Peacemaker review: The perfect showcase for John Cena

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John Cena is unexpectedly vulnerable as the glam-metal-loving killing machine peacemaker.

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Peacemaker sets up its stall right from the start. The opening credits of Norwegian glam metal band Vig Vam’s uber-charming Do Ya Wanna Test It are unexpected and funny. But when the initial entertainment is over, you have to ask yourself: Is this joke going to be thin?

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Peacemaker is a new eight-episode series that premieres tomorrow, Thursday, February 13 hbo max, It’s based on characters from DC Comics, but it’s not like any other superhero show on TV. In fact, it’s a spin-off from last year’s horror and outrageous film The Suicide Squad. Written by a single man, James Gunn, the show expands on the film’s slang and unabashedly trashy action, with eight episodes of cursing, stadium rock, and body horror all marvelously affecting character-driven drama. wrapped around.

John Cena reprises his role as the Peacemaker, a lean-to wannabe superhero who is so devoted to vague notions of peace that he’ll murder anyone who gets in his way. In the film The Suicide Squad, he was bailed out of prison for joining a band of misfits battling an alien menace on a remote island, and Cena’s performance was one of the highlights. The comically oblivious, extremely self-serious peacemaker emerged as a character you loved to hate because he committed a heinous betrayal against his teammates.

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movies post credits scene teased the series, which had been developed by HBO Max before the film’s release. A bold move, but it turns out to be a solid choice: Gunn and Cena still have a lot of comic energy to deliver to this character, even on the small canvas of an episodic streaming series.

After secretly escaping the film’s mission, the Peacemaker quickly becomes involved in a new Black Ops mission. However, this time he is on home ground. We follow muscle-bound troublemaker, real name Christopher Smith, back to his flag-painted trailer where garden ornaments are also heavily and patriotically equipped. He drives a ’70s muscle car with stars and stripes and his best friend is an eagle, but he is also ravaged by his father’s absurdity, played with annoyance by a racist supervisor Robert Patrick with crazy hair. Is.

Danielle Brooks, Chukwoodi Ivuji and Jennifer Holland give Shanti a chance.

Danielle Brooks, Chukwoodi Ivuji and Jennifer Holland give Shanti a chance.

The film’s hideous peacemaker becomes a somewhat distant memory we spend with the obnoxious but increasingly vulnerable man under the shiny helmet, who just wants to be called Chris. The film saw him surrounded by superpowerful big guns and he couldn’t help compensating with a rivalry. But though the TV show pairs him with another ensemble cast, this time it’s a group of cast-off agents and backroom nerds who enlist the Peacemaker (both the show and the character) to unearth a superhero’s suspicions and fears. gives place. The Peacemaker confronts the reality of being a ruthless killing machine, not to mention the complexity of being an old-fashioned cock-rock kinda guy in a modern world. But lots of colorful insults, along with soggy body horror and bruises, obviously.

Cena is equaled with a strong performance from Orange Is the New Black Danielle Brooks Black Ops game as well as a reluctant and endlessly sympathetic new recruit jennifer holland As the desperate badass Harcourt. Other highlights include christopher heyerdahi And don’t take it as the gang’s strange enemy, while Harry Potter and the Bridgerton star freddy stroma Steals the show even more as the unimaginatively costumed warrior Vigilante (imagine if the Punisher was actually Napoleon Dynamite).

The growing bond between this band of losers, and their personal woes as they attempt to change, drive much of the show’s interactions. While the movie was full of big action and epic visual effects, the TV show is much shorter. The show unfolds in a dusty video store and amid an ugly parking lot on the edge of a city in Central America. The fights are mostly intentionally elegant, with only awkward lunging cameras or slapstick violence winning to spice it up.

There’s sometimes a frightening feeling in the midst of feuds, especially when an episode finds time to hang out with the characters or when they get into yet another argument about some pop culture trivia. But even if it does slow down, Guns and Chums know how to jack things up with a well-timed cliffhanger. A clever take on the show’s most emotion-driven subplot, from character development to a compelling storyline as the crew’s actions raise a new threat.

And those opening credits? After an episode or two, the joke felt a little thin. But then I found that after I finished each episode I started the next one to revisit (and listen to) the credits — and see where this sad sack squad was headed next. So go ahead, give peace a chance.

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