Carl checked out ‘Birds Of Prey‘ and found a kick-ass rollercoaster ride that flies but doesn’t soar!
Anyone reading the subtitle for this review would think that ‘Birds Of Prey‘ is a bad film. Let me tell you now that it most certainly is not. Far from it. It is a terrific, fun-filled rollercoaster ride of mayhem from the start. At times hilariously funny, others slightly downbeat but never boring, the film is a violent, foul-mouthed and at times, gory comic-book movie. But it is far removed from the other adult aimed DC movie ‘Joker‘. That film you can see winning Oscars at this Sunday’s ceremony, ‘Birds Of Prey‘ however, never in a million years. But that is part of its charm. It never hides from what it is. It never pretends to be high art. What it is, frankly, is a comic-book brought to life. Full of neon colours and using a bright palette almost right up until the climax, where the film does the best thing it can and goes dark and Gothic, like a Batman film. It’s this contrast that makes the film the success it will obviously be.
Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) | Warner Bros. Pictures
As the film starts, we are instantly dragged into the world and life of Harley Quinn. Via an animated recap of her life, until she met, fell in love with and allowed herself to be thrown into that vat of chemicals by the Joker, we learn of her story and how she became who she is today, this very moment where we encounter her once again. Margot Robbie once again dances across the screen as our favourite circus acrobat, all sass and swagger. She’s Harley Quinn, the girlfriend of the Joker, you can’t touch her or you’ll end up having to answer to ‘Mistah J’. She literally can get away with murder. The only trouble is, she and The Joker are no longer together. Her shield of protection is gone. She’s now very, VERY vulnerable and exposed. Anyone who she’s ever hurt or betrayed or has a beef with her, in general, can now touch her without reprisal. It’s open season on her and the hunters are gathering to hunt her down. But of course, in true Harley style, she gets out of almost every situation with barely a scratch on her.
The film is somewhat annoying in places as it pulls the old jump back to other events that happened before the film opened and contains essential plot points that the audience needs to know to understand exactly what’s going on during the film. I don’t usually have a real problem with this kind of storytelling but this film does it far too often, pulling the viewer out of one plotline and throwing them into another before dragging them back out again. While in some cases, this can work to a film’s advantage, here it looks like a bit of a mess. Yes, we do need to get the background information about the other ‘Birds Of Prey‘ and their way of becoming part of the group but the film does it far too often. Whereas the likes of ‘Pulp Fiction‘ pulled it off with magnificent style and ease, here it is simply a distraction and one that after a while becomes irritating.
Anyone who has seen the trailers can get the general plotline. A young girl, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) manages to steal a diamond from the pocket of fierce crimelord Roman Sionis (Ewan Mcgregor) main henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina)’s pocket. The diamond contains the account information of the late, murdered Bertinelli crime family. The account numbers engraved inside the diamond are worth a fortune and everyone who is anyone wants it to profit from it. Sionis has designs to become the number one gangster in Gotham, replacing the Joker and with the information engraved inside the diamond, he will become the major powerhouse in the underworld. During the back and forth with the storylines, we come to discover why Harley attacks the Police Station as hinted in the trailers. It all becomes apparent once the audience sits down and sees the film in its entirety and by the midpoint, makes sense. Getting there, however, is an enjoyable but uneven road that we must take. That’s not to say it isn’t worth it but it is confusing sometimes to be jerked out of one scenario and planted firmly in another.
Ok, let’s get the minus’ out of the way first. The main minus is what is also the film’s biggest plus point. Harley Quinn. What? I hear you gasp. Sorry but it’s true. The problem this time around is simple. In my recent article, I praised Ms Robbie for the way she played Harley in ‘Suicide Squad‘. She again plays Harley brilliantly but here lies the problem. Someone has given us THEIR version of Harley Quinn. Not the version we know and love from ‘Suicide Squad‘ but a version they have changed to fit the movie. This is someone’s idea of Harley but it has been changed since we last saw her. It is close enough for us to enjoy but there’s something not right about her this time around. Also, the film is entitled ‘Birds Of Prey‘. Ok then, why do the ‘Birds’ not flock together until the film’s climax? The film is an hour and fifty minutes long yet the females don’t mix together until twenty minutes before the film ends. They get their own individual moments, that’s to be sure, but they are thrown together for the film’s climax and suddenly are all bonding together. Hang on, were you not trying to kill each other thirty seconds ago? That was a quick turn around.
Some of the characters do mix together before the denouement of the film but having the four adult females and one child just join forces at the end and forget everything that’s happened with a click of manicured fingers is a stretch too far. And let’s get onto the strong language. Is it needed? not in the slightest. It seems that the writer, Christina Hodson was told to make the film more of an adult-themed affair and she accomplished that by bouts of serious violence and having everyone swear like a sailor in every frame of the film. Usually, it wouldn’t bother me but here, it seemed forced and thrown in to make sure the film got an adult rating. It doesn’t fit. The character’s apart from Harley and Cassandra really don’t get that much of a look in either. With the exception of Black Canary, the majority just show up out of the blue to fill a small role and then vanish again until needed again later in proceedings.
On the plus side of things, we have…Harley Quinn! Margot Robbie once again holds the screen and blows everything and everyone around her away in a blaze of glory. Yes, this isn’t the same Harley that we remember from ‘Suicide Squad‘ but it’s Harley Frickin’ Quinn regardless. Ms Robbie is absolutely fantastic as the lead character, all brass and balls. Some of the comedic scenes with her, and there are a lot, make the audience roar with laughter. Some of her comebacks to insults thrown at her are marvellous. We are left in no doubt that Harley can take care of herself and can easily get out of any situation she finds herself in with relative ease. Ms Robbie throws everything she’s got into her character portrayal and it shows. Make no mistake, this is her film from start to finish (and I do mean finish, wait until the end of the end credits, it’s not much but is one final joke that is played on the audience) and every time she’s onscreen the whole film lifts. The same can be said for Ewan Mcgregor. His villainous turn as Black Mask is perfect. The character oozes a narcissistic charm every time he appears on the screen. His performance is one to be savoured and enjoyed.
The film zips along at a brisk pace and never outstays it’s welcome either. The fight scenes are choreographed to perfection too. And fans will be thrilled to see Harley using her Wooden Mallet in one of the final battles along with her once again showing off her incredible baseball bat skills. Her Bat from ‘Suicide Squad‘ does indeed make a guest appearance but its only a token gesture. The same can be said for Harley’s ‘Daddy’s Little Monster‘ shirt, which also makes a fleeting appearance during proceedings. But the biggest thrill for comic-book fans and fans of the animated ‘Batman’ show is the debut on the silver screen of the infamous Confetti Cannon. Fans and enthusiasts will marvel at the little in-jokes and appearance of several items from the Gotham archives. The film is a comic-book fan’s dream, all bright and colourful when needed, dark and gothic at others.
If you took out the strong language, would the film still get an R rating? 100% yes. Some of the violence is much too graphic for a family audience. This is certainly what they had in mind for the film from the start. You can forget the Harley snorting cocaine furore, it isn’t much and certainly fits in with the comedic and funny tone of the film at times. But the level of the violence and in parts of the movie, the graphic nature of the injuries, makes sure the film would never get near a PG-13. This film has more in common with the ‘Deadpool‘ movies than it does with, say, ‘The Dark Knight‘ or ‘Batman Vs Superman‘, including the breaking of the fourth wall and speaking directly to the camera at times.
Although the film is a great rollercoaster ride, a kick-ass movie to immerse yourself into, it does leave the viewer wanting more. And in some part, feeling a bit empty afterwards. Though the film does fly pretty high, it’s little things that drag it down from soaring higher than it does. And that’s the shame of it. The film deserves more and so does the audience. For the most part, it’s a fun ride to be on but by the same token, it can bug the life out of you with some small quirks that get under the skin and irritate you slightly when the film is over. But thankfully, these quirks are forgotten about once you leave the theatre and digest what you have just seen. The film is a loud, violent, profanity-filled assault on the senses. And despite its fits and starts until halfway, left this reviewer with a large, clown-like grin on his face as he left the theatre after the film ended. And that’s what Harley wanted from us and that’s what Harley got.
My rating: 7/10
Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) opens around the world on February 7th.
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager and Editor-In-Chief of Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter @philthecool where he uses the force and babbles frequently!
Personal note: I would like to take this opportunity to send my sincere thanks to the team at Warner Bros. UK for their kind invitation to the “Special Screening” and to the staff at the Vue Cinema in London’s West End for their never-ending help, friendliness and support of all their guests who attend the cinema.