‘The Suicide Squad’: Bad guys have never been so good
Ratcatcher 2 is my favorite character in James Gunn’s amazingly demented and darkly hilarious “The Suicide Squad”. Believe me, I did not see that coming.
But that’s the genius of Gunn: making us care about even the most obscure or bizarre comic book characters. He’s done it before for that other comic book company, but “The Suicide Squad”, which is now showing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, is an even better superhero movie than “Guardians of the Galaxy” because it truly fleshes out the characters and makes us understand and empathize with this band of lowlifes and outcasts. All while not shying away from portraying how vicious supervillains will be if they existed in the real world. That’s the advantage of having an R-rated film, because it allows Gunn, who wrote and directed this movie, to do justice to the violence and anarchy of the DC Comics comic book material, while showcasing his crazy brand of humor and great taste in music. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched “The Suicide Squad”.
Heart and soul
Watching “The Suicide Squad” will make you forget all about the much-panned 2016 movie “Suicide Squad”, of which Gunn’s film is a standalone sequel. It certainly lives up to the title, because this is THE Suicide Squad.
The best-known character in this movie is of course Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who returns from the first movie, as do Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).
Robbie, who has been perfectly cast as Harley Quinn, gives her best performance as this character to date. You might say that “The Suicide Squad” is a demented fairy tale, with Harley as the unhinged princess.
But it is Cleo Cazo a.k.a. Ratcatcher 2, played by Portuguese actress Daniela Melchior in her first major studio role, who steals the show. As Gunn himself said, Ratcatcher 2 — an original character created for the film, where she is the daughter of the DC comic book villain Ratcatcher — is the heart of “The Suicide Squad”.
“’She’s the heart of the film in so many ways,’ says Gunn. ‘She’s not a killer. She’s not a murderer. She’s in prison for doing something stupid with rats, that probably any of us would do, if we had a rat and a [special] wand and were incredibly poor.’
“Melchior, reflecting on Ratcatcher 2’s emotional arc and the backstory involving the character’s relationship with her father, says ‘she’s not the normal kind of supervillain’ one might expect in a comic book tentpole.”
Friendship, just a perfect blendship
It’s Ratcatcher 2 who perfectly encapsulates what “The Suicide Squad”. Most of the supervillains come from the dregs of society and reluctantly join Task Force X — the official name of the team — so they could reduce their time in prison. Many of them are hardened killers, who don’t show any remorse for their crimes or any sympathy for their victims.
Somehow, even in a hell hole like Belle Reve, and after all the suffering she has experienced in this world, Ratcatcher 2 still believes in the goodness of people and in taking the risk of trusting them.
One of the best things about this movie is seeing the evolution of the relationship between Ratcatcher 2 and Robert DuBois a.k.a. Bloodsport, the mercenary whose skills and high-tech suit and weapons make him so deadly that he is in Belle Reve for putting Superman in the ICU. Yes, Superman, whom Bloodsport, played to perfection by Idris Alba, shot with a Kryptonite bullet.
Bloodsport, who only agrees to lead the team because Waller has threatened to imprison his 16-year-old daughter Tyla in Belle Reve, is a brutal and cynical killer. As he tells Tyla, any good that was in him had been wrung out by his old man.
Keeping the peace
So it is heartwarming to see him develop a father-daughter bond with Ratcatcher 2, who keeps telling him that she — and her pet rat Sebastian — can see the goodness in him. What makes this even more ironic is that Bloodsport has a rat phobia — which he didn’t tell Waller or anyone else, when he is being put on the same team as Ratcatcher 2.
Another highlight is the friendship between Ratcatcher 2 and the anthropomorphic Nanaue a.k.a. King Shark, who is the strongest and most invulnerable member of the team, but who unfortunately also has developed a taste for human flesh. In fact, King Shark tries to eat Ratcatcher 2 while she is soundly asleep. The other members of the team want to kill King Shark, but Waller reminds them they will need his strength to complete their search-and-destroy mission. Instead of hating him, Ratcatcher 2 asks Nanaue if the could be his friends, because he wouldn’t eat his friends.
The rivalry between Bloodsport and Peacemaker, played by World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar John Cena, is also one of the most entertaining aspects of “The Suicide Squad”. Basically having the same skillset, the two are always bickering and trying to one-up each other in racking up their body counts.
Whatever it takes
In fact, this unfriendly competition leads to one of the funniest and goriest sequences in the movie, as the two mow down combatants while trash talking against each other.
Cena makes Peacemaker a compelling character — no mean feat considering his ridiculous helmet that looks like he’s wearing a “toilet seat on his head”, as Bloodsport puts it.
Even more compelling is Viola Davis as Waller, whose ruthlessness makes Nick Fury look like a boy scout. As this movie proves, Waller is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the success of a mission.
In fact, “The Suicide Squad” makes us question who the real heroes and villains are.
True, trusting the wrong person might be suicide. But sometimes we have to take the risk if we want to find love and friendship in this crazy world.
As Ratcatcher 2 says: “If I die ’cause I gambled on love, it will be a worthy death.”