Director: Cathy Yan
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Release Date: May 12, 2020
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 7/10
Disc Rating: 9/10
When Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz (Chris Messina), put a target on a young girl named Cass (Ella Jay Basco), the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley (Margot Robbie), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez)’s paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.
Please Note: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Post. The opinions I share are my own.
‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ joins Harley Quinn (Robbie) after breaking up with The Joker, struggling to find her own place in Gotham and not quite aware of just how many people want to see her dead and won’t hesitate to try without Joker protecting her. At least not until she blows up the chemical plant that served as a key factor in their relationship which also indirectly sent a message to the whole city that she’s now fair game. As she tries to deal with her sorrow and the various attacks on her life, her path intertwines with other powerful women across town including a talented singer, a dedicated cop, a thief and a woman out for vengeance. The one thing they all have in common being their desire to take down the sadistic Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask (McGregor) who has claimed a dangerous amount of territory and reputation in the city and wronged each of them in one way or another.
Directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) from a screenplay written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee), Yan does a great job altogether at the helm of ‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ smoothly guiding along the fast paced and brightly colored fun and craziness throughout. The film also benefits significantly from a talented and well selected cast that includes Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Gemini Man), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (TV’s True Blood), Rosie Perez (TV’s Rise), Chris Messina (Live by Night) and Ewan McGregor (Doctor Sleep) along with more, the majority each offering solid and quite fitting performances for the most part in their respective roles.
‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ is a funny, fast paced and vividly colorful DC film with some quite graphic violent content throughout (although usually approached in a more comedic tone) that dives into some of the more sadistic characters populating Gotham city, along with a good few that seem more stuck or uncertain in their roles than downright evil. It offers a fresh new take (and perspective) on the property, putting its focus on Harley herself and accompanying her through a mess of attempted assassinations, dangerous scenarios and more as she fights to establish her own place in the crime-ridden streets of Gotham following her breakup with the Joker. The heavy focus on Harley does result in significantly less time and focus allotted to the other characters that would make up the Birds of Prey team, instead keeping them largely relegated to background roles in favor of Quinn who is undeniably (and unsurprisingly) the key focus here.
‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ may not be my personal favorite among the DC films in recent memory and it’s certainly not a perfect movie (although did we really expect it to be a top Oscar candidate?), yet it’s to be applauded for making such a darkly twisted world and batch of characters fun and humorous without detracting from their sadistic nature, among other reasons and it’s certainly a fun ride that won’t have any trouble holding your attention. I would still strongly encourage the DC fans along with anyone interested in this particular film to try and find the time to give this one a chance in order to make up your own mind. It doesn’t require any real knowledge or familiarity with the previous films in the DCEU (such as ‘Suicide Squad’) in order to follow the story which keeps things mostly self-contained to this film. Yet, at the same time it sprinkles in some brief and amusing nods and Easter eggs throughout that’ll be noticeable to those who have been following the recent DC films.
Overall, ‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ is a violent, humorous and visually gorgeous adventure from the DC Comics world that serves up an enjoyable tale that isn’t afraid to get a bit graphic on occasion yet delivers the more violent elements with a comic-like nature that keeps them from ever feeling overly unsettling. Guided along with a colorful and fittingly tongue-in-cheek tone by director Cathy Yan and notably boosted by an energetic and mostly spot-on performance by Robbie who once again does a fantastic job in Harley’s shoes and brings a splendidly over the top aura that fits the DC character beautifully, it comes together into a fun, funny and violent ride through the underworld of Gotham that’s worth taking. ‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ is recommended for DC fans in general, along with anyone looking forward to this film in particular but hasn’t yet had the opportunity to check it out.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation with the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks great altogether and offers a clean, smooth and vividly colorful presentation from start to finish that captures the film’s colorful, comic-like qualities beautifully. It also holds up impressively during the various fast moving, darkly lit and heavily populated moments, never allowing anything onscreen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible along the way. Overall, this is a wonderful high definition video presentation from Warner Bros. that should more than satisfy first time viewers as well as fans.
The Blu-ray release features a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack. Please note that this review pertains solely to the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio presentation. This multichannel soundtrack delivers a clean, crisp and fairly active audio presentation throughout that contributes plenty of extra fun to this violent and humorous ride. It repeatedly takes advantage of all seven available channels in order to send music, bullets, vehicles and bits of crowd chatter, along with plenty more whipping throughout the various speakers quite regularly, and never resulting in any dialogue or other audio elements that may be occurring simultaneously becoming distorted or rendered inaudible in the process. Overall, this is a magnificent Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) soundtrack that delivers across the board and shouldn’t disappoint in the slightest.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’ includes an impressive collection of bonus content that fans of the movie should thoroughly appreciate. Included on the release is the option to watch the film itself in ‘Birds Eye View Mode’ which features pop-ups appearing throughout the film that include interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus fun trivia facts, behind the scenes content and more, altogether offering a deeper look into the film’s creation. The release also includes a ‘Gag Reel’ (running approximately 2 minutes in length) and a collection of Behind the Scenes Featurettes including ‘Birds of Prey: Birds of a Feather’ (running approximately 8 minutes), ‘Romanesque’ (approximately 5 minutes), ‘A Love, Skate Relationship’ (4 minutes), ‘Grime and Crime’ (10 minutes), ‘Sanity Is Sooo Last Season’ (7 minutes) and ‘Wild Nerds’ (6 minutes).