Reprising her role as Harleen Quinzel, better known as Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie leads a predominantly female cast in the latest installment in the DC Extended Universe. ‘Birds of Prey’ is a spin-off to David Ayer’s critically panned ‘Suicide Squad’ focusing most of its attention on Harley Quinn and the mayhem that ensues after her and the Joker part ways.
Director Cathy Yan and writer Christina Hodson do a tremendous job of embracing this film’s predecessor instead of being embarrassed by it. You could have forgiven the film-makers for attempting to ignore ‘Suicide Squad’ entirely however instead this spin-off has the confidence to use it to its advantage, including playful nods and using it for the purpose of context on more than one occasion. This is a very skilled and measured approach, one that effectively takes whatever good that could be salvaged from that film and builds something much more coherent and of a remarkably higher quality. A major element that ‘Birds of Prey’ gets right that ‘Suicide Squad’ got wrong is the use of its soundtrack. Here we’re treated to a Guitar Hero style collection of hits that work for the scenes they accompany, it creates a consistent sound for the film and one that never feels forced or shoehorned in. These toe-tapping tunes are well placed and precisely what the film needs to keep its pace.
In a rarity for a film finding itself in the comic book movie genre, ‘Birds of Prey’ has a relatively conservative running time. This makes for a refreshing change and it really benefits the film. However, whilst the film definitely quits while it’s ahead it does encounter some minor issues when it initially tries to put together all of its narrative pieces. Harley Quinn’s narration that takes place throughout the film coupled with the constant non-linear storytelling and introductions of new characters at times runs the risk of becoming tiresome. Thankfully the talents of the ensemble cast largely keeps this issue at bay, with a strong performance as a whole.
Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn was one of the best things about ‘Suicide Squad’ and she proves here that she’s more than capable of leading a film as the crazed criminal herself. New cast members Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez and Ella Jay Basco all really impress and share an effortless chemistry from the get go. Mary Elizabeth Winstead completes the main cast, also giving a good performance, bringing with her some of the most effective comedy the film has to offer. Providing the villainous presence on screen here is Ewan McGregor as Black Mask and Chris Messina as his right hand man Victor Zsasz. McGregor delivers an eccentric performance which achieves mixed results, however he’s convincing when he really needs to be and always remains a very watchable villian. Messina almost steals the spotlight from him though as his more restrained henchman, evoking a mysterious intrigue about him and his relationship with McGregor’s central villian. They certainly make for an engaging bad guy bromance, providing the nessecary antagonists needed to take the story to its fun finale.
Upon reaching this finale any issues that were present earlier feel firmly faded now. Yan’s direction, Hodson’s writing and the entertaining performances of the cast ensure that DC’s more positive run of films since ‘Justice League’ continues and with a new addition to join the highlights of their Extended Universe to date.
Written by Hamish Calvert
STAR RATING –★★★★
Question: Who is your favourite female comic book character?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
Thanks for reading this review and please let us know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.
Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access