REVIEW: Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay
The trailer for Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay was designed to make it look like a 1970-s grindhouse film, which could have been an interesting take on the team. What we get instead, isn’t exactly that, and while set within the new DC Animated Universe canon is off in a corner, nor is it particularly good or bad. Out this week from Warner Home Entertainment, the 86-minute feature is most certainly not for children.
There’s a gritty realism to the constant violence and betrayal among the villains seen in this movie, written by Alan Burnett, who certainly knows the characters well. He adapts them from the comics, making adjustments for his needs, so it’s not exactly like their four-color counterparts or as we’ve seen them in other animated fare. There’s certainly a high body count, starting early with the quick dispatching of Tobias Whale (Dave Fennoy) Count Vertigo (Jim Pirri), Punch (Trevor Devall), and Jewelee (Julie Nathanson).
The team – Deadshot (Christian Slater), Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre), Killer Frost (Kristin Bauer van Straten), Copperhead (Gideon Emery), and Bronze Tiger (Billy Brown) – is assembled by Amanda Waller (Vanessa Williams) to seek out the fabled Get out of Hell Free card, a plot device taken from a run of Secret Six stories. She needs it because of her terminal diagnosis but once the team hits the road, it seems many other people want it, too, most notably the immortal Vandal Savage (Jim Pirri).
Along the way, the team has to combat Vandal’s daughter Scandal (Dania Ramirez) and Knockout Cissy Jones), deal with various betrayals, and watch the leadership handed around like a hot potato. Zoom (C. Thomas Howell), the most desperate of those wanting the card for gruesome reasons, Blockbuster (Dave Fennoy), and Silver Banshee (Julie Nathanson) have formed a trio to also obtain the card, starting with the odd kidnapping of Professor Pyg (James Urbaniak) and constantly in the Squad’s way. All roads lead to the card’s possessor: Maximum Steel (Greg Grunberg), a former Doctor Fate for is an airhead despite his resemblance to Kent Nelson.
While the core characters feel pretty accurate, Nelson is played as a fey moron, which is dissatisfying. Far better is the romance between Scandal and Knockout which also gives some near full-frontal nudity (again, not for the kids).
There are some definite themes at work here and producer/director Sam Liu keeps things moving fairly well. The fight scenes remain a few beats too long and the animated look relies too much on Asian influence and shading than I prefer. Robert J. Kral’s music owes nothing to the great grindhouse tracks and is melodramatic, but works here.
In the end, the card winds up being used in a satisfying moment. Underneath the blood and betrayal, there are some nice emotional moments, including the final scene. Overall, the film is entertainment but I was left somewhat uninvolved.
The movie looks terrific in high definition 16×9 1.78:1 ratio, nicely matched with the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. This has been released in a 4K, Blu-ray, Digital HD combo package.
The bonus features start with a look at this spring’s Death of Superman movie and is followed with two short profiles on Outback Rogue: Captain Boomerang and Nice, Shot Floyd! The Greatest Marksman in the DCU. We don’t learn much from these but I certainly got a kick out of seeing material from the original comic book run used to illustrate them. The longest and most interesting piece is The Power of Plot Devices, MacGuffins, and Red Herrings, which includes how these objects are used in live-action (Casablanca and Maltese Falcon clips included) works with due homage paid to Alfred Hitchcock.