Calling James Gunn’s overwrought, R-rated, sci-fi saga “The Suicide Squad” (**** OUT OF ****) a sequel to David Ayer’s PG-13 rated original “Suicide Squad” (2016) is misleading. Apart from the use of “The” in the title of Gunn’s film, the differences are as vast as the two directors. Ayer is a straightforward, in-the-box kind of guy who plays up to expectations. Conversely, Gunn is an ambiguous, out-of-the-box guy who skewers expectations.

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The meta-human villains in “Suicide Squad” were traditional, while their counterparts in “The Suicide Squad” defy convention. “Suicide Squad” qualified as an above-average epic, but “The Suicide Squad” surpasses and overshadows its’ predecessor. As Deadshot, Will Smith led the black-ops unit in the original, but Iris Elba’s Bloodsport has replaced Deadshot in this reboot.

Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn, while Jai Courtney is back as Captain Boomerang. Joel Kinnaman returns as Colonel Rick Flag, and Viola Davis lords it over this new motley crew. Nevertheless, she exercises far less power than in “Suicide Squad.” Whereas “Suicide Squad” had a military vibe, “The Suicide Squad” has a macabre vibe.

Consider the chief villain Starro. It is a Godzilla-sized starfish. Retrieved from outer space by NASA and stashed in a secret laboratory on a remote South American island, Starro makes a bizarre adversary who looks like he went AWOL from “Sesame Street.” Gunn flips the script from the start and keeps spinning you in circles until fadeout.

After its boilerplate opening, depicting the new unit selection and their mission objective, “The Suicide Squad” mutates into something different. When you see a giant starfish rampage through a city, with a huge Cyclopean eye in the middle of its chest, trashing buildings along its path, you might hoot, holler, or wonder why the fast-food chain Hardees missed such a golden product placement opportunity.

Prepare yourself for cognitive dissonance galore with Gunn’s twisted take on “Suicide Squad.” Remember, Gunn wrote and directed the two Marvel/Disney blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. Meantime, Task Force X leader Amanda Waller (Viola Davis of “Widows”) drums up a new objective for a new Suicide Squad and some of the genuine oddballs and eight balls she recruits will make you wonder if Gunn is making a comedy of terrors instead of errors.

Apart from Bloodsport, who is serving time for shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet, Waller chooses T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion of “Super”), a superhero who can detach his arms from his body to do his dirty work. Along with T.D.K. is an upright furry bipedal creature called Weasel (James Gunn’s brother Sean), a crazy Asian dame named Mongal (Mayling Ng of “Lady Bloodfight”), Blackguard (SNL comic Pete Davidson), and Savant (Michael Rooker of “Guardians of the Galaxy”).

They have orders to land on the beach after dark, infiltrate the imaginary South American island of Corto Maltese and destroy a medieval stone tower known as Jotunheim. The Nazis used Jotunheim as an asylum for their barbaric experiments on humans until Uncle Sam liberated the island and entrusted it to a native family that ruled with an iron fist.

Gunn conjures up a lot of foreign intrigue that sounds like American foreign policy in the Middle East. Waller racks up greater infamy here. She dispatches one team as a diversionary force, while the other performs an end-around and avoids a clash with the anti-American regime’s army. This is Amanda Waller at her worst. Gunn slips subversive commentary in throughout the action that smears America’s reputation as a benign country advocating the greater good.

Little honor exists among the F-List of lower tier DC villains in “The Suicide Squad.” These dastards are as willing to kill each other as their adversaries. Moreover, the unscrupulous Waller has no qualms about sacrificing them like goats because she fears the prospect of Starro unleashed on America.

Clocking in at an erratic but entertaining 132 minutes, with flashbacks galore, this go-for-broke actioneer seethes with mayhem and murder and tweaks the DC Comics formula. The abusive dialogue and blood splattered violence, with hundreds of casualties, sets it apart from the hopelessly immaculate “Suicide Squad.” Anybody who watches this movie should stick around for the extra shenanigans during the end-credits.

Two characters supposedly killed are resurrected. Ultimately, “The Suicide Squad” constitutes a standalone saga that draws on the original as only a sequel can but also reboots it in a devilish way. You’ve got to see the Polka Dot Man and his mother. The John Cena super villain lives a charmed life. The battle between Starro and millions of hairy rats pouring out of Corto Maltese looks awesome.

The sewer dwelling Killer Croc in “Suicide Squad” was one of the less believable characters. Comparably, a similar character in “The Suicide Squad,” King Shark (voiced by “Rocky” actor Sylvester Stallone) seems far more believable despite Shark’s Charlie the Tuna persona. Make no mistake, King Shark likes to rip folks apart and crunch their noggins like jawbreakers.

Produced for $186 million, this Warner Brother’s DC Comics’ extravaganza paints a bleak picture of society with dsytopian tropes reminiscent not only of “Watchmen” (2009) but also “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016). Literally, “The Suicide Squad” amounts to an off-beat, colorful, but unpredictable orgy of violence often played for sardonic laughs.

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