credits, teeing up… something.

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