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Film Review: Birds of Prey

10 February 20 words: George White

Four years after the flop of Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn gets another chance to make an impression on the big screen... 

Director: Cathy Yan
Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Running Time109 minutes 

The DC Extended Universe has produced some less-than-incredible movies in recent years, and an underwhelming opening weekend seemed to suggest that Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn could prove another addition to its list of flops. Yet those worried that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, universally regarded as the one positive to come out of 2016 horror show Suicide Squad, has been let down once again need not fear. This is the DCEU’s coolest, most action-packed film yet.

Major credit for the film’s success goes to the fantastic (or fantabulous, if you will) work of one Cathy Yan. The relatively inexperienced Yan produces a vibrant, stylish and impeccably engaging comic book flick that plays with the rules of movie-making in incredibly satisfying ways. Whether it be through Robbie’s breaking of the fourth-wall, the use of graffitied graphics to introduce each of Quinn’s nemeses or the uniquely absurd - but super effective - narrative structure, this movie has fun in its approach to storytelling.

The movie’s R-rating helps it to thrive, allowing its characters to indulge in bloody moments of violence in impressively imaginative ways

Yan also combines with stunt coordinator Jonathan Eusebio and fight choreographer Jon Valera to inject a constant stream of pulse-racing action into the film. The influence of Eusebio and Valera, who produced an abundance of memorable fight scenes in the John Wick series, is clear to see; the inventiveness of their work supplies the best action in a comic book flick since Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The movie’s R-rating helps it to thrive, allowing its characters to indulge in bloody moments of violence in impressively imaginative ways, combining the brutality of John Wick with the playful energy of films like Kingsman: The Secret Service

Margot Robbie is, unsurprisingly, fantastic as Harley Quinn, playing the character with charming craziness and embracing the absurdity of the role to full effect - but she is not the only notable performer. Ewan McGregor is unsettlingly charismatic as the main antagonist, Roman Sionis, blending a sense of mischief with outright malevolence to add more depth to a character which could have easily felt one-dimensional. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is superb as the understated and ice-cool Dinah Lance. And Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the film’s hidden gem, stealing every scene as The Huntress with her nonchalant attitude and ability to deliver dialogue with brilliant comedic timing. 

As is often the case with DCEU productions, the film’s weakest element is its dialogue. While admittedly supplying a solid set of laughs throughout the movie, there are certain interactions that feel overly-Hollywoodised, failing to avoid the kind of cringeworthy moments that have plagued the studio’s output in recent years. 

That said, this film is hardly aiming for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards - this is solely focused on having fun, and it delivers. Through its ridiculously exciting action, delightfully stylish direction and fantastic performances from the entire cast, Birds of Prey provides one of the most enjoyable comic book movies in recent years - and perhaps the DCEU’s most entertaining yet. 

Did you know? Kristen Stewart was the studio's main choice for the role of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl before the character was cut from the script.

Birds of Prey is now in cinemas

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