Friday, March 5, 2021

Movie with Abe: Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey
Directed by Cathy Yan
Released February 7, 2020

Box office successes and popular franchises inevitably spawn sequels, and there are characters who have been born and reborn many times even throughout the considerably short history of cinema. That’s even truer for comic book movies, which adapt beloved characters for their fans and introduce an entirely new audience unfamiliar with them to a broad universe of seemingly infinite scope. It’s a rare pleasure to find a sequel or spin-off that’s actually superior to its original, taking a new approach with a refreshingly creative eye to preexisting material. This film may be wild and unhinged at times, but it has a fantastic individuality and spirit that make it a captivating and highly entertaining viewing experience.

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has broken up with the Joker, and she isn’t doing all that well, but because everyone believes they are still together, she’s considered untouchable. That all changes when she decides to make the separation official and public, putting her in the crosshairs of the very motivated Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). It’s not long before every criminal in town is after her, and her only way out is to work for violent crime boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) to go after Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a pickpocket who has taken something of great value. Also on the hunt to protect Cassandra are the crossbow-wielding Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Roman’s newly-hired driver, Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett).

Though it takes some time to get there, this film presents a ragtag team of women who have all been told by the men in their lives that they’re not as competent as them when that’s anything but the case. All five of the featured females are spectacularly skilled, and they seem to gain extra delight from showing doubting males just how wrong they were to misjudge them. It’s fun to see them come together and realize that, though they have very different motivations and interests, they make a remarkable team, one that’s uniquely qualified to clean up the trash that plagues Gotham, starting with the vicious and tyrannical Roman.

Robbie is the lone returning cast member from “Suicide Squad,” the film that technically precedes this one, and she’s having an absolute blast dialing up the excess and relishing the chance to fully steer the film’s narration. Perez and Smollett are both fantastic, and Winstead finds a particularly terrific opportunity for comedy as a vigilante trying to make her mark but still working on her presentation. Basco is a great find too, while McGregor is enjoying chewing as much scenery as possible in an overstated role this film, and Chris Messina is playing against type as a hateful henchman. This film, which appears on the Oscar shortlists for makeup and hairstyling and visual effects, won’t be for everyone but it is fresh, vibrant, and hard to ignore, making a great case for the return of these characters in any number of sequels.


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