Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020). Review of the film starring Margot Robbie




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1 Star/Awful/Give this one a miss

Film review, by Jason Day and Win Hughes, of Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, the violent, comics based, action-packed sequel to Suicide Squad starring Margot Robbie.

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Told with multiple flashbacks, super-violent, super-fun criminal Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has split from working in dastardly partnership with The Joker.

She joins rebellious, female superheroes Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and browbeaten cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to save a young girl from evil crime lord Roman Sinois (Ewan McGregor).

Review, by @Reelreviewer and @WinHughes

Film poster Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2019)

Ewan McGregor must need the money for his divorce.

Win Hughes, summing up Birds of Prey (2020)

I hate people who turn up late to a movie.

Not a mild dislike of tardy cinema patrons but a visceral, gut desire to jump up, smack them in the chops, grab onto their shoulders, spin around in the air, kicking their partner in the face before landing a well-orchestrated foot in the other’s genital area.

Wow! What was that?!

Did I slip into agression because I myself turned up late to a film screening – I think the only time in my life – and felt a pang of shame?

Or is it because I turned up late to watch a movie as moronic, depressing, desensitizing and boringly, repetitively violent like Birds of Prey?

Despite feeling stressed at being late, anxious after being stuck in gridlocked traffic and out of breath after running to the multiplex, nothing gets my goat more than a monotonous movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with seeing violence on the big screen. Stylishly staged and staged not too often, it helps to shake a movie up.

The main problem with Birds of Prey is that the violence happens so often I ended up rolling my eyes and sighing. I was crying out for the bits in between to last longer.

The fighting is linked together by interesting dramatic asides that show depths to the admittedly ridiculous characters (Quinn experiences domesticity with young Cassandra; the fantasy ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ sequence with Harley as Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953).

As did good friend and co-reviewer Win Hughes, whose sage summation of the movie made the perfect opening quote for this review (McGregor’s new squeeze, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, co-stars here).

She also commented: “A film of unrelenting violence and little plot….and te overall feeling of talent wasted.”

Birds of Prey thinks it’s Pulp Fiction (1993) or anything else by Quentin Tarantino.

But Tarantino, for all the criticisms you could level at him, is a genius filmmaker with a keen ear for a good tune and a gift for cracking dialogue that is perceptive, psychologically ripe and very funny, even as bursts of fighty chaos erupts all over.

The violence – love it or loathe – complements the rest of film and doesn’t overwhelm it.

Birds of Prey is nothing like what’s described above. It is a desperate, tiresome pretender to that throne. Following in the wake of the equally grim and equally unfunny Joker, it is a worrying thing that these things are cropping up in the multiplex.

At least Joker‘s grim depiction of a man’s mental decline and rebirth, contrasted with the moral collapse of his home city (and its implied ‘rejuvenation’), had an interesting sociological slant.

Still, I do love watching Margot Robbie films. I’m getting to be quite the fan in fact. She really can turn her hand to completely mater just about any character she plays and deliver a great performance.

Whether as the historical Elizabeth I or a modern-day TV up and comer, she’s a marvel.

It’s great to see in support Rosie Perez who, if you haven’t seen her Oscar nominated turn in Fearless (1993), is a bona fide fantabulous actor. It’s just a shame there isn’t more of her here.

Also worth noting is the production design and set dressing. From the Chinese takeaway, Harley’s slightly messy, pink apartment with a pet hyena and a stuffed beaver wearing a tutu to the climactic to the abandoned funfair (which still happens to have fully working electricity), the look of the movie is impressive throughout.

For more see the official Warner Bros. webpage.

Cast & credits

Director: Cathy Yan. 1hr 49mins/109 mins. Clubhouse Pictures (II)/DC Entertainment/Kroll & Co. Entertainment/LuckyChap Entertainment/Warner Bros. (15).

Producers: Sue Kroll, Margot Robbie, Bryan Unkeless.
Writer: Christina Hodson.
Camera: Matthew Libatique.
Music: Daniel Pemberton.
Sets: K.K. Barrett.

Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina, Ali Wong, David Ury.


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