‘The Suicide Squad’: Release date, cast and everything else we know about the superhero film

The Suicide Squad
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The DC Extended Universe has a penchant for second chances. After Justice League got a redo via Zack Snyder’s Justice League, The Suicide Squad (notice the key preposition) is returning to try and satisfy both the fans and critics.

The 2016 Suicide Squad was directed by David Ayer and starred Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman and Viola Davis, among others. Despite being a box-office hit, it was deemed a mess of a movie. While there have been pushes for a #AyerCut, Warner Bros. have opted to start fresh and go with a new team. Here is everything you need to know about The Suicide Squad.

What is the plot of ‘The Suicide Squad’?

In the DC universe, the Suicide Squad (or Task Force X as they are officially known as) is a group of incarcerated villains who are given the opportunity to reduce their prison sentences by going on missions deemed to dangerous for others.

Here is the official synopsis for The Suicide Squad:

"Welcome to hell — a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out — even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese."

Is ‘The Suicide Squad’ a sequel or reboot?

Why not both? Suicide Squad’s box office success made a sequel almost impossible to pass up. But at the same time, the original film doesn’t have the best reputation and director David Ayer believes that the movie he made wasn’t ultimately the one that made it to audiences, creating a rift with the studio.

Rather than bring the whole band back together, Warner Bros. opted for a fresh perspective, bringing in James Gunn as writer and director. In addition, two of Suicide Squad’s biggest stars, Will Smith and Jared Leto, are not returning for the new film, while a number of new super villains are set to join those left from the first movie, including Harley Quinn.

So, yes, this is a continuation of the Suicide Squad franchise that was started with the 2016 film, but it is also a reset for the franchise as it maintains just a few connections to what came before it. It’s a strategy they could keep employing if they want to make more Suicide Squad films.

Who’s in ‘The Suicide Squad’ cast?

Will Smith is out, Idris Elba is in. Joel Kinnanman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney and the original Suicide Squad MVP Margot Robbie return, while there’s a roster of new actors joining them. It’s probably just easier if I list them out: 

  • Margot Robbie - Harley Quinn
  • Idris Elba - Bloodsport 
  • Joel Kinnaman - Colonel Rick Flagg 
  • Viola Davis - Amanda Waller 
  • John Cena - Peacemaker 
  • Michael Rooker - Savant 
  • Jai Courtney - Captain Boomerang 
  • Nathan Fillion - T.D.K. 
  • Flula Borg - Javelin 
  • Mayling Ng - Mongal 
  • Pete Davidson - Blackguard 
  • Sean Gunn - Weasel 
  • David Dastmalchain - Polka-Dot Man 
  • Sylvester Stallone - King Shark 
  • Peter Capaldi - Thinker 

Who is director James Gunn?

James Gunn is best known for directing the Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel. This rare occasion seeing someone cross over from the MCU to a DC film transpired after Gunn was fired by Disney over old tweets, before eventually being rehired to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. In the gap between his firing and rehiring, Gunn was brought in to tackle The Suicide Squad.

In addition to the Guardians of the Galaxy films, Gunn directed the independent films Slither and Super, as well as wrote 2004’s Dawn of the Dead and the live-action Scooby-Doo movies.

How to watch 'The Suicide Squad'

The release of The Suicide Squad is here, with the film hitting theaters and HBO Max starting 7 p.m. ET on Aug. 5.

To go see the movie in theaters, check your local theater listings for times and availability, including whether it is playing in IMAX. If you're opting to stay at home to watch, you must be a subscriber to HBO Max's $14.99 ad-free tier; new Warner Bros. movies that are part of the day-and-date release strategy are not available for the $9.99 ad-supported version of HBO Max.

The Suicide Squad will remain on HBO Max for 31 days.

‘The Suicide Squad’ trailer

Unsurprisingly, Warner Bros. and HBO Max have been heavily promoting The Suicide Squad ahead of its release with multiple trailers and snippets in HBO Max ads. With what has been shown it certainly looks like fans are in for a wild ride filled with plenty of violence and humor (though they were burned before with the original Suicide Squad trailer).

You can watch The Suicide Squad red-band trailer here, or another slightly less graphic and foul-mouthed trailer below.

Are there 'The Suicide Squad' reviews?

Reviews have started to come out for The Suicide Squad, and they're good. As of Aug. 4, the movie sits at a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 77 on Metacritic. RogerEbert.com reviewer Brian Tallerico described The Suicide Squad as "gleefully grotesque, vicious and unapologetic, and the DC Universe is all the better for it."

Be on the look out for What to Watch's review of The Suicide Squad later this week.

How does ‘The Suicide Squad’ connect to the larger DCEU? 

The Suicide Squad is the latest entry into what is broadly known as the DC Extended Universe. However, unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its most recent example with the Loki finale, the DCEU has decided against making every piece of content work to set up the next one.

DC initially tried to go that route, but after Justice League stumbled Warner Bros. decided to forgo an overall tone and incredibly intricate, massive storyline and let filmmakers take Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman and others in their own directions, with just some loose threads connecting them.

Also: How to watch the DCEU movies in order

So, outside of having Margot Robbie return as Harley Quinn and other returning Suicide Squad characters, it is unlikely that The Suicide Squad will have any direct impact on any other past or upcoming DC superhero movie.

What we do know is that a spinoff of The Suicide Squad is already planned for HBO Max. John Cena’s character Peacemaker is getting his own show, which James Gunn created. The show will premiere on the streaming service in 2022.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.