Birds of Prey review – Harley gives us the DCEU movie we deserve

By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★★★☆

Birds of Prey is a dynamite girl-powered superhero movie exploding with ultra-colour and a butt load of fun. Yan’s wonderfully stylised film isn’t afraid to get silly (and sweary) compared to the royal mess that was 2016’s Suicide Squad. Think of a slightly tamer Deadpool without all the insufferable meta BS.

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has left the Joker and is seeking emancipation. Having now sacrificed her immunity in Gotham, she is employed as a sort-of hit-woman for Roman Sionis aka ‘Black Mask’ (Ewan McGregor), Gotham City’s new prince of crime, where she is forced to track down young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) whose stolen a particularly valuable diamond.

Directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs), one of the most noticeable differences between this spin-off and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, is that it has absolutely no qualms about showing violence – violence both against AND perpetrated by women. Although comic in nature, there are definitely some cringeworthy moments. Whether it be infamous Gotham serial killer Victor Zsasz, played by an almost unrecognisable Chris Messina, when he peels off the faces of his victims, or Harley herself as she forcibly snaps almost every limb of a Gotham thug using a baseball bat and a car door window.

There’s also no shortage of humour unlike majority of its DCEU predecessors. Aside from maybe Aquaman, Birds of Prey succeeds in being silly but never feels too childish as childish as Suicide Squad… and it even gets a bit gross at times. When the little foul-mouthed Cassandra first gets her hands on the diamond, she swallows it without a second thought, which results in a very awkward trip to the supermarket to shop for laxatives, and easily one of the best girl bonding scenes in the whole film.

For a reasonably big cast, the film still manages to give every new ‘bird’ the bits of screentime they deserve. There’s the bitter cop Rene Montoya (Rosie Perez) who is frequently compared to bad ’80s action movies, the songbird Dinah Lance aka ‘Black Canary’ (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and the vengeful Helena Bertinelli aka ‘Huntress’, who is in the middle of a name/identity crisis, and it’s hilarious.

Ewan McGregor, like in the recent Doctor Sleep, initially feels awkward trying to pin down that American accent, but eventually turns his crazy game so far up that you just don’t care anymore. The result is a villain that actually feels like a tribute to The Birdcage? Not sure if the relationship between Black Mask and Zsasz was supposed to be queer, but I did take it to be that way. A little more could’ve helped though.

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Black Mask (Ewan McGregor and Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) Credit: Vertical

Ultimately, it’s refreshing to have a female superhero/supervillain/whatever it is Harley Quinn is considered to be any more, without a man. Not to mention that most fans were unhappy with Jared Leto’s Joker. She doesn’t need a man… she needs an egg sandwich, and that’s something we can all relate to – except if you’re vegan.

Photos: Vertical Entertainment

 

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