Careering into UK cinemas today (July 30), The Suicide Squad is very much director James Gunn’s vision of DC’s iconic supervillain task force. This means we don’t just get Margot Robbie’s impossibly badass Harley Quinn and Idris Elba as the taciturn mercenary Bloodsport, but also a hulking fish-human hybrid called King Shark – voiced by Sylvester Stallone, because why not? – and a truly bizarre supervillain with mummy issues called Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian).
To whet your appetite, here’s a guide to the equally distinctive movies that Gunn has crafted in the past.
After writing the screenplays for two Scooby-Doo movies and 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake, Gunn made his directorial debut with this zingy horror-comedy film. Starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks and Gregg Henry, it centres on a small town in South Carolina that gets invaded by a swelling, malevolent extraterrestrial parasite. Along the way, Gunn slips in nods to beloved scary movies including Predator and TerrorVision, pretty much guaranteeing that Slither would become a cult classic.
Gunn’s second directorial effort combines thrills, spills and lols in his own distinctive way. It’s a blend he definitely perfects in The Suicide Squad. Here Rainn Wilson stars as Frank Darbo, a short-order cook who turns himself into a superhero called The Crimson Bolt despite having no superhuman abilities whatsoever. Gunn’s flair for savage action sequences and equally savage one-liners is already evident in a raucously entertaining black comedy that co-stars Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon and Elliot Page. If you’ve never seen it, it’s well worth seeking out.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
There are many reasons why Gunn’s first big-budget superhero movie stands out from the crowd. It has just the right amount of breezy irreverence, the biggest of hearts, and loads of quirky touches that comic book fans lapped up. Who else would cast Vin Diesel as the voice of cute tree-like humanoid Baby Groot? There’s fantastic action, too, as Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) teams up with fellow intergalactic misfits Groot, Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) on a mission to save the universe. It’s a mission soundtracked brilliantly by David Bowie, The Runaways and The Jackson 5.
The Belko Experiment (2016)
Gunn didn’t direct this brilliantly claustrophobic horror thriller, but he co-produced it and wrote the ingenious screenplay. Directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek), it follows 80 American employees working at a company called Belko Industries in Bogotá, Colombia as they arrive at one work one day and get handed the grimmest possible directive: they’re locked inside the building, and have to start killing each other. Gunn has said the idea came to him in a dream nearly 10 years earlier, a terrific example of his unique moviemaking brain in action.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Gunn’s Guardians sequel was another box office smash that supersized everything that made the first film successful. He even drafted in the legendary Kurt Russell as Star-Lord’s father Ego and Sylvester Stallone – now the voice of King Shark in The Suicide Squad – as the Ravager captain Stakar Ogord. Once again, the intergalactic action and infectiously goofy humour is punctuated by a bangin’ ’70s rock soundtrack. Using Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ and Cat Stevens’ ‘Father and Son’ at key moments in a superhero movie? That’s vintage James Gunn.
The Suicide Squad is in cinemas Friday, July 30.