Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is half road-trip (albeit featuring an assortment of violent thugs) and half divine holy grail R-rated quest courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Produced and directed by Sam Liu, Hell To Pay is another instalment in the DC Universe and the twelfth animated movie Liu has directed for DC.
Vanessa Williams voices Amanda Waller, the ruthless director of the Suicide Squad, a clandestine team of supervillains forced by the government to carry out dangerous covert missions in exchange for reduced prison sentences. The Suicide Squad returns under Waller’s direction to retrieve the legendary ‘Get Out of Hell Free’ card, a mystical card which may allow its owner entry into heaven upon death, irrespective of wrongdoings. Why a deity would allow this item to exist, who knows, but the Lord works in mysterious ways as they say. Regardless, the existence of this card creates a treasure hunt between the villainous speedster Professor Zoom, the immortal warmonger Vandal Savage and Amanda Waller, all vying for possession of the card.
Hell to Pay features an all-star cast with Christian Slater voicing Deadshot, Billy Brown as Bronze Tiger and voice actress royalty Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. Despite the all-star cast, the dialogue of Hell to Pay can fall flat, with cliched gruff or witty action movie dialogue crammed in for the sake of it. Occasionally it’s humorous, but for the most part, it is clunkily inserted to possibly stave off stagnancy. It isn’t helped by vocal performances by Slater and Williams which sound mostly tepid and uninspired. Conversely, Tara Strong, as usual, delivers a solid performance.
In comparison to the panned live action Suicide Squad, Hell To Pay actually understands that these characters are inherently selfish and not meant to view themselves as a family unit, but rather a trial to endure. Occasionally the characterisation has flashes of brilliance – Bronze Tiger and Deadshot have interesting character arcs. Additionally, Professor Zoom’s tie-in to Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is fantastic and Bronze Tiger’s engaging story commands attention. However, for the most part, the rest of the characters despite some tantalising possibilities to explore (Vandal Savage if done right is a super cool villain), generally are no better than wallpaper. For instance, Copper Head spends most of his time just hissing at people for cheap gags and Killer Frost is a Daria that freezes people.
The violent component of Hell To Pay is handled rather well, with the film being full with genuinely exciting and engaging fight scenes. Professor Zoom’s delivery of a death-by-a-thousand-cuts sequence is wonderfully brutal, with Sam Liu never making the violence feel too unnecessary even though heads explode, and people get turned into swiss cheese via bullets. These are supposedly the worst of the worst, so violence is expected, but refreshingly it isn’t used as an awkward shoehorn between scenes. Bronze Tiger, a martial arts expert, has brilliant show stealing fight scenes and justifies his inclusion into the Suicide Squad pantheon.
Hell To Pay isn’t abysmal. It’s an entertaining enough flick, that will probably please fans although it clearly isn’t the strongest addition to the DC animated universe (fans will be pleased to know that the DVD contains a sneak peek at The Death of Superman). Although the second act becomes a bit of a plod, the third act is certainly strong and the exploration of spirituality and redemption makes for a fascinating premise. Unfortunately, the lack of polish and flatness hinders this film from rising above anything other than watchable.
Dir: Sam Liu
Scr: Alan Burnett
Cast: Christian Slater, Vanessa Williams, Billy Brown, Tara Strong
Runtime: 82 mins
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is available on DVD and digital download now.