Margot Robbie

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: Z for Zachariah (2015)

Ann (Margot Robbie) lives alone with her dog after a disaster that wipes out most of humanity, that is until two men, John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Caleb (Chris Pine), stumble into her safe world.

Z for Zachariah is an eerie film. You get to see how Ann lives a monotonous yet safe life while the rest of civilisation seems to have disappeared. She’s obviously strong and resourceful but she has an air of naivety around her as she doesn’t know what it’s really like outside of her little bubble of safety. So when she encounters first John and then Caleb, who both appear to have seen terrible things, she’s very trusting and comes across much younger than the two of them.

Z for Zachariah is beautifully shot and has some haunting music. It’s a film that takes its time, letting you get to know these characters and their relationships as it slowly builds small hints of conflict between them. The three actors are all brilliant and they all have good chemistry and the dynamics presented between their characters is interesting.

Z for Zachariah is a gripping drama and is definitely one of those films that its best to go into knowing as little as possible. 4/5.

REVIEW: Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide-Squad-posterSecret government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together a team of supervillains to take on a dangerous covert mission in exchange for shorter prison sentences.

Suicide Squad tries to juggle a lot. There’s a lot of characters so it begins with a bit of backstory for more of the major ones, namely Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) courtesy of Amanda Waller and a case file. The rest of them have less than a minute backstory and trying to set up all these characters this way did make the film slow to start. However, when you think the backstories are done and you can focus on the main plot of the movie, i.e. the mission, there’s flashbacks sporadically throughout the film that really interrupts the flow of the whole thing.

As well as the mission at hand, there’s also the Joker (Jared Leto) in the background, popping up every now and then to cause problems and provide more of a backstory for Harley Quinn. Much has been made of this new Joker and while he is naturally a lot different to previous incarnations, he is just OK. He is more of a gangster and his voice and laugh does sound odd and not necessarily in a good way but he is not on screen enough to really make much of a last impression.

The soundtrack to Suicide Squad is notable but not in a good way. It’s full of memorable songs ranging from Eminem to Queen and even features Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum – that one really doesn’t fit in the film. It’s as if the filmmakers wanted to have music queues for certain characters and just shoved in as many cool songs as they could think of. It was jarring and didn’t work for a lot of the film.

Suicide Squad is an entertaining film for the most part but it’s not as fun as the trailers make it out to be. Also while you don’t need jokes in every superhero film, any attempt at humour in Suicide Squad fell flat. Lines of dialogue or moments that were clearly set up to cause a reaction from the audience just don’t. These characters are an eclectic bunch and with a good script they could easily have bounced off each other and had some humorous moments or lines but there was nothing.

The big problem with Suicide Squad is by the end of the film, it wants you to feel like these characters all care about each other and even go as far to see themselves as a family unit, but it doesn’t do enough to make you feel that way. The film keeps focusing on the mission rather than the characters on the mission. Deadshot and Harley Quinn are the most fleshed out on the team and they actually have multiple interactions so you can see their relationship grow but all other characters are secondary and barely have any lines between them.

Suicide Squad is OK. The action sequences are entertaining but the film does nothing to make you care about these characters and that’s where it really falls down. 2/5.