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ANIMATED FEATURE REVIEW

Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: March 27, 2018 - Digital; April 10, 2018 - 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD

Synopsis: Amanda Waller's top secret "Task Force X" – Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Killer Frost, Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn and Copperhead – on a mission to retrieve a mystical object so powerful that they’re willing to risk their own lives to steal it. But the Suicide Squad isn't the only group of villains seeking to possess the object. The race is on for the golden prize … and, to stay alive, second place isn’t an option.

The all-star cast is led by Christian Slater (Mr. Robot, Archer, True Romance) in his DC Universe Movies debut as the voice of Deadshot, who heads "Task Force X" alongside Billy Brown (How To Get Away With Murder) as Bronze Tiger, Liam McIntyre (Spartacus: War of the Damned, The Flash) as Captain Boomerang, Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood, Once Upon a Time) as Killer Frost, Gideon Emery (Teen Wolf) as Copperhead, Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke) as Harley Quinn and their "boss," Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives) as Amanda Waller. Villainous forces in the film include C. Thomas Howell (Outcast, The Outsiders, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) as Zoom, Dania Ramirez (Devious Maids, Heroes, Once Upon a Time) as Scandal Savage, James Urbaniak (Difficult People, The Venture Bros.) as Professor Pyg, Julie Nathanson (The Zeta Project, Beverly Hills 90210) as Silver Banshee and Jewelee, and Jim Pirri (Injustice 2) as Vandal Savage & Vertigo.

Other Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay voice cast members include Greg Grunberg (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Heroes) as Steel Maxum, Dave Fennoy (Batman: Arkham Knight, Batman: The Telltale Series) as Blockbuster & Tobias Whale, Cissy Jones (Firewatch) as Knockout, Natalie Lander (The Middle, Justice League Action) as Darma, Trevor Devall (Johnny Test) as Punch, Dave Boat (Family Guy, The Good Dinosaur) as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and Matthew Mercer (Critical Role, Batman: Bad Blood) as Savage Gunman. Producer Sam Liu (Gotham by Gaslight, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract) also directs Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay from a script by co-producer Alan Burnett (Justice League vs. Teen Titans). Executive Producers are Sam Register and James Tucker (Batman vs. Two-Face, Justice League Dark).



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Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay Feature Review
By James Harvey

Vulgar, violent and a little bit juvenile, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay is a fun, dirty animated flick that definitely pushes the adult content right to edge without going over. For Task Force X fans still smarting from the recent big screen Suicide Squad live-action flick, this just might be the movie you've been waiting for. Helmed by a solid creative team, and featuring a story that contains more than a few cool surprises (including one which I did not see coming at all) and more depth than expected, there's a lot to enjoy in this blood-riddled DC Universe Movie ... though it may not appeal to everyone.

Given an off-the-books mission by A.R.G.U.S. agent Amanda Waller, Task Force X finds themselves driving across country in a run down RV to hunt down a mystical artifact. Naturally, Waller isn't the only person after this artifact, as Task Force X soon finds itself butting heads with Reverse-Flash, Silver Banshee and Blockbuster, who happen to be looking for the same artifact. Naturally, things get a pretty bloody as both teams tear through the country to be the first to get their hands on this mysterious artifact.

Cutting loose in all regards, writer Alan Burnett and producer/director Sam Liu have made, without a doubt, one of the grisliest, dirtiest, even naughtiest DC Universe Movie titles to date. And yeah, there may be a couple jokes in there that maybe you should feel a little bad laughing at, but it all works. While some of the story beats may not be the most original, not all jokes hit, and the majority of the cast all fall into their expected tropes and roles (which they do manage to smartly repackage by ingeniously casting the Squad as a bickering family on a road trip), it's still an absolutely fun time from start to finish. What elevates the film's story is that it manages to not only sneak in some great twists, but it also explores the concept of life and death ... in it's own twisted way, of course.

While Amanda Waller gives the Suicide Squad their mission, and each member of the team gets his or her moment to shine, the story really belongs to Deadshot and (surprisingly) Bronze Tiger. Both characters consistently butt heads throughout the movie due to their differing morals, but from their is actually evolves into a pretty interesting look into what constitutes moral or immoral actions. While it's not a deep spiritual debate, it does pose some interesting ideas on how these characters perceive themselves, their beliefs and that everything isn't really as black and white as it may seem. Yes, these are terrible people who do terrible things, but this film does manage to dig a little deeper and give them a little added substance. By no mean does it redeem any of them, but it does help the viewer understand what drives them, as warped as some of them may be.

Burnett shows again why he's one of the best in the business (or was, as he's now retired) by taking what a pretty generic story about a bunch of thieves tracking down a Macguffin and buffing it up with great bits of dark humor, some cool twists and a little bit of depth. There's one moment in particular which completely upends the movie and actually recontextualizes it to an extent.

Also, personally, I find Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay has a strong replay value, too. Once the shock of the first viewing wears off - primarily the language and adult content - the strong core theme of its story really shines through. It's rather surprising, actually, as this is one film that I imagine a lot of viewers wouldn't think to revisit on a regular basis, but it is. The simple plot does hide some surprisingly dense layers in there. That said, it's also easy to see why some viewers might not want to revisit this one, especially if they're averse to the level of violence on display, but further viewings does allow for some of the understated aspects of the movie to shine a little brighter.

As for the levels of violence, again, I find it actually works for this film. If Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay included the Justice League (or really any DC superhero team facing off against Task Force X), then it likely would be a tonal mismatch, but given this film focuses on the worst-of-the-worst of the DC Universe, the mature content actually feels appropriate. Keeping the focus solely on the bad guys through and through was a smart choice by the creative team.

Voice acting is solid, with Christian Slater perfectly cast in the role of Deadshot. Ideally this won't be the last time Slater voices the character. To touch upon some of Slater's castmates, Billy Brown's take on Bronze Tiger is especially effective (especially as the film heads toward its climax), Tara Strong continues to bring out the fun kookiness of Harley Quinn and Vanessa Williams brings the unwavering harsh gruffness necessary to make Amanda Waller a character to be feared (and even sounds a bit like CCH Pounder, who voiced Waller in Justice League Unlimited). Greg Grunberg's extended cameo in absolutely hilarious, and the less known about it going in the better. It's another great cast put together by Wes Gleason, who has been pulling out really solid performances since he's taken over as voice director for the DC Universe Movie series.

If the film falls short in any real regard, it would have to be the animation quality. It's a good looking film, yes, but some of the action sequences play out a little rough. Movements are sometimes jerky and too fast, lacking any real fluidity and consistency. There is some great animation during the film's quieter moments, though, sometimes with little subtle touches and coloring. The cold open is possibly the best action beat in the entire movie (and features some cool cameos), though the rest do have some great moments here and there, it's just not as consistent as it should be. That said, these issues are primarily due to the film's budgetary restriction, and the creative team is doing their best to work within the unfortunate limitations given. Action scenes are clear and well choreographed, making it easy to understand what's going on beat to beat (all of it set to a wicked score by Robert J. Kral).

Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay is another great installment of the ongoing DC Universe Movie line, offering plenty of dirty, grungy action mixed with some surprising depth, solid laughs and a legitimately surprising story. However, it also definitely earns its 'R' rating, so viewers sensitive to extreme violence and language may want to be exercise some caution. But that over-the-top excessiveness actually serves both the plot and characters - these are terrible people doing terrible things, and it plays out just as bloody as you'd imagine. People die, others are betrayed, and everyone gets what's coming to them. It's a fun, almost guilty pleasure of a movie that both delivers and does the current iteration of the Suicide Squad team justice. Highly Recommended!

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