Birds of Prey — a film review by Gary Chew
I cycled out of my comic book phase at about 13. I did it with the radio in order to get my Superman, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Hop Harrigan: Ace of the Airways and, not to mention, Sky King fixes. Today, I notice seemingly mature folks are getting off on an unending glut of action-hero films. Most of these extraordinary saviors are totally capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Ho-hum, I say. All the CGI in the universe can’t bail out this genre for me… at my age.
Thus comes now Birds of Prey. It’s a derivative of Bat Guy and Robin, plus those assorted villains who hole-up in the darker burbs of Gotham City. Oh boy, Bat Guy was one of my favorites. How could Bruce Wayne do all that not being Clark Kent? And The Joker: surely no person could be that monstrous, unless they’ve seen Joaquin Phoenix do him.
Birds of Prey, if you didn’t know, brings forth a more derivative character from the Bat Guy epoch. Harley Quinn, she goes by, and played by the busy Margot Robbie. Ms. Quinn is known around the chiaroscuro metropolis as The Joker’s main squeeze. In a film that has as lengthy a title as any picture except for Dr. Strange Love… Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) will take your breath away just saying it.
Our action-packed story opens just after Harley has been kicked out… no joke… by The Joker. She’s on the lam like any villainous figure in Gotham. Ewan McGregor plays an even bigger crook whom the script labels as Roman Sionious (Not to be confused with the word “sinus”). Roman’s out for Harley’s backside, figuratively speaking and in a most violent, non-erotic manner. In comic book reality, Roman is The Black Mask Dude. Oooo, really bad.
Say you’ve been keeping up with this DC Comics scheme of things: certain “oh yeahs” will easily come to mind as the plot screeches by in wide-screen CGI-nish. For me though, since I’m way over the age of 13… not so much . Movie franchises demand that one lop on to every nook and cranny of these predictable fables to get the full skinny on how damn funny they can be… and ever more so violent and grisly than static color drawings on a comic page of fictional pulp. The grisliness that gives with reality-looking modern techniques of perfection, formerly known as CGI, blows Birds of Prey way too far from being a hoot movie of a fun and fight night in Gotham.
Real people being bound and strung upside down by Roman’s hoods in order to make it easier for these thugs to then slash the victims’ throats is a bit much. It is not implied but, Lawzee, just displayed . Ugh and Heavens to Betsy. What’s up? It’s neither Reservoir nor Straw Dogs.
Dare I say this action-packed smash-arse movie is a full-bore chick flick? That remark could make me the target of Ms. Quinn’s band of badass angels who do accrue as the plot propels itself to the grandiose finish. The adroit females who, in turn, show up are Rosie Perez, the lady cop; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, The Huntress (with crossbow in tow) and Black Canary, who is so adept at belting a song in Roman’s chic nightclub and chauffeuring him in his Rolls-Royce. Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s, got that role. Finally, a small but significant part the script has to intensify motivation: a pubescent female street kid named Casandra, who ought not go unheeded. Ella Jay Bosco got the nod for that job. All these gals look like they go to the gym a lot, and can lay low any male jerk who might be trying to go where the ladies don’t want him to be.
In the Not-So-Surprising category of Birds of Prey, we got ourselves the two main creators of this persistently bawdy and brawl of a flick: screenplay person, Christina Hobson and director person, Cathy Yan. Dudes! Do I make myself clear?
And to the parents: leave the kids home with the sitter. Shucks, children have plenty of violence to look “forward” to… if the fundamental message of that movie called Joker is realized by you. Some people didn’t get that work of art figured out, ya know.