Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay
Written by Alan Burnett
Directed by Sam Liu
Hot off the heels of the fantastic animated Batman: Assault on Arkham and the uneven but ultimately okay live action Suicide Squad, we got ourselves a new entry in the franchise with Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay! DC animated movies are notoriously hit or miss, but this time we got a relatively good one, buffed up by a core crew that has to deal with multiple parties interested in a magical card. Though not as superior as the original animated version, it is still good enough to deserve a watch.
Amanda Waller is still using task Force X to take care of dirty deeds and for her own personal projects, this time on a very personal mission. Deadshot (Christian Slater) is back, along with Harley Quinn (Tara Strong, naturally!) and Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre). They are joined by the freezing-powered Killer Frost (Kristin Bauer van Straten), ethical martial artist Bronze Tiger (Billy Brown), and body-modification enthusiast Copperhead (Gideon Emery) on their off the books mission where they are only given a name to track The mission is so off-books they have to drive around in a run down RV, though that does allow the characters to interact more and have conversations in a confined space.
Harley Quinn still gets many of the good lines, correctly toning her down as the stakes get raised. The down point is she’s basically a supporting character there to add flavor to the overall story, and doesn’t seem to have any sort of story arc. Captain Boomerang and Deadshot still hate each other, but have developed a working relationship by this point that doesn’t mean they won’t still insult each other. Boomerang at least gets to throw a bunch of boomerangs this time! The big wrench is Bronze Tiger, who aligns strongly on the side of morality (even though that’s just because he doesn’t want to kill innocent people!) and thus forces the other members of the team to stay on mission, sometimes by punching them until they comply. The film opens with a group lead by Deadshot and containing a few characters I had to look up (what can I say, I grew up on Marvel!) Count Vertigo, Punch, and Jewelee, all but Deadshot failing to come out of that one alive. Sorry, Punch and Jewelee fans, maybe next movie…
It is eventually revealed that Task Force X is looking for a magical card, one that is basically a Get Out of Hell Free card, whoever dies while holding it gets to skip going to Hell regardless of their crimes and can go into Heaven. Waller is interested because she’s diagnosed with terminal cancer (she does not share this information and it is a way for the film to justify the current slimmer version of Waller in the comics!), and other parties are also hot on the trail as they too realized that their own death is close. This adds the bonus dilemma where you just can’t kill whoever has the card as they’ll just be able to use it before you can get it! Without spoiling too much, there are layers of betrayals within and between the different parties and whoever invested in body bag companies will have a stellar sales week!
The theme of mortality hangs heavy as a result. But most of the villains are less reflecting on their misdeeds but instead realizing that the game will be over (sooner rather than later for most of them!) and are looking for yet another cheat or con to get what they want. Some of the characters openly don’t believe in an afterlife, but with the existence of the card and the possibility it entails, why take the risk by not acquiring it? It’s Pascal’s Wager in physical form! The ticket also can act as a redemptive force, a spiritual version of the rehabilitation prisoners are supposed to go through in ideal circumstances (i.e., not in the real world and certainly not in this animated world!) Deadshot doesn’t seem to care about what the card can offer at all, because to him it just offers him a ticket out of jail and a chance to reconnect with his daughter.
A question is, do any of these villains deserve redemption? I don’t mean it in a way saying no one deserves redemption, but are these people actually working for their redemptions? They take the jobs because they get years off their sentences. Deadshot might have more motivation to get out because of his daughter, but he’s also given no indication that he plans to give up killing people for money. They rest just seem to want out to cause trouble again. Of course, this isn’t a rehabilitation effort, this is all just Waller using them for shadowy government agency needs or her own even more shadowy needs. So it’s not so much about redemption for these characters, and most come to the realization that they themselves aren’t going to be walking away with the magic card, so in the end it becomes more about making sure the other groups won’t be, either. And that means piles of bodies!
One of the funnest parts before things go off the rails is when the crew is chasing down the mysterious man who is keeping a low profile as the mail exotic dancer Steel Maxum. His story gets crazier from there and pulls in some fun comic Easter eggs. The villain crews are lead by characters you will be easily familiar with while their ranks are fleshed out from the B rosters that may be in the more fuzzy memory areas. The action sequences are pretty constant and very bloody (this was rated R for a reason, and not just because of the pointless brief nudity they threw in!) and some of the characters are allowed to use their powers in very creative but murderous ways
Sam Liu seems to be pumping these animated films out for DC, and each one is set in their own style and tone. The entries he helms are very inconsistent in quality, which may point to other factors, but he has helmed some of my favorite DC flicks (Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Planet Hulk, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies) and some of my not so favorites (Batman: The Killing Joke) A fun ride that jumps up in quality with moral dilemmas and religious philosophy, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is well worth your time!
Please give feedback below!