James Gunn’s Suicide Squad character gets his own HBO Max series with mixed results but a winning central performance A formative trauma befell Christopher “Peacemaker” Smith when he was around 12 years old, and he’s never gotten over it. The psychopathic quasi-superhero (his power is mostly just having the body of star John Cena) leading the new HBO Max series spun off from the Suicide Squad franchise is reintroduced to us fresh off a four-year prison stint, but he’s really been locked in a state of arrested development since tweenhood. His is a world of rocket launchers and fleshlights, bong rips and dick jokes, junk food and cheap beer. He certainly has the boastful, non-stop libido of the newly pubescent, not just game for the odd barfly hookup or MMF threesome, but fully assured that his prowess could sow doubt in the staunchest of lesbians. His idea of wit is naming his bald eagle sidekick Eagly. He swears as if he’s just learned the words. The eight episodes spent with this defender of justice – no matter how many men, women and children he has to kill to do it – are dialed into his same set of immature predilections, in tune with his description from showrunner James Gunn as “the world’s biggest douchebag”. Characters bicker with the juvenile circularity of kids who need to be separated, constantly pointing out the flaws in each other’s equally absurd logic. (Every episode reiterates the “why would someone put penises all over the beach?” exchange from its big-screen predecessor in some form, to diminishing returns.) The hyper-charged sensibility of violence treats each explosive headshot like one of the power chords in Wig Wam’s Do Ya Wanna Taste It, the theme song for the inexplicably lengthy opening titles in which the cast members all do a silly dance. The soundtrack favors this stripe of cock-rock, all hair metal and 80s-styled guitar lixx. In one of Peacemaker’s tenderest moments, he bonds with an agent over their shared love of Finnish glam progenitors Hanoi Rocks.
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