Director: Sam Liu
Starring: Christian Slater, Vanessa Williams & C.Thomas Howell
Rating: 15 Duration: 86 minutes Release date: 16 April (UK)
It’s been two years since DC brought us the miserable and forgettable Suicide Squad. Their live action attempt was an example of everything that was, and still is, wrong with the DCEU. And in their desire to go head first into an extended universe, only made things more complicated.
DC’s animated division has also stuttered lately. Their last effort, Gotham by Gaslight, was a mixed bag. It failed to live up to its potential. But, in adapting a story that was a little over 100 pages long, it was rather outdone by its own ambition. Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay diverts from the “elseworld” tales and brings us right back into the continuity that was established way back with Justice League: War. The animated universe has been going since 2014, with each film serving as a sort of sequel to the other. The quality, for the most, has been quite high and Hell to Pay is a brave example of how a Suicide Squad film should be done.
Much like the live action version, Hell to Pay sees Amanda Waller recruit the Suicide Squad for a mission that no one else will or could take. Their mission, as ridiculous as it is, involves Task Force X tracking down a card which apparently has the ability to let the holder “get out of hell free” upon their death. A multitude of villains are after the card and will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Where the DC animated films have always succeeded is in their voice casting and Hell to Pay is no different. Christian Slater is having a quiet resurgence of late and is perfectly cast as Deadshot. His unique tone and world weariness escalate the characters tribulations as he battles a guilty conscience for his previous misdemeanours, while carrying out a prison sentence that prevents him from seeing his teenage daughter. Vanessa Williams is ideally cast as Amanda Waller and manages to underpin the corrupt nature and god like level of bitchiness needed for such a character. Backing both of these up is Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. Despite having already found the ideal foil for Harley in Margot Robbie, Strong has the nuttiness and irritability down to a tee, while making her seem like an essential piece of the puzzle.
The large cast could have been a problem for a film that only lasts 86 minutes, but Hell to Pay has the uncanny knack of giving everyone their due. Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, Killer Frost, Zoom, Vandal Savage, Doctor Fate and even Two-Face make an appearance and all are notable. Zoom in particular is served very well here and C. Thomas Howell is excellent as Zoom/Reverse Flash and who is trying to outrun his own death.
For an animated film, Hell to Pay is a gory affair. At times playing much like a grindhouse film, there are head-shots aplenty, blood spatter is everywhere and there is a fair amount of cute language. Despite directing the likes of Justice League vs. Teen Titans, Batman: The Killing Joke and Gotham by Gaslight Sam Liu has really found his stride here. Confident enough to kill of well established characters and unafraid of the films 15 certificate, Liu brings a very adult perspective to a normally child friendly genre. DC have shown previous for this before though and their animated division does not seem burdened by the same level of interference that blights their live action films.
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is brave film, and shows us that what DC are really capable of. The pulp fiction presentation and ability to take risks with characters fates should be applauded. If the DCEU is to succeed then they need not look at Marvel and their exotic cinematic universe, but instead look inwards and see what they can truly achieve.