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  Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn Bad Reputation
Year: 2020
Director: Cathy Yan
Stars: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Ewan McGregor, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina, Ali Wong, Steven Williams, Dana Lee, Daniel Barnhardt, François Chau, Ella Mika, Robert Catrini, Eddie Alfano, Bojana Novakovic
Genre: Comedy, Action, Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the Joker's sidekick and love interest, has finally had enough of being second best to her man, and has left him - or did he leave her? Whichever, she feels now she can make her own way in life, no matter how much her heart aches for the man she has left behind (not that she would admit this to anyone), but a supercriminal's existence is kind of pointless if she doesn't have the purpose The Clown Prince of Crime offered her. To make a cleaner break than it appears, she blows up the chemical plant where they both took a toxic bath, alerting both the authorities and the underworld that she is now alone, and that puts her in more danger than ever...

Harley Quinn was the breakout character from Suicide Squad, a little-liked but financially extremely lucrative Batman rogue's gallery team up that Robbie proceeded to walk away with as a fan favourite, especially among women and girls looking for a cheeky, subversive role model from comics that the boys had been enjoying with various superheroes for decades. Obviously, from the DC Universe Wonder Woman had been the big scorer with audiences, but seeking to revive that kind of interest with a Deadpool twist, DC and Warners commissioned Robbie to return in a hoped for trilogy of bad girl adventures. Except it did not quite turn out the way they hoped, and this flopped.

It wasn't a complete disaster, but for a movie with this degree of advertising budget, they were anticipating another blockbuster along the lines of recent hits like Aquaman, and for some reason audiences decided they had had their fill of Harley. It could have been there genuinely were people out there who enjoyed Jared Leto's interpretation of The Joker and considered this a massive "fuck you" to him, which from some angles was what it looked like, but more likely was that this did not have as strong an image this time around, with no Batman and a second-tier, newer, less classic bad guy in Ewan McGregor's petulant, brutal and oddly entitled billionaire Black Mask for Harley to beat.

The thing with Black Mask, or Roman Sionis as he was actually called, was that he looked cool on the page, but put him in a film and you would have a star asking, hey, do I have to wear this mask all the time? Why can't my fans get to see my face? Therefore McGregor only donned the headgear he got his moniker from once, and for the rest of this was left to camp it up with a nasty edge, suggesting everyone wanted a Joker stand-in instead. Chris Messina's Victor Szasz, similarly one of those edgy, twisted pieces of work from latter day Batman comics, was always going to be in the shadow of Anthony Corrigan's superb version from the Gotham TV series, and what happened to them both was an indication writer Christina Hodson was pressured to exert conventional movie morality rather than Batman rules.

But this was a female led movie, with director Cathy Yan hoping to follow in Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman footsteps, which made it intriguing she preferred to follow the cocaine chic of eighties thrillers, specifically Brian De Palma's Scarface remake: there was even a scene where Harley gets a power up boost from a cloud of coke in her nostrils. As far as that went, you were given a hyper, sickly-colourful and obnoxious reading of comic book lore that at least came across as the movie everyone wanted to make, and in those parameters it tumbled along in a watchable enough fashion. The Birds of Prey of the title were the actual heroines Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, almost stealing the show in too few scenes), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) and cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), with Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) as the Dickensian pickpocket Harley adopts for selfish motives. Whether she was emancipated was a different matter, in light of that pesky box office, but this was a fair, tacky bauble whose idea of fun was something out of a juvenile delinquent flick. Music by Daniel Pemberton.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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