Hello, Movie Buffs!
It's open season on Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) when her explosive breakup with the Joker (Jared Leto) puts a big fat target on her back for everyone who has a grievance against her. Unprotected and on the run, Quinn faces the wrath of Gotham's thugs who all want a piece of her, especially its most nefariously narcissistic crime boss, Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), and his zealous right-hand Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). But things soon even out for Harley when Roman targets Cassandra Cass (Ella Jay Basco), a young pickpocket who stole something of value from him, and sends Harley to bring her to him. Along the way she crosses paths with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to protect Cass and take Roman down.
Directed by Cathy Yan (According to My Mother) and written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee, Flash, Batgirl), Birds of Prey (2020) is the eighth film in the DC Extended Universe and the follow-up film to 2016’s Suicide Squad. The story is told in a non-linear fashion that makes the film appear to be all over the place at times and can be confusing to some viewers, but it works since Harley Quinn is its narrator. Hodson uses Harley's omniscient and slightly unreliable narration in order to introduce various key players and immerse viewers into the story. The story is not only about the emancipation of Harley Quinn from the Joker or of the emancipation of the other female characters but instead, the film is about emancipation from male-led and male-created superhero comic book films. It’s a story about discovery and independence from those you never knew were holding you back. Now the humor isn’t as funny as Marvel’s Deadpool but it works for the film and every time Harley is on-screen something funny is bound to happen.
In addition to the story, the direction and visuals really help to elevate the film. The fighting sequences are fast-paced, brutal, and choreographed in a way to showcase the characters' respective abilities and strengths. The costumes by Erin Benach (A Star Is Born) are exquisite and designed to complement the characters’ individual personalities. The soundtrack ranges from being an energetic drop in an action sequence to a more haunting vocal performance that underscores the tone and theme of a particular scene. Altogether, these elements give Birds of Prey fun energy that is a little chaotic and entirely unique.
The cast performances were solid throughout. Margot Robbie (Bombshell, Barbie) goes all out as Harley Quinn by bringing a wild and positive energy that adds a lot of fun to a film filled with more serious and somber characters. She switches between a range of emotions such as letting loose her various quirks, taking delight in beating up bad guys, and adopting a pet hyena she names Bruce for that “hunky Wayne guy.” As a result, her mental illness is played with a more subtle hand than in Suicide Squad, which gives her character to have a touch of human empathy and allows for the audience to relate with her even more. Robbie gets a lot of help from a diverse and talented array of co-stars. Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Underground) displays some serious action chops in the fierce and physical role of songstress Dinah Lance/Black Canary - a vigilante with the metahuman ability of hypersonic screams, which she inherited genetically from her mother, who is also a singer in a club that Sionis owns. Dinah may have a good heart by nature but here she is would rather not have anything to do with crime fighting or being a good-doer. Rosie Perez (Elena of Avalor) is a bit annoying and undeveloped as Renee Montoya. She drowns her grievances in alcohol, jumps before she thinks about consequences, and is on a crazy one-track mind to bring Roman Sionis to justice no matter the costs. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Mercy Street, Gemini Man) is great as the amusingly stoic and socially awkward Huntress, who’s spent her whole life training to exact revenge with a crossbow, and Ella Jay Basco brings naturalism to the role of teenage pickpocket Cassandra Cain, who brings all the characters together. Chris Messina (Sharp Objects) is unrecognizable as Victor Zsasz and is given a fair deal of buildup but he is surprisingly very underused. Ewan McGregor (Doctor Sleep) shines as Roman Sionis/Black Mask. Roman is a brutal and iron-fisted crime lord who ranges between being affably menacing to erratic dramatics, and McGregor skillfully slips between the two personas to create an effective and unpredictable counterpart to each of the heroes.
Overall, Birds of Prey (2020) is an imaginative & darkly flamboyant film about independence and self-discovery. There is a well-rounded and unique cast of characters that made for some interesting interactions and scenes. The costumes and action sequences helped showcase the characters’ individual personalities and abilities, while the soundtrack helped establish the tone or theme in each scene. All in all, this was an entertaining, albeit messy, film that I view as a thumbs up for the DC Extended Universe.
Final Vote --- 8 of 10 stars
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