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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

February 6th, 2020 by Marc Comments

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (15)
Run time: 1h 49min 
Directed by:  Cathy Yan
Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead & Ewan McGregor

After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord.

So, here we have it, the latest in DC’s attempt to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.

You can almost hear the suits at Warner Bros squabbling with each other after the sheer mess that was Suicide Squad and feverishly salvaging the parts of that movie that worked.

While Jared Leto’s clown prince (gangster?) of crime has been given the boot, one particular diamond in the rough was Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, who rightly so, gets a full movie to stand in the spotlight.

And does she shine? It’s like watching a neon firework explosion – fun, exciting, beautiful, but all style and little substance. Perhaps taking inspiration from Mistah J’s rebooted solo outing last year, this movie feels much smaller than its bombastic predecessors and is all the better for it. Gone are the apocalyptic battles with nauseating supernatural monsters, instead Birds of Prey acts more like a romantic comedy where a recent break-up brings all the ladies together to have a fun night on the town.

And violence.

Lots and lots of violence.

So much so, that what little plot there is gets overshadowed with the kooky antics of Quinn and the gang as the script races to put them into more and more outlandish and wacky situations instead of putting them in focus. Who cares about character development when you have Harley besieging a police station with a glitter cannon or chasing a car full of villains while wearing roller skates or accidentally taking drugs during a shoot out?

Of course Harley comes complete with a fully fleshed-out backstory, told beautifully in animated form as the opening credits play out but as a result the rest of the birds are kicked from the nest and expected to fly.

Badass detective Renee Montoya is just a down-on-her-luck cop; sharp shooter Huntress is out for blood for reasons explained away by a sneeze-and-you’ll-miss-it line of dialogue, while nightclub singer Black Canary is given little to tweet about.

Likewise the villains suffer too, Ewan McGregor turns the terror – as well as the camp – up to 11 as Black Mask, but most of his scenes are just him sitting in the same small sets screaming bloody murder and exacting brutal vengeance on those who cross him, however the Birds of Prey get little to say as they barely cross paths.

Even one of DC’s premiere bad guys, Victor Zsasz, becomes a mere footnote in the proceedings.

Don’t let the title fool you – this is a Harley Quinn movie, everyone else just happens to be there.

Fortunately with its under two-hour runtime, the movie zips along at a fast pace but can often be quite off-putting with its unusual structure. Harley immediately slips into the role of a Deadpool-esque fourth wall breaking unreliable narrator, meaning stories are told out of order, or parallel, with Quinn even rewinding the movie due to forgetting some details. However the biggest cause of its snappy pacing is the plot, or lack thereof.

It’s just another day in the manic life of the Joker’s former squeeze, where even the simplest of actions have extremely drastic consequences leading to action scene after action scene with the occasional break to search for an actual storyline.

Saying that, the action sequences are handled very well, and are not the standard comic book messy CGI mash-ups which would feel out of place for a movie on such a small scale.

It also manages to inject some much needed humour into the DCEU, which will no doubt have the crowds roaring with laughter during big fight scenes, only this time it was intentional. A particular highlight involves a frenetic battle at a funhouse, with Harley and the crew taking full advantage of their surroundings to win the day.

Being set in the same universe as Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, it eschews the overblown traits of those movies to deliver something enjoyable and fun to watch, but you’ll struggle to remember it a day after leaving the cinema.

Overall, Birds of Prey is nothing more than a romp of a movie; It’s funny, it waves its feminism flag with pride, and it’s packed with enough exciting action to satisfy long-time fans of the character.

What is for certain is that Harley should have demanded emancipation long ago. Uncaged and given free reign, Margot Robbie delivers a stellar performance that saves an otherwise average film, populated by hollow characters, confusing editing and a very simplified plot.

3 out of 5 nerds

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….