Can’t beat a classic Harley

Mick Ferris

BIRDS OF PREY (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) (15, 109 Minutes)

Newly Oscar-nominated Margot Robbie returns in mighty form to the DC universe, though which one is uncertain, in Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).

After the events of loose predecessors, mischief maker Harley Quinn is ‘dumped’ by the villainous Joker and left to fend for herself.

After a period of grieving, crying in her apartment above a Chinese takeaway and using drawings of Mr. J (not the unpopular Leto incarnation – let’s not go there) as a dartboard, she decides to make a name for herself.

But her pursuit of independence collides with three women with a problem on their hands – screeching singer Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), the orphaned Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and heavy drinker Detective Montoya (Rosie Perez) – all attempting to protect young thief Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from ruthless egomaniac Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).

Take the film for what it is, a female-led comic book flick, and you’ll be very impressed by what you see. It’s exciting action with wicked laughs throughout. More importantly, the script seems to work really well with its comedy and those marks aren’t solely hit by the supernaturally talented Robbie, but the cast and ensemble.

But while the chemistry between the leads is crystal clear, it’s Robbie who holds undeniable supremacy over the laughs, gasps and wows. Her presence and power over the narrative, particularly the fourth wall breaks, are pulled off perfectly.

Filling the expensive shoes of the antagonist is Ewan McGregor in a bubbly, at times quirky and at other times totally psychotic turn as ‘Black Mask’. Better I don’t disclose why he’s called that; it will surely take the surprise away.

He’s awfully good, strutting around with the flamboyance of Freddie Mercury and the venom of Ted Bundy as he has his goons carve faces off and viciously humiliate anyone that looks at him funny.

If you were to turn a crossbow on me and demand a bit of criticism, it would have to lean towards the film’s place in DC’s big wide world. We’ve been through some disappointing years of Affleck’s Batman sounding like a drunk Cyberman, Michael Shannon screaming and Jared Leto going method as Eminem, but now we’re at a stage where the films are finally starting to gain recognition – Joker, though standalone, is an awards favourite, Gal Gadot has stunned as Wonder Woman and Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman is held with high regard.

Now, the studio has seemingly decided to throw the past eight years’ worth of work into a bonfire and reboot Batman with a stellar cast of Robert Pattinson, Andy Serkis and Colin Farrell. There’s even going to be a soft reboot of Suicide Squad to be directed by James Gunn, with Robbie returning to the role she’s proudly claimed as her own.

Perhaps the new message in all these rehashes and side-stories is that we shouldn’t take the franchise so seriously and just sit back for the fun of it.

If Birds of Prey is the appetizer in Warner Bros’ fresh feast, it certainly goes down a treat.

RATING: 7/10

Mick Ferris

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