Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 49 minutes, Director – Cathy Yan

After being dumped by The Joker, all of Gotham city is after Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). The only way for her to end this is by finding a diamond which hides details of a mass fortune.

There’s something rather delightful about seeing Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), one of DC’s most recognisable villains/ antihero’s, waiting longingly as she watches an egg sandwich being made in a greasy corner-shop-cum-cafe. As bacon and cheese that’s probably six months out of date are piled on it’s made to seem that this glorified snack could easily replace The Joker on the first day of her newly single life. The last time we saw Robbie’s Quinn was in the dismal grit and greyness of 2016’s Suicide Squad. From the start it’s proved that this is a very different character to the one that seemed to be nothing more than a rough idea or thought – all down to poor scripting – four years ago. Sat in brightly-coloured clothing with a wrap made of streams of almost luminous plastic Quinn is truly starting afresh in her latest big-screen appearance.

What else do we find her doing to cope with being dumped by the clown prince of crime? The usual; going to clubs and getting drunk, sitting at home eating cereal and watching Looney Tunes, buying a pet hyena – which she names Bruce – and also driving a lorry full-speed into, and thus blowing up, the chemical factory where her relationship first properly began. However, Harley’s easy new life is abruptly put to an end when the rest of Gotham city finds out that she’s no longer under The Joker’s protection, and it turns out that there are a great many people who hold more than just a small grudge against her. None more so than Ewan MGregor’s fittingly camp crime-boss Roman Sionis, sometimes known for his persona, Black Mask (making him look like the Masked Magician). Sionis makes it his mission to hunt Quinn down and be the one to claim full victory by killing her.

However, things take a turn when Harley finds herself enlisted by Sionis to find a highly valuable diamond which holds the details to a strong fortune. And so, with almost everyone in the city, the police, Sionis and all his men after her Quinn and the audience are all set-up for a hilarious, action-packed ride. In fact, when you mix in the various fourth wall breaks and the often bouncy personality of the central character, alongside various fourth-wall breaks and flashbacks, there’s an air to the film that almost begins to remind you of Deadpool. And even with this in mind Birds Of Prey is a very different film in terms of its style and energy. Style and energy which overflows from the film, leading it to successfully connect with the viewer and simply bring them further into the world that’s created – one which shows a further advancement in terms of variations of tone and feel for DC.

While one her own Harley is a strong character, raising a number of laughs and simply being a source of pure entertainment, the supporting cast is not to be overlooked. With the likes of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Ella Jay Basco all creating a kick-ass ensemble cast there’s no stopping the true force of the finished piece. Each figure, whether police detective or crossbow-wielding assassin, has their own unique personality (even if Winstead’s Huntress does seem to have only a short amount of screen-time, especially when compared to the rest of the cast) that’s clearly defined and makes for an even stronger group, especially during fight sequences. In many ways the true strength of the film lies in the fight sequences, where the worth is proved and the levels of care and passion that have gone into the production are truly revealed. And it’s in something rather simple. The fact that during fight scenes character’s don’t simply just go straight for a punch and a kick, or even just a kick in the nads, there’s clear signs of carefully constructed choreography that help to ramp up the impact of many of the film’s violent moments. Some of which do leave a slight wince on the face of the viewer, alongside a potential audible expression of pain.

All throughout the film the fingerprints of a cast and crew that are passionate about what they are making, wanting to make something good with strong female characters. This is very much a film for and about empowerment, while also still fitting in with the standard comic-book adaptation films that have continued to grow in number since the start of the last decade. And Birds Of Prey manages to be both this things while never shouting about that fact, it just gets on and does it, and it does it rather well. It’s a hugely enjoyable time and also very funny. Much of which comes from Christine Hodson’s screenplay – Hodson previously wrote the first good Transformers film, Bumblebee, and is also signed on to write DC’s upcoming The Flash and Batgirl films; if this is the case then the future of DC is very much in safe hands, especially with their current track record. When brought to life by still relative newcomer, this is her second feature, Cathy Yan’s precise direction. Yan, and the cast, clearly understand the tone that Hodson’s screenplay aims for and by bringing it to life they create an utterly engaging, brilliantly constructed and all round fun action film. Filled with some brilliant fight sequences, entertaining characters – who you can even just watch casually go shopping and be entertained by it – and plenty of style, sparkle and colour to make it something that feels unique and original to the comic-book genre!

Harley Quinn’s aim to start life anew is also in many ways a re-imagining of the character. Amongst all the finely choreographed action and passionate girl-power themes, which can be enjoyed by anyone, there’s clearly a great deal of care that’s gone into the film from all sectors. Fun, entertaining, stylish, and not to mention colourful Birds Of Prey is truly a fantabulous emancipation!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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