Review: 'Peacemaker' an Exhilarating Thrill Ride

by JC Alvarez

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday January 13, 2022

'Peacemaker'  (Source:HBO Max / Katie Yu)

Spinning out of the pages of the DC comic books and the hit blockbuster movie "The Suicide Squad," former WWE wrestler turned actor John Cena stars in the HBO Max Original Series "Peacemaker." The gun-slinging, muscle-bound maverick has been brought back from the brink of oblivion, just in time to protect the great American way!

Among the pantheon of characters in the DC comics multiverse, Peacemaker remained a rather secondary B-lister that was acquired from Charlton Comics in the 1960s. Then described as a peace-seeking envoy, the gun-toting agent would be featured more prominently during the height of DC's popularity in the '80s. Peacemaker remained an outlier until he was brought into the ranks of the black ops operation known as Task Force X, or the Suicide Squad. His origins would be made more contemporary, and he'd emerge as a wild card vigilante often aligned in the gray areas of diplomacy.

When filmmaker James Gunn was tasked with revitalizing Warner Bros' cinematic "Suicide Squad," rather than entirely recast the venture, Gunn expanded on the narrative and introduced several new characters, most of which were largely expendable and disposed of in the first 15 minutes. But Cena's Peacemaker was among one of "The Suicide Squad" reboot's most particular stand-outs — especially fighting off evil in his tighty-whities. And although it appeared that Peacemaker had been taken out, his mission was far from over.

As the new Original Series opens, Chris Smith (Cena) is given a clean bill of health after getting shot during his last mission in a South American war zone. Worried the feds are on his trail and looking to send him back to jail, Smith goes back home to pick up the pieces of his life, make amends with his right-wing, conspiracy-loving, white supremacist father (Robert Patrick), and reunite with his feathered sidekick "Eagly," a bald eagle. It isn't long before Smith as Peacemaker is recruited for one another mission, but he's burned some bridges and isn't reuniting with his former squad.

Instead, an offshoot organization under the leadership of director Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) is assembled. Along with Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), John Economos (Steve Agee), and the newest recruit, Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks, "Orange Is the New Black"), this team is charged with keeping Peacemaker in line, or rather, babysitting him to keep the loose cannon from causing any trouble. Peacemaker's mission is to assassinate a senator who may be more than meets the eye, but first he's got to fight off a one-night stand gone wrong who is one for the Fatal Attraction record books.

It isn't long before Peacemaker learns that there's another alien invasion in the works, and, if he's proven anything, it's that he's great at taking out aliens. But he won't be able to take on these invaders on his own, especially when Adrian Chase (Freddie Stroma, "Harry Potter" franchise) joins the fight as Peacemaker's wise-cracking BFF, Vigilante, and his own father resumes his alter-ego as a super-armored leader of a band of Nazi losers determined to take down Peacemaker and his friends. "Peacemaker" is every bit as irreverent as fans would want it to be, and full of non-stop action!

Gunn has ginned up the scripts with surefire gags and "inappropriate" gaffes aplenty, developing a core cast of endearing and lovable characters with Cena's biceps as sizable pecs as the centerpiece, but, truth be told, the actor has a wonderfully diversified screen presence with excellent comedic timing. The cast, especially Stroma and Brooks, are excellent accomplices, while Holland is an equally formidable presence — comedically and action-wise — and Agee is every bit the cynical geek determined to prove his worth.

"Peacemaker" has all the earmarks of James Gunn's devilish irony, and exhibits a genuine appreciation for the source material. The Suicide Squad and those unfortunate enough to fall under the purview of its chief administration, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), are a ragtag band of nobodies that would never be missed if they were lost on any dangerous assignment, though under the care of Gunn's watchful eye, you can't help but cheer for their victory. Peacemaker and his squad are a last resort, and if they aren't able to toe the line — we're all goners!

"Peacemaker" is hilarious and spirited, raunchy, and a rollercoaster ride worth the trip — just make sure you meet the height requirement.

"Peacemaker" premieres on HBO Max, January 13, with the first three episodes; new episodes dropping every Thursday through February.

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".