Squad Up! - Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Task Force X stands front and center in the 10th animated film in the currently connected DC Animated film universe (that started with The Flashpoint Paradox back in 2013). Amanda Waller's group of bad guys out to do a little good in the world has consistently been an interesting story to tell. While the stories within didn't translate that well to film in the DCEU, the animated universe hopes to produce a solid outing for fans of these characters.
After an attempted coup from within Task Force X orchestrated by Count Vertigo, Amanda Waller once again activates her Suicide Squad to track down a magic artifact, a black card emblazoned with the phrase “Get Out of Hell Free” on it. Originally part of Doctor Fate's collection, the card is thought to allow the person who holds it to bypass judgment and ascend directly to heaven after they die. Amanda Waller is very interested in this card, what with all the blood on her hands and the impending fate she faces after being diagnosed with a life threatening terminal illness. Aside from Waller, two others seek out the card as well; Vandal Savage and the Reverse-Flash himself Eobard Thawne. Needing the best of the bad, Waller sends Deadshot along with Suicide Squad mainstays Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerage, newcomers Copperhead and Killer Frost, and former vigilante turned government soldier of fortune Bronze Tiger.
Where Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay succeeds is in the tone it conveys. While the nature of their mission is literally a matter of life and death with the squad's signature neck bombs in Waller's hands, surprisingly it turns out to be full of action and is genuinely funny. While there isn't much trust afforded between criminals, there are moments between some of the members that make one pause. They may be criminals but they aren't completely void of humanity, primarily from Deadshot who simply wants to get home to his daughter and Harley Quinn post Joker trying to rebuild her life. Standout of the newer members has to be Copperhead whose deadpan delivery and one-liners made for some surprising laughs along the way.
The inclusion of not just one, but two antagonists made for interesting dynamics. Not only did Task Force X have to deal with having their lives in the hands of a hard-as-nails madwoman, they had to tangle with an immortal conqueror and a villainous speedster. I won't spoil the main plot behind why Vandal Savage and Eobard Thawne want the card, but basically both men have faced death's door and realize their countless sins will lead them to an eternity of fire and brimstone.
It's surprising how spirituality plays a role in this, I'm a Christian so I understand this line of thinking. Nobody wants to spend eternity burning in hell, more so those who truly deserve it. It's interesting to see that these villains believe in some semblance of Heaven and Hell, especially villains like Vandal Savage and Eobard Thawne... one most likely lived during the time of Jesus Christ while the other has the ability to jump anywhere in time.
There's a lot that works here, a stellar performance from the voice cast including the likes of Christian Slater, Vanessa Williams, Tara Strong, and C. Thomas Howell elevate this film in surprising ways. While this isn't the first Suicide Squad animated film released (the first one being part of the Batman Arkham series) it is the first time we got the Squad in DC's current animated universe. A fitting premiere for such an intriguing group of villains. The willingness to kill-off some mainstay characters while exploring a subject as sobering as mortality and spirituality make for one of the most nuanced outings from the studio's animation division.
I don't know what the DC animated universe has in store for Task Force X going forward, but if future films retain this level of quality I for one am looking forward to it.
A fun and often times funny action romp