Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Ben Peyton reviews highly anticipated new flick, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Director: Cathy Yan
Starring: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina and Ewan McGregor
One of the few successes from 2016’s opinion dividing Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn swoops into her own film with the short and snappy title, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Let’s stick with Birds of Prey for short.
Harley Quinn’s broken up with that nice, wholesome boy-next-door, Joker, and isn’t handling things too well. Keeping it under wraps, she’s still taking advantage of the protection their partnership provided. However, when her secret is revealed she becomes a target for Gotham City’s mercenaries, assassins and all the people she’s somehow managed to upset over the last few months. It’s a long list. This includes sadistic nightclub owner and crime Kingpin, Roman Sionis (McGregor), a dandy of a man with a penchant for peeling off his enemy’s faces.
Cleverly, yet occasionally confusingly, using flashbacks to weave together numerous plot-strands, Roman tasks Harley with recovering a monster of a diamond, stolen by teen-terror Cassandra Cain (Basco). On her journey, she crosses paths with Renee Montoya (Perez), a cop determined to bring Roman to justice, Black Canary (Smollett-Bell), one of his reluctant employees, and Huntress (Winstead), a woman with serious rage issues and a brutal desire for revenge. To the backdrop of a banging soundtrack, the ladies team up to bring Roman down.
In her first major commercial feature film, director Cathy Yan brings a chaotic energy that rarely lets up. The fight scenes are skilfully choreographed and deceptively violent with slow-motion shots wonderfully showcased amidst a flurry of glitter and exploding party cannons. Harley channels her inner Deadpool to cheekily break the fourth wall and address the audience directly and there’s even time for a surreal musical number in one of many highlights.
Robbie soars as the frighteningly deranged anti-hero, successfully managing to maintain a glimmer of humanity and vulnerability nestling beneath her glorious quirkiness. Not to be outdone, all the cast enjoy their moment in the spotlight and all bring something unique to the flock. None more so than Smollett-Bell whose ball-breaking credentials warrant her own film. Ewan McGregor hams it up spectacularly and wanders dangerously into parody territory, but just about manages to keep the balance right.
There are some plot holes, not all attempts at humour hit the mark and the grainy, grimy world of Gotham is barely explored, but there’s more than enough fun happening to let that slide.
Self-aware, in your face and refusing to apologise for it, D.C., and Harley herself, have hit another home run. The birds of prey and girl power are alive and viciously kicking.
You might want to stick around for a small snippet of dialogue after the credits, but don’t get too excited.
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is in UK cinemas from Friday 7 February
See Ben’s review of The Rhythm Section here.
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