By midlandsmovies, Feb 14 2020 08:42AM
Birds of Prey (2020) Dir. Cathy Yan
DC’s eighth instalment in their ever expanding ‘Extended Universe’ is released this week. Birds of Prey, or to give it it’s full mouthful of a title, Birds of Prey (and the fantabulous emancipation of one Harley Quinn), is helmed by director Cathy Yan and stars Margot Robbie in her second outing as the titular character.
After Harley’s split from the Joker leaves her vulnerable to the wrath of all of Gotham’s criminal underworld, she crosses paths with 3 other “dames looking for emancipation” in order to take down the most nefarious villain of them all, Roman Sionis (Ewan Mcgregor). Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and cliché cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) team up alongside Harley when pre-teen Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) has a contract placed on her head after pick pocketing Sionis’ prized diamond.
We are told the story in an almost Tarantino-esque non-linear fashion. The chronology of the story imitates Harley’s hyperactive mind, with her unreliable narration taking us back in time to understand the events unfolding on screen. From the get go this film just oozes fun. The colourful sets and costumes really create an atmosphere you want to be a part of, unlike the dingy, suppressed nature of Harley Quinn’s first introduction to us in Suicide Squad.
In terms of performances Margot Robbie and Ewan Mcgregor are the obvious standouts. Robbie embodies the role as if she was born to play it. Again, in comparison with Suicide Squad she has a lot more opportunity within this film to bring a more emotional depth to the character allowing the audience to gain a larger understanding of her as a person. Therefore, cementing herself as one of the most beloved anti-heroes in this generation of superhero franchises.
Ewan Mcgregor seems a world away from the last time audiences saw him in last years Doctor Sleep. Both performances brilliant but in polar opposite ways. In Doctor Sleep Mcgregor a much more serious, reserved and endearing character. Whereas in this film he grabs the over the top villain role with both hands. Sionis teeters on the edge of madness, going from 0 to 100, flamboyant to terrifying in mere seconds.
An honourable mention is deserved for Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz, Sionis’ right hand man. A character in love with violence, constantly provoking his superior to allow him to feed his desperation for it. His mannerisms and even the way he looks at other people sends chills down your spine.
Unfortunately, in terms of acting, for me, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ella Jay Basco were the clear weak links. I was surprised by Winstead, I do enjoy her performances in Scott Pilgrim Versus the World and 10 Cloverfield Lane, they prove she can hold her own alongside highly respected actors. Whether it was the script or just how she played it, her appearance as Huntress felt misjudged. The character’s dialogue always seemed forced. Continuous reference is made to the fact her character has not become akin to the tough guy persona just yet which led to quite a bit of overacting and cringe inducing lines.
Similarly with Ella Jay Basco, despite her fantastic physical acting in scenes of her pickpocketing unsuspecting people on the street, her delivery of lines just didn’t feel up to the mark. I understand that she is a young child actor but her performance lacked the spark or magic that others possessed.
Getting back to the positives of the film, the influence of John Wick director Chad Stahelski on some of the action scenes in the film was clear. An excellent choice by Birds of Prey producers to gain the help of the director of this era’s staple action franchise. Wide shots, perfect use of slow motion and practical stunts immerse the audience in each and every action sequence. Each significant character’s unique fighting style is showcased in spectacular fashion. Whether it Harley Quinn’s acrobatic flair or Huntress’ sharpshooter technique, these scenes were the most fun I had whilst watching this film.
DC seem to have finally found their rhythm in their longstanding fight against Marvel and with Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar win for his performance in Joker and the quality of this film, they may even be one step ahead right now.