FILM UNFILTERED – DC hits a high note with ‘Birds of Prey’

FILM UNFILTERED – DC hits a high note with ‘Birds of Prey’

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In the ongoing competition between Marvel and DC, Marvel has long held the upper hand in their cinematic offerings. DC has struggled to put out entertaining films, though has improved with hits like “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman.” Even last year’s “Joker” was nominated for Oscars.

The new release “Birds of Prey” focuses heavily on the Harley Quinn character that Margot Robbie has now portrayed in a few DC films, last in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” In the lore of DC Comics, she is the girlfriend of the Joker and is a psychiatrist gone bad. Most of her canonical history isn’t ignored here, there’s a quick synopsis for the unfamiliar and she is quite the character on her own.

This film sets up the scenario that the two evildoers have broken up and she is dealing with it in her own way. This consists mostly of drinking heavily and abusing anyone, especially men, that get in her way or cross her path. She soon comes to realize that she isn’t the only woman in Gotham City who has been under the thumb of a man and she sets out to make her own path. But she’s also contending with an array of others who are out to settle scores against her now that she isn’t “protected” by Mr. J.

She befriends a night club singer named Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who has her own past but has also captured the attention of aspiring crime lord Roman (Ewan McGregor). Roman is looking to usurp the (unseen) but oft-mentioned Joker and to seize control of the drug and protection racket. Mix in a sneaky young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) who swipes a sought-after diamond, a vengeful, now grown orphan named Huntress played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a dedicated but beat down police detective and you’ve got the recipe for a film filled with strong women who eventually come together on the same side, if only temporarily.

If there’s one thing that immediately struck me about “Birds of Prey” is how much it echoed “Deadpool” both in tone and structure. It is unapologetically violent in an almost gleeful way and you are going to find yourself laughing at points as she and her cohorts dispatch numerous threats.

Ewan McGregor is somewhere between outlandish and soap opera villain. He definitely comes off as enjoying this demented but well-dressed bad guy with a penchant for having his henchman disfigure his competitors. Rosie Perez, who I will always remember as Woody Harrelson’s girlfriend from “White Men Can’t Jump,” plays the disgruntled and alcoholic detective Renee Montoya.

Robbie clearly loves this role and puts her all into it. There are parts here that seem almost slapstick in nature. She revels in it and comes close to hamming it up once or twice before reeling herself in. The plot gets a little complicated once or twice as it jumps around forward and back, but it still works well. It definitely has elements of the classic “Thelma and Louise,” only here it’s four really perturbed and energetic women instead of two.

The film was written by Christina Hodson and directed by Cathy Yan and it excels at hitting some high bars for underserved female moviegoers.

The film is rated R.

DC‘s “Birds of Prey” stars, from left, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Margot Robbie, Ella Jay Bosco, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell.