Ewan McGregor

REVIEW: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

After splitting up from the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is pulled into the hunt for street thief Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) by crime boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) where she crosses paths with club singer Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), assassin Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez).

First of all, the rather long title of Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is misleading. This film really should be called Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey because it’s Harley’s movie first, and a Birds of Prey introduction second. So, adjust your expectations over who is more likely to get the most screen time here.

On to the film itself. Birds of Prey is a lot of fun. It does take a while to find its groove and that’s down to the multiple flashbacks that often grind the flow of the film to a halt, especially towards the beginning when you just want to follow these characters who all seem so interesting. Birds of Prey is a story told from Harley Quinn’s point of view, she narrates the story and interrupts herself now and then when she realises she’s skipped a bit. The narrative is often as chaotic and fractured as Harley’s mind which is equal parts interesting and jarring.

The start of Birds of Prey is more of a character study of Harley. She and the Joker have broken up and she’s struggling to get over him and find her who she is when she’s not tied to him. With all the gangsters, criminals and cops out to get her now she’s no longer under the Joker’s protection, Harley must think quick on her feet. It turns out that Harley isn’t as defenceless and as in need of protection as a lot of people think, of if she does need or want help, it’s not going to be from the men who seek to control her. Margot Robbie’s Harley has so many layers and insecurities and strengths and it’s refreshing to see a character like her work through the pain of a breakup and find an inner resolve.

The five main female characters cross each other’s paths in different combinations throughout the film which is great as you get to see different aspects of their personality depending on who they’re with. But it’s in the final act when they finally all come together to take down the bad guys that the film really clicks. It’s an absolute joy to watch them all fight side by side, have banter in between punches and generally compliment and encourage each other at any chance they get.

The fight choreography is brilliant as each character’s fighting style suits their character and no woman fights the same. Harley’s incorporates gymnastic elements, Huntress’s is clean and precise after so many years relentlessly training, while Renee’s is more like a bruiser, throwing punches and is far from elegant. The fight sequences are also fun and innovative with the soundtrack (which is full of absolute tunes) complimenting the action on screen.

While there’s a lot of bad guys for the leading ladies to overcome, the main threat to them all is Roma Sionis. He is volatile, menacing and dramatic. He’s the sort of character you never quite know what he’s going to do next and McGregor gives a great performance. Sionis’ right hand man is Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) and their relationship comes across as queer coded and there’s often shifts in power dynamics between the two of them which is as fascinating as it is unnerving.

Birds of Prey is a bit shaky at times, but the characters and the action pull everything together. It’s a bright, psychedelic fairground of a film with paint bombs and glitter and it suits these characters perfectly. 4/5.

REVIEW: Jane Got a Gun (2015)

When her husband Hammond (Noah Emmerich) ends up on the wrong side of John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his men, Jane (Natalie Portman) turns to her former fiancée Dan (Joel Edgerton) to help her defend her family and her home.

I always enjoy watching newer Westerns. It’s a genre that had its heyday between the 1930’s-1960’s and its archetypal characters and stories have in many ways, become the blueprint for a lot of modern western films. Jane Got a Gun puts a woman front and centre, showing both Jane’s trauma and strength as she fights for her loved ones.

Through a series of flashbacks throughout the film you learn more about Jane and her relationships with both Hammond and Dan and see how the three of them have ended up in the situation they’re in. these flashbacks add a lot to the characters but often it feels like it’s just filling time as Jane and Dan prepare for battle. When there is the battle, it’s like a home-invasion thriller. It’s tense and exciting, though it doesn’t show off all the groundwork Jane and Dan put in to its full potential.

Portman gives a dedicated performance, fully embodying the grief, fear and determination Jane has in the face of a much larger and stronger enemy than herself. It’s a pity then that Bishop feels more akin to a pantomime villain, twirling his moustache, than a fleshed-out antagonist.

Jane Got a Gun is a decent addition to the Western genre. It doesn’t really do anything new or ground-breaking, but Portman’s performance and the relationship between Jane and Jan offers a compelling heart to this otherwise typical genre film. 3/5.