The Suicide Squad are pretty edgy, right? How do you make a crack team of professional criminals, murderers and bastards even edgier? You slap on a Grindhouse aesthetic and kill someone off every five minutes, if Hell to Pay is anything to go by.
Sent by Amanda Waller to retrieve a mystic card once held by Doctor Fate, the Suicide Squad face off against a rival team of supervillains who are after the card for their own purposes. Team mainstays Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang are all present and correct, the squad rounded off with newcomers Bronze Tiger, Killer Frost and Copperhead. If you get Slipknot (you know, the rope guy from 2016's Suicide Squad) vibes from a few of them, that's because Hell to Pay goes all in on the B-list cannon fodder. Boomerang should be glad he has tenure.
As with most Suicide Squad stories, there's a childishness to its excesses, even (especially) as heads explode and the competing criminals inflict all manner of violence upon one another. Thankfully, the breakneck pace of the storytelling prevents this from being too tiresome, leaping from set piece to set piece. Rather the comic book silliness of this than the faux-grittiness of the live-action movie or the squad's last animated outing, Escape From Arkham. Even Harley Quinn isn't too annoying, surprisingly underutilised in a story which has nothing for her to really do.
Christian Slater's Deadshot gets the meat of the story, and the action, gamely playing out an arc which Will Smith already worked to the full. After the far superior Gotham by Gaslight and Batman vs Two-Face, this is something of a return to bad form for DC's animated division, but it's not a complete waste either. There's a good variation of villains, the animation is functionally decent, and the finale is amusingly horrible, making the most of the criminals' duplicitousness in a way that Ayer's movie somehow never did. But if you thought the infamous 'this is Katana' bit was dumb... hoo boy, wait until you get a load of the maguffin behind this one.
Hell to Pay is slapdash trash with a last-minute Grindhouse sheen, splattered with gore and barely adolescent attitude. At least this one is trying to have fun with it though. After two overtly 'gritty' and 'realistic' outings, it's nice to see the Suicide Squad get to embrace their comic-book origins. Even if they have slathered it in cinematic Grindhouse affectations.
SUICIDE SQUAD: HELL TO PAY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SAM LIU / SCREENPLAY: ALAN BURNETT / STARRING: CHRISTIAN SLATER, TARA STRONG, LIAM MCINTYRE, VANESSA WILLIAMS, BILLY BROWN, GREG GRUNBERG / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 27TH (US), APRIL 16TH (UK)