Although I love me some Batman and Justice League, I have to admit that I began to yearn for something beyond the familiarity I’d settled into in recent years when it came to the DC Universe animated films. I mean, this was the same line that brought us gems such as Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman (2009), so, as you can imagine, I was more than willing to see these folks once again broaden their horizon.
Fortunately, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay has proven to be just what the doctor ordered: An unapologetic, no-holds-barred love letter to the rougher side of DC’s pantheon that’ll appeal to diehard and casual viewers alike. Well, to be more specific, those who are of appropriate age.
As you may be aware, Warner Bros. have been willing to afford the filmmakers the ability to reach for the R-rating with some of their animated offerings over the past few years, but they mostly felt like hard PG-13’s until Batman: Gotham by Gaslight came along.
But now, Hell to Pay has really run with that ball, topping its Victorian predecessor when it comes to mature content with “strong bloody violence throughout, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and some drug material.” Believe me, our good buddies at the MPAA aren’t lying, so you may want to keep this out of your kids’ reach; this is one for you and your friends to watch on a Saturday night as you freely let slip obscenities of your own.
Obviously, the success of David Ayer’s live action effort from 2016 was no doubt instrumental in getting this animated outing green-lit, but I’m glad that Task Force X’s lineup wasn’t obligated to mirror what was on the silver screen. Yes, Deadshot (Christian Slater), Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre) and Harley Quinn (Tara Strong) are at the forefront, but it was so refreshing to see the group rounded out by Bronze Tiger (Billy Brown), Killer Frost (Kristin Bauer van Straten) and Copperhead (Gideon Emery).
Additionally, it should be noted that Deadshot is joined by a few other baddies doing the bidding of Uncle Sam at the top of the movie, but there’s a damn good reason why there are some open slots for the rest of the picture. By now, you should know that those working under Amanda Waller (Vanessa Williams) are expendable, and that holds true right up until the end. Nobody is safe.
To briefly describe this film in a nutshell, I’d have to say that it’s a road trip of sorts – only with a dysfunctional sextet that’s armed to the teeth making the cross-country trip. Basically, our favorite cadre of villains and anti-heroes are tasked with securing a mystical object that Waller is dying to get her hands on. The problem, however, is that two other respective factions led by Zoom (C. Thomas Howell) and Vandal Savage (Jim Pirri) are also coming after the same thing from opposite directions.
Now, when I say “mystical object,” please don’t think this baby goes in the fantastical direction that Ayer’s movie did. Rather, it’s simply a MacGuffin that services this multi-faceted bloodbath. Trust me when I say that despite all the twists and turns, everything feels quite natural.
Having confessed that, we owe much thanks to screenwriter Alan Burnett for gifting us with one hell of a swan song. If his name sounds familiar to you, it should, because his previous credits include Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and a litany of other DC animated movies. And, as was expected, he didn’t disappoint.
The beauty of what Burnett, director Sam Liu and the rest of the filmmaking team accomplished is that they made this joint every bit as genuinely riveting as it is fun – and, really, you’d expect no less from these batshit crazy characters. Not only that, but there’s an ingenious callback to Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which Hell to Pay is every bit as good as. Bold words on my part, yes, but you’ll find the product speaks for itself.
If I’m to have any gripe, it’s that the bonus content on the Blu-ray disc really could’ve used some work. You may be treated to some character profiles and such, sure, but that’s pretty run-of-the-mill at this point. If anything supplemental is worth your time, it’s the sneak peek at the next DC Universe animated movie, The Death of Superman, and two bonus cartoons in the form of choice episodes taken from Beware the Batman and Young Justice. So, yeah, those will keep you thoroughly entertained.
To be honest, even if you pared down the extras to just those three examples, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay would still be worth every penny. I’m willing to say with unwavering certainty that it trounces its live action counterpart in nearly every respect, and has done wonders to assure that 2018 goes down as one of DC animation’s strongest years for this decade.
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is not only top drawer, but it's also one of DC's best animated ensemble films to date.