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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

For the huge pile of poop that Suicide Squad was the one shining light from the film was Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Harleymania ran wild as parents across the world let their children dress up as a psychopathic domestic abuse victim. So it was of no surprise that Harley would return.

Written by Christina Hodson and directed by Cathy Yan the film starts interestingly enough as it documents what has happened to Harley since Suicide Squad and her break up from The Joker. Some humorous comments and some cool fight scenes keep them tempo flowing but something is amiss. Even as Harley walks away from an exploding ACE Chemicals in a scene that clearly was designed to parallel Heath Ledger’s Joker blowing up a hospital we get a more a vibe more reminiscent with Power Rangers than we do The Dark Knight, and that is where the problem remains with the movie.

Whilst the Harley Quinn cartoon series seems more than happy to explore all of Harley’s psychotic character traits the movie seems to want to focus on those that exhibit girl power. In fact all the characters feel restrained as if those behind the movie were more interested in selling merchandise than the movie. There are some fun moments, a highlight is Harley reflecting on modern supermarkets but film makers need to understand that getting characters to say “fuck” every five minutes does not making something edgy.

Make no mistake though, Robbie does bring the role to life and there is a lot more cinematic life in Harley Quinn yet. The rest of the gang Jurnee Smollett-Bell (as Dinah Lance/Black Canary), Ella Jay Basco (as Cassandra Cain), Rosie Perez (as Renee Montoya) all add to the dynamic of the film but it is Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Helena Bertinelli/The Huntress that is the real standout and deserves her own spin off from this. The group though interact well together and their is a chemistry present that is hopefully developed in future projects.

The villains of the movie, Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis/Black Mask and Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz are left as after thoughts. Both make the most out of what they have but are clearly set up as entitled and empowered men who are to be brought down by the Birds of Prey. McGregor’s speech before the final big battle makes that clear to anyone who may not have been following the plot.

It was nice to Steven Williams, François Chau, Charlene Amoia, and Shad Gaspard pop up through the film but it just felt that this movie was kept on a leash rather than allowed to run free. Next time you need to trust in the characters more and in those portraying them, then you might finally get that female empowerment movie Hollywood has been trying so hard to push for.

Verdict: 6/10 A superhero Spice World: The Movie that has something for everyone. Whilst it clearly hammered home that these wronged Gotham women would rise up against the Gotham men of their lives, it remains a fun action romp that fails to rise above expectations, yet remains an enjoyable ride for the most part.

 

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