With dull, failed reboots like Men in Black and Hellboy, and heinous franchise finales like Rise of Skywalker and Dark Phoenix, 2019 was a bad year for blockbusters. Thankfully, 2020 seems to be here to set it right. After the surprisingly good Bad Boys for Life, here comes Birds of Prey, laying down a hugely impressive gauntlet for the rest of the year’s comic book movies.
We’re reintroduced to Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) just as she’s broken up with Joker, a double-edged sword that has granted her a new lease on life, but also has plenty of people gunning for her after losing his protection. So begins a rather complicated plot that brings together Harley, the crossbow-wielding Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), superpowered chanteuse Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and tough cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), to save a young girl from psychotic gang lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).
Birds of Prey is Robbie’s show, and she puts in a great, funny performance with a lot more depth than she was afforded in Suicide Squad, walking the fine Harley Quinn line between horrible and lovable. The cast is strong across the board, though no one is having quite as good a time as McGregor, who’s an obscenely entertaining explosion of camp menace and spoilt rich-kid affects.
Director Cathy Yan makes the leap up from indies to superheroics with exceptional skill. Though there is an over-reliance on the bombastic soundtrack to keep the pace and emotions up, Yan’s structural and visual tricks mostly speak for themselves, and the action scenes really sing.
Bones crunch and blood flies in brilliantly choreographed, long-take fights that take more than a few cues from John Wick – the best superhero action this side of Civil War’s airport brawl. Birds of Prey has ambition and style to spare.
CAST: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ewan McGregor
DIRECTOR: Cathy Yan
WRITER: Christina Hodson
SYNOPSIS: 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.