In an alternate reality, this is the live-action Suicide Squad film we actually received – adult, violent and with high stakes and a great use of the wider DC universe. If only there was a magical Macguffin to take us there.
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is a direct-to-video DC animated action movie directed by Sam Liu. It follows a newly formed ‘Task Force X’ that is ordered by Amanda Waller (Vanessa Williams) to bring her a magical object currently being fought over by a multitude of DC villains such as the immortal Vandal Savage (Jim Pirri) and Professor Zoom (C. Thomas Howell) for their own insidious ends.
To go further would be to spoil the surprises Hell to Pay has up its sleeve – and how awesome is it to have a solid, original story created for the screen that comic fans aren’t immediately going to know the outcome of. It helps that this plot hits all the notes that the live-action film should have – interesting characters dynamics, twists and turns, mature themes and a deeply satisfying and brutal ending that doesn’t revolve around a giant sky beam. Its very much an elseworld story too, which means all bets are off when it comes to characters living or dying and thus gives the film a fantastic level of stakes where literally anyone could be offed at any moment.
This is all helped by an actually likeable cast that offers up some interesting character dynamics to enjoy. At the head of the team is the no-nonsense Deadshot (Christian Slater) who plays it much more mellow than Will Smith and is all the better for it. Rounding out the team is Bronze Tiger (Billy Brown), Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre), Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), Killer Frost (Kristin Bauer Van Straten) and Copperhead (Gideon Emery). Each character is provided a distinct and well-defined voice, personality and position on the team (except Harley Quinn – not even this film can justify her being here) and all play off each other with all the crassness and wit you’d expect of a supervillain squad. The dynamic between Bronze Tiger and Deadshot in particular is surprisingly compelling and places an interesting philosophical argument at the film’s centre. Also Copperhead’s design is creepy as hell and worth mentioning.
The voice performances beyond the main cast however are a little lacklustre. Howell reprising his role from Flashpoint Paradox is an excellent addition, but Williams and Pirri as Waller and Savage respectively barely make an impression. Williams in particular has a tough job considering all the great previous performances Amanda Waller has enjoyed and sadly comes up short. Luckily their roles are minor and the focus appropriately stays on the Squad which is thankfully where the film shines much brighter.
All of this ultimately boils down into a surprisingly impressive Suicide Squad movie that delivers exactly what the film should have. Aside from a few wonky performances and moments, Hell to Pay is mature, violent, has great well-defined characters and legitimate stakes. Take notes Suicide Squad 2.
General Audiences: Recommended
True Believers (DC): Highly Recommended