Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a 2020 superhero film directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs). It’s based on the DC Comics team Birds of Prey created by Jordan B. Gorfinkel & Chuck Dixon. In 2002, DC produced a Birds of Prey television show that only lasted for one season. It was written & produced by Christina Hodson (Batgirl, The Flash, Bumblebee, & Shut In). It was produced by Margot Robbie (Terminal, Dollface, Gotham City Sirens, Barbie, & Tank Girl). David Ayer (Training Day, Harsh Times, Fury, End of Watch, & Bright), & Bryan Unkeless (The Hunger Games franchise, Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Bright, & I, Tonya) for LuckyChap Entertainment & DC Comics. Sam Rockwell was the original choice for Black Mask but he turned down the project. The Penguin was supposed to be in the film but got removed after being announced for the upcoming The Batman film. Founding member Barbara Gordon was removed due her own solo film Batgirl being in development. The budget was at an estimated $100 million & it grossed $201.9 million worldwide at the box office!!!!
After the Enchantress’ defeat, the Joker breaks up with Harley Quinn (played by: Margot Robbie from Suicide Squad, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, The Wolf of Wall Street, & Bombshell) throwing her out on the Gotham City streets. She is taken in by Doc (played by” Dana Lee from Rambo: First Blood Part II, Return of the Living Dead III, Lethal Weapon 4, & Pineapple Express), the owner of a Taiwanese restaurant & recovers from her relationship through various new changes in her life. Harley gets drunk at a nightclub owned by the ruthless crime lord named Roman Sionis (played by: Ewan McGregor from the Star Wars franchise, Fargo, Doctor Sleep, & Shallow Grave) & cripples his driver (played by: Daniel Bernhardt from John Wick, The Matrix Reloaded, Mortal Kombat: Conquest, & the Bloodsport franchise) after said driver insults her. She meets burlesque singer Dinah Lance (played by: Jurnee Smollett-Bell from Lovecraft Country, Underground, True Blood, & Hands of Stone), who later rescues an intoxicated Harley from an attempted abduction. Sionis is impressed by Dinah’s skills & appoints her as his new driver. The next night, Harley blows up the Ace Chemicals plant as a way to publicly announce her & Joker’s breakup. Meanwhile, GCPD Detective Renee Montoya (played by: Rosie Perez from The Dead Don’t Die, White Men Can’t Jump, Pineapple Express, & Dance with the Devil) investigates a series of mob killings carried out by a crossbow-wielding vigilante.
Finding Harley’s necklace at the scene of the Ace Chemicals explosion, Montoya notes that Harley is in danger without the Joker’s protection. Sionis sends Dinah & his sadistic right-hand-man Victor Zsasz (played by: Chris Messina from Argo, Devil, Sharp Objects, & Damages) to retrieve a diamond embedded with the account numbers to the Bertinelli crime family fortune who were massacred years ago. Young pickpocket Cassandra “Cass” Cain (played by: Ella Jay Basco from Grey’s Anatomy & Veep) steals the diamond from Zsasz & swallows it after she is arrested. As Sionis prepares to have Harley killed, she offers to recover the diamond for him. Sionis agrees but also places a bounty on Cassandra. Breaking into the GCPD with a variety of firework-inspired non-lethal grenade launcher rounds, Harley frees Cassandra & the pair escape. Doc is approached for information by the “crossbow killer”, who is revealed to be Helena Bertinelli (played by: Mary Elizabeth Winstead from The Thing, Grindhouse, Black Christmas, & Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). Having survived her family’s massacre & becoming trained as an assassin. Helena has been targeting each of the gangsters responsible for her family’s murders, preferring the moniker of “The Huntress”. Harley calls Sionis & offers to turn Cassandra over in exchange for his protection at an abandoned amusement park. All hell breaks loose & betrayal is revealed. A devastated Sionis dons his ritualistic mask from which he gets his villainous nickname “Black Mask”. Sionis has arrived with a small army of masked criminals known collectively as the False Face Society & they surround the girls. The group of misfits established a team of vigilantes called the Birds of Prey. They have a work together & battle for their lives now. A new force in Gotham is created, who will win this war????
Birds of Prey is more of a Harley Quinn film than anything so don’t get too excited if you are expecting a full on Birds of Prey feature. It does happen towards the the end but it takes awhile for each character to get together besides small interactions during it. I am actually one of the rare ones that enjoyed Suicide Squad but this one was much better plus it wasn’t watered down like the other was. I know superhero or supervillain films are generally PG-13 but some of them need to be R so it fits their natural habitat. Margot Robbie had all kinds of powers when it came to this production, she picked out all the main creative force behind it & some of the top featured cast for it. I do realize this movie & Birds of Prey is about bad ass women but it doesn’t mean that they have to be only source when it comes to the overall creative process because I honestly think it hurt the final outcome for it. It needed something else but I still thought it was lots of fun & it very entertaining for what it was. Margot Robbie is amazing as Harley Quinn & she definitely felt more conformable in the iconic role compared to her earlier portrayal in Suicide Squad. Birds of Prey was tailored around the actress & she shines in it.
Ewan McGregor is easily the best thing about this feature. His performance was perfect in this & he makes Roman “Black Mask” Sionis one of the greatest DC Comics cinematic villains of all time. I hope they somehow use him in other projects in the future because he stole every scene that he was in. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was awesome fit for The Huntress character & it was nice to see her get a bad ass role like this. She is highly under-rated & one of my favorite actresses around. Rosie Perez & Jurnee Smollett-Bell were both nice additions to the Birds of Prey universe. This had some excellent eye candy from the leading ladies. Victor Zsasz & Cassandra Cain were terribly miscast for this feature. Both characters deserved better for their on screen debuts. Chris Messina was decent but that role could have been so much better with someone else playing it. The script was solid but it was all over the place at times because they tried to do mini stories for a variety of characters in under two hours. This was much more brutal & violent than expected so I was really impressed with that. It had all kinds of action also. I thought the soundtrack was very hit or miss here. It had some great stuff at times but it has a decent amount of material that didn’t even fit the film so it felt very random. It’s great to see more Rated R superhero films being produced, I hope more get made in the future. This was a step above Suicide Squad & it had a top notch villain, RECOMMENDED!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Warner Bros! This 2160p (2.39:1) transfer with Dolby Vision & HDR10 is very stylized. The cinematography & Gotham locations especially The Funhouse finale look amazing here. It really stands out on 4K & it’s one of the best looking releases from 2020 so far. I reviewed both versions & this is a huge upgrade compared to that. It’s loaded with a variety of audio options which includes English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1, Czech: Dolby Digital 5.1, Hindi: Dolby Digital 5.1, Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1, & English: Dolby Digital 5.1 on the release. Birds of Prey really shines when it comes to audio on this disc. It’s a nice one to test out your home set up on. All the dialogue is crystal clear, the madness here has a killer boost, & the music is elevated. The soundtrack pounds in your speakers during key moments. It also has English SDH, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Czech, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Mandarin, Polish, & Spanish subtitles. Just a quick note, this UHD disc has a few more options when it comes to audio & subtitles compared to the other versions. Both picture & sound are very impressive on this release!!!!
Let’s discuss the special features from Warner Bros! “Birds Eye View Mode” runs through the whole feature. It has interviews with the major cast & crew members. It has various facts & trivia about the film here. It has lots of behind the scenes footage plus comic strips. It covers all the basics from the production like casting, special fx, & the production design. It actually has exclusive stuff that’s not re-used on the other extras which is very refreshing. It’s nice alternative option to watch the film again. The rest of the extras are located on the blu ray disc. “Birds of Prey: Birds of a Feather” is a little over 8 minutes. It has interviews with director Cathy Yen, writer Christina Hodson, producer Sue Kroll, actors Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, lead actress Margot Robbie & various members of the crew. Robbie says it was easy to get back into this Harley Quinn role. They all chat about Margot Robbie being the creative force behind this project. They talk about her working on for for years & recruiting them for it. They bring up how they got involved. They go over the look of the film. They mention the different fighting styles between the main characters. They focus on the stunts for it. “Romanesque” is almost 5 minutes. It has interviews with director Cathy Yen, writer Christina Hodson, producer Sue Kroll, actors Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, & Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This one focuses on my favorite character & the villain of the feature. They chat about taking stuff from the comics but giving it their own spin. They talk about Romain’s crazy personality & how he is very similar to Harley Quinn. They praise Ewan’s performance & go over Black Mask’s locations from the movie. “A Love/Skate Relationship” is a little over 4 minute interview with stunt & technical advisor Rachel Rotten plus a few others. They chat about wanting to add the roller derby moments from the comics. They talk about working with the skates & the professionals from the community. They bring up the action & stunts done using them for this. “Grime and Crime” is almost 11 minute interview with production designer K.K. Barrett plus a few others. They praise Barrett’s work on the production. It goes over the production design for Birds of Prey. It mainly focuses on the finale with The Funhouse. “Sanity is Sooo Last Season” is an almost 8 minute interview with costume designer Erin Benach plus a few others. They go over all the different looks & consume designs for the film. They focus on all the main characters & what makes them stand out. “Wild Nerds” is a little over 6 minute interview with visual fx supervisor Greg Steele plus a few others. They focus & go over the various visual fx for the film. It shows the action scenes they inserted them in. They talk about Bruce the hyena which was actually played by a giant German Shepard on set because real hyenas are too dangerous. It shows some before & after shots for it. They bring up Black Canary’s powers & The Funhouse end sequence. A little over 2 minute Gag Reel featuring goofs & hilarious moments on the set. It also has a slipcover, a digital code, & a blu ray copy of the release. It was released on blu ray & DVD also with a variety of store exclusives. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!