TL;DR – A really solid follow up to a film that didn’t work, so that is a great change of pace
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a post-credit scene sort of
As things have been going, I think it has been safe to say that the DC expanded Universe has been made up of more misses than hits. However, in recent times that trend has started to change with Aquaman being a fun little film and Shazam! finding some real heart, showing that the studio can make it work on something other than Wonder Woman. However, coming into Birds of Prey, I was a little hesitant given what came before, but thankfully I had nothing to worry about.
So to set the scene, in the time since Suicide Squad ended, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) broke up with The Joker and it was entirely amicable … okay maybe not. However, everyone thinks she’ll get back together with him, it’s only a matter of time. Well, that’s not what Harley thinks and to prove it to everyone she blows up the symbol of their love the chemical factory which does not quite go to plan. Meanwhile, Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is trying to find out who is going around crossbowing local goons and a young pickpocketer Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) is about to pick the wrong pocket potentially shifting the balance of all of Gotham City.
To be honest, I did have some big reservations coming into Birds of Prey, because it was a sequel to Suicide Squad and for many, including me, Suicide Squad was the weakest of all The First Run DC films. However, one of its few strengths was when it let Harley be her own character, rather than Joker’s offside and I am glad they made the most of that here. But more than that, this is an ensemble film, and it is that ensemble that makes it work. There are these big set-piece moments that each character gets and they are all really interesting, but each of them sends everyone else on the path of meeting up and oh boy, the more that they interact, the more this film shines. You also need these very different characters so that they can all bond but also bounce cross-talk off each other.
You need the gruff Renee Montoya, who is good at her job, which the film showed in a fascinating sequence. You need Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett) who cares about everyone a little too much but is also looking out for herself. You need The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) with her super dark back story and you need Cassandra Cain to help ground the story and the characters. This is one of those films that shows the strength of an ensemble cast even when there is a clear lead, and if you build those characters up they will work. So while not every piece of dialogue or joke landed, most of them did because this cast was just so game for it.
One thing I appreciated in this film is how it embraced its comic book roots in style as well as just the characters. I think you see this the most with the character of Harley that narrates and slips into different times and ever breaks the 4th wall every not and again. It is more say on the level of Parks and Rec acknowledging there is a camera there than the Deadpool active engagement and I liked it. I also like how they played with conventions of the r-rated action film in the police station attack sequence. Harley used this beanbag shotgun, so then instead of the usual blood splatters, we get sprays of paint and glitter. Overall, I really liked the action sequences, they were engaging and never outstayed their welcome. That is not to say the film does not get bloody at times and you will cringe at some of those leg snaps.
We are going to talk a little bit about the final act in this next section, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead. When it comes to antagonists, I do like that they went with Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) who has no powers, he is just a psychopathic arse with daddy issues and a henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) who likes slicing off people’s faces. I think what sells it is that Ewan can bounce from chewing the scenery to being completely menacing at the drop of the hat. So when he and his goons meet up with the gang that the abandoned amusement park you want to see how that goes down. Also, an abandoned amusement park might be both the most clichéd but also a perfect setting for a film like this.
In the end, do we recommend Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn? Yes, yes we would. Now there are a couple of small asterisks here, in that if you are not a fan of strong language, then this might not be the film for you, also it does get quite dark in places, darker than I ever thought they would, so keep that in mind. If nothing else, respect to the film confirming how good a beautiful breakfast sandwich is. If you liked Birds of Prey, I would also recommend to you The Dressmaker.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Directed by – Cathy Yan
Written by – Christina Hodson
Based on – Characters by DC
Music by – Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography by – Matthew Libatique
Edited by – Jay Cassidy & Evan Schiff
Production/Distribution Companies – DC Films, LuckyChap Entertainment, Kroll & Co. Entertainment, Clubhouse Pictures, Roadshow Pictures & Warner Brothers.
Starring – Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Jurnee Smollett, Chris Messina, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor, Steven Williams, François Chau, Derek Wilson, Matt Willig, Bojana Novakovic, Ella Mika & Robert Catrini
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R