Overview: Task Force X races against Prof. Zoom and Vandal Savage for a mystical card.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): The film opens on the Adriatic Coast, where the Suicide Squad, in this case, Count Vertigo leading consisting of Deadshot, Black Manta, and Punch and Jewelee, are on a mission. Manta drops the rest of the team onto a train where they ambush mobster Tobias Whale and execute him to recover a flash drive of sensitive information. Count Vertigo and Jewelee kill Punch and attempt a double cross, and the mission is revealed to be a set up to smoke out Vertigo as a traitor. Vertigo’s head explodes via the brain bomb that’s implanted at the base of his skull. The sequence ends with Deadshot shooting Jewelee in the head in an act of mercy before her implant goes off.
The story then cuts to Gotham City where Two-Face is about to undergo unnecessary surgery at the hands of Professor Pyg. The procedure is interrupted by Scandal Savage and Knockout, who make Pyg an offer he can’t refuse, stating that there is a patient that needs him.
The story then moves to the medical infirmary of Belle Reve Prison where Amanda Waller is having some tests run and is given a terminal prognosis. In the maximum-security wing, Deadshot is in his cell and has another letter to his daughter, which has been returned unopened. Deadshot is mocked by Captain Boomerang in the cell next door when they are approached by Waller, who has Harley Quin with her. Waller states they have another mission and Waller proceeds to select Killer Frost, Copperhead, and Bronze Tiger to round out the team. The team is fitted with bombs at the base of their skulls and team is sent off in search of a lost card, last seen in the possession of a man who calls himself “Steel Maxum” and the team sent off in an RV for Branson, Missouri.
On a rainy nighttime city street, a visitor knocks on a door and meets with Prof. Zoom (aka Reverse Flash), Silver Banshee and Blockbuster. The visitor is a government employee who tells Reverse Flash of Task Force X’s new mission.
The team arrives in Branson and tracks Steel to a male strip club where Maxum is working as a dancer. The team fights off Zoom, Blockbuster and Silver Banshee and make off with Maxum in their RV. Zoom attempts to catch up with them but appears slower and weaker and can’t keep up.
Maxum tells the team that he had previously been Dr. Fate and that he had a fling with Silver Banshee. Maxum explains that among the mystical artifacts he had access to was a “Get out of Hell Free” card and that if someone has this card on them when they die, they bypass Hell and go straight to Heaven but only one person can use it. Two months into his term as Dr. Fate, he picks up a woman and her friend at the bar. The women turn out to be Scandal Savage and Knockout, who steal the card and Maxum loses his role as Dr. Fate as a punishment and explains that the government has been after the card ever since.
Waller sends the team after the recipient of the card, Scandal’s father, Vandal Savage, leaving Maxum on the side of the road, who is then found by Zoom and his crew.
The team continues to Denver, Colorado where Scandal Savage and Knockout are holding Prof. Pyg captive. Task Force X attacks the pair in their penthouse and gets a hold of the card, only to have the penthouse raided by Vandal Savage’s soldiers. Knockout is mortally wounded in the crossfire. Deadshot calls out Vandal Savage, knowing that Savage can’t have him killed while he’s holding the card and the team gets behind Deadshot and get on to an open elevator, using Deadshot as a human shield. Savage executes the dying Knockout and states that he will spare their lives if he gives them the card. Deadshot throws the card to Savage and his soldiers open fire as the elevator doors close. Copperhead cuts the cables to the elevator and the team escapes as the elevator plummets and is frozen to a stop by Frost.
Zoom and his team arrive as Savage makes his escape, leaving Scandal standing over Knockout’s body and Zoom struggles to summon enough speed to place a tracking device on Savage’s airship.
The team calls Waller who orders the team after Savage. Deadshot goes out by himself and makes his way to Lacoma, Utah to his daughter at a boarding school but is told by her roommate that she’s not there. Deadshot goes searching for his daughter at a rundown apartment building and is accosted by the local drug dealer and then by Bronze Tiger, who followed Deadshot. The two throw down and are interrupted by the rest of the team. Waller puts Tiger in charge of the team. As the team stops at a rest stop. Deadshot gets a call from Scandal with a set of coordinates.
At the rest stop, Frost is attacked and knocked unconscious by Banshee, who make off with Frost along with Blockbuster in a van. Deadshot pursues them in the RV, which is blown off the road by a sonic scream from Banshee. The rest of the team picks up Deadshot in a stolen bus.
Frost wakes up next to Zoom and makes the two make a deal, with Zoom, who removes Frost’s implant. The team tracks Frost’s implant in a desert cabin but finds it empty. Waller blows Frost’s implant as Copperhead finds that the implant has been placed on the cabin’s propane tank and the team runs as the cabin explodes, leaving Tiger badly wounded.
The team continues on to the coordinates of Savage’s base in the mountains. The team enters Savage’s compound and enters the main hall with Prof. Pyg, dead in a chair with a bullet in his skull. Savage greets the team and reveals that Prof. Pyg surgically implanted the card inside of Savage and that if it is removed, it will kill Savage and render the card useless. Savage neutralizes the team by electrifying the floor but before he can kill them, Banshee arrives and fills the room with her screams, knocking out Savage. Frost freezes the team as Zoom arrives. Frost brings down Savage’s body temperature so Zoom can remove the card without killing him. Zoom takes off his mask and reveals a bullet hole right through his skull, revealing that he was shot by Batman in another timeline (in the animated movie “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox”) and that using the speed force, he is able to prolong his death for weeks, buying him time. Zoom removes the card from Savage’s body before he dies but then finds Savage and Blockbuster collapsing as their insides freeze. Frost freezes Zoom and takes back the card and tries to walk away but is stopped by Copperhead and the two battle. Waller kills them both by detonating Copperhead’s implant. Deadshot and the team free themselves from the ice, only to have Captain Boomerang hit Deadshot from behind, takes the card, and makes a break for it. Boomerang is stopped by Tiger at the entrance and both are attacked by Zoom, who takes out Boomerang as Tiger picks up the card. Zoom and Tiger fight for the card, slicing Tiger’s throat and taking the card as he bleeds out. Tiger cuts Zoom’s fingers, dropping the card as Deadshot opens fire, and Zoom dies.
Deadshot gives Tiger the card as he dies. Deadshot walks off, having been freed by Waller. Deadshot shows up at his daughter’s school and the movie ends as the two walk towards each other.
Analysis: The opening of this movie gives you a good indication of what kind of ride you are in for. Heads exploded as gunfire erupts, blood spattering on stripper poles. Its violent, ugly, garish, ludicrous, and a hell of a good time.
“Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay”, directed by Sam Lui and written by Batman: The Animated Series guru Alan Burnett, knows exactly what kind of movie they are making and no punches are pulled. There’s a mean-spirited tone to the film that I think works for the film in a way that wouldn’t work if they were adapting pretty much any other property. It’s the difficult thing about a property like Suicide Squad. The natural inclination would be to soften and make the main characters more likable, but then you run the risk of making the characters not be the team of villains that they are. The fun of Suicide Squad is the feeling of watching a group of caged predators that have no loyalty to each other and could turn on each other at any moment and this film gives you just that.
The film follows Deadshot as its main character, and while it makes clear that he’s not the worst of the bunch, the filmmakers also make clear that he’s not a good person. Even in the end, when he gives the card to Bronze Tiger, it feels more like he is focused more on sending Amanda Waller to hell then saving Tiger’s soul, and that feels appropriate for the character.
The film also gets points in going deep into the DC Comics bench for the characters it chooses to use. Suicide Squad staples like Harley and Boomerang, of course, are front and center, but the film never feels like I’m watching the animated version of the live action movie and I like the more original lineup of characters used here. Copperhead, in particular, I found very entertaining. I liked how delighted Copperhead looked unsettling a passerby with his freakish appearance and from a design perspective, I don’t think this character has ever looked better. I also appreciated Burnett pulling from the DCU to fill the minor rolls of the story. There is no reason for instance why Prof. Pyg is the only doctor that could operate on Savage, but I’d much rather have an established character get a few minutes of screen time then have it be a generic doctor created just for the movie. I also have to call attention to Two-Face getting a minute of screen time given that Burnett wrote the two-part origin of Two-Face in Batman: The Animated Series.
The McGuffin of this particular movie, the “Get out of Hell Free Card” is of course, absolutely ridiculous. I think, however, they set it up efficiently and explain it well, and really its not any different then if they were chasing a mystical medallion or holy relic that would serve the same function and I like how the film gives a quick explanation and then moves on, because really, its just an excuse to send all of these characters on their adventure.
The big surprise of this movie is that it is kind of a backdoor sequel to one of the better DCU animated movies produced in the last few years, “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox”. The film does a good job of preserving the mystery of what exactly is wrong with Zoom and I loved the connective tissue to the previous movie. I think the Zoom’s motive makes sense for the character and is a new and unique use of Zoom’s powers. I like the idea that Zoom knows that he can’t save his life, so his quest for the card is just making the best of a bad situation. I also think that the tone of the film matches up well with Flashpoint. There’s a feeling of hopelessness and doom that runs through the earlier film and I like the idea that while its jarring to see the heroes in Flashpoint through that sort of lens, I like the idea that that sort of worldview is what the villains of the DCU deal with every day.
The film does a lot with its R Rating. It’s a brutally violent film, which works most of the time as your main characters are a group of irredeemable killers. Its used effectively in moments like when Frost freezes a security guard, only to have Harley knock his frozen head off of his shoulders, showing an utter disregard for human life and showing how awful these people really are. I also like how they used the freedom of an R rating to show Zoom’s bullet wound in gruesome, slow-motion detail, which works for a character that lives at super speed. There are some brief nudity and adult themes throughout the story, and while none of it really needs to be there, if the movie had been live action it would fit right in with a lot of other R rated action movies, even if those moments are all fairly forgettable. In a movie with a “Get out of Hell Free Card”, it’s hard to take a movie to task for unrealistic sequences featuring train strippers or Dr. Fate: exotic dancer.
The movie is well cast. Veteran Tara Strong returns as Harley Quin and I particularly enjoyed C. Thomas Howell’s return as Zoom. Vanessa Williams’ Amanda Waller has the unenviable job of trying to replace C. C. H. Pounder and puts in an admiral performance. I did find Christian Slater a bit jarring as Deadshot as his voice is very distinctive but that’s not to say he didn’t do a good job in the part.
The animation in this film is a highlight and dovetails the style used in Flashpoint well. I also enjoyed the grainy film quality that the film would adapt in the opening and closing credits and in the brief flashback sequences as it gives those moments a B movie quality to them that I think works well with the overall tone of the movie.
Final Thoughts: This movie was surprisingly entertaining and I really enjoyed watching it. I got a particular kick out of the loose continuity that this story follows. While I would be the first to suggest that most of these movies have no reason to be R rated, in this case, it works for the characters they are focused on. Just don’t watch this one with the kids.
Editor’s Note: Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is now available on Digital HD, Blu-ray DVD, and DVD. You can order your copy and help support TBU by heading over to Amazon.