Linda Cook review: ‘The Suicide Squad’ is violent, action-packed fun

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What a difference a “The” makes.

I honestly don’t remember much about the 2016 “Suicide Squad” movie. I neither loved nor despised it, although I do remember I enjoyed Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.

She’s back in “The Suicide Squad,” a far superior treatment of DC villains dispatched on a deadly mission from which they may not return.

Screenwriter/director James Gunn, who brought us “Guardians of the Galaxy,” brings us another darkly funny superhero actioner – this time with the violence and gore ratcheted up into an “R” rating. Gunn has said in interviews he wanted to bring lesser-known characters to the big screen, and so he does, to great effect.

Viola Davis plays a prison warden who puts explosive implants in the villains’ noggins so, if they don’t do what they’re told, she and her staff can instantly send them to their deaths with the push of a button. Their assignment is to uncover ghastly experiments conducted in a Latin American country.

Idris Elba is Bloodsport; John Cena is a helmet-wearing character named Peacemaker, who appears to be anything but; David Dastmalchian is Polka-Dot Man (just wait until you see him in action for the first time) and Sylvester Stallone provides the voice for King Shark, a kind of human-shark hybrid who wants only to find a friend … and consume those who aren’t.

The action rarely pauses. The camerawork is dazzling. There’s a fight scene involving Harley Quinn I could watch over and over, with its beautiful choreography, her blood-red dress and blood splatters all around.

The look of the sets is marvelous, with blink-and-you’ll miss it details, especially during a rampage toward the end. And the soundtrack … oh, the soundtrack, which includes Louis Prima, Johnny Cash, The Pixies and The Fratellis.

It’s great grownup fun. Stick around for the extra scene at the very end and you’ll get a taste of what’s next.

3 ½ stars

Running time: 2 hours and 12 minutes.

Rated: R for foul language, sexual situations, violence and gore.

In theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

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