There were a lot of passionate feelings about David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, but one aspect that was nearly universally agreed upon is that Margot Robbie stole the film as Harley Quinn. The character of Harley Quinn has been a fan favorite ever since her introduction in Batman: The Animated Series, and the response to Robbie’s performance made the idea for a solo film a no-brainer. Bumblebee writer Christina Hodson was brought on board to write a script focused around Quinn and a group of powerful DC ladies while indie director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) was brought up to the big leagues to direct. As much as the Internet loves to complain that this female-centric creative team and story reeks of PC culture run amok, this film is exactly the type of creative leap that Hollywood needs to take to keep things fresh.
Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn finds Harley reeling from a break up with her beloved Mr. J(oker) and trying to figure out her own identity outside of the relationship. After announcing their breakup to the city in a grand fashion, Harley is suddenly painted with a bullseye on her back due to her lack of protection that being with Joker provided. At the same time, there are a series of killings being carried out by a crossbow-wielding vigilante, The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), that appear to be connected to the Bertinelli crime family massacre that occurred many years ago.
Harley avoids retribution from various people she has wronged while also evading capture from GCPD detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), but she gets tied up with the deliriously unhinged crime lord, Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). To save her own life, Harley must track down the young pickpocket, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), who holds the key to recovering the Bertinelli fortune. Although Harley has done villainous things, she is no monster and eventually teams up with others including Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) to protect Cassandra and fight back against Roman.
Birds of Prey continues the fun tone set by Shazam and Aquaman while throwing in a dash of Marvel’s Deadpool to give this DCEU entry more of an edge. The film has a hilarious and wild script that embraces the insanity that goes on inside the mind of someone like Harley. Margot Robbie once again fully commits to this role while delivering a thick accent that is over the top in all the right ways. Ewan McGregor seems like he is having a blast playing Roman, and Chris Messina is another standout as his sadistic right-hand man, Victor Zsasz. Cathy Yan does a nice job of crafting some truly unique set pieces while keeping all of the characters true to their motivations. The script could have used a little more development on some of the other titular Birds of Prey, but the movie is a solid step forward in the DCEU.
Birds of Prey comes to Blu-Ray with an incredibly solid 1080p transfer. This is a movie that is bursting with color from the set design to the costuming and lighting, and all of it is rendered beautifully with this transfer. You can see nice textural details on costumes including Harley’s shiny, self-made party jacket present near the beginning of the film. Black levels are deep and handle fine detail very well. There are no compression artifacts visible, and the image provides a nice amount of depth. The cinematography looks amazing with director of photography Matthew Libatique (Venom, A Star Is Born) behind the camera. There is a 4K UHD release of the film, but this was not available for review at this time. Fans of the Blu-Ray format will nevertheless be in for a treat when they take this disc for a spin.
The film comes to Blu-Ray with a Dolby Atmos track that handles the frenetic action very well. Similar to The Way Back, you have to turn this track up a few notches more than normal to get your perfect sound level, but, other than that, the track is wonderful. There are a lot of enveloping sound effects from crowded chase sequences to multiple brawls that hit the speakers hard. There are a couple instances where dialogue gets slightly buried in the mix, but this is not a persistent problem. The track features some nice activity on the low end, especially during a big explosion near the beginning of the film. Overall, this is a nice, active track that serves the movie well.
- Birds Eye View Mode: This feature-length special feature is a really cool, enhanced way to watch the movie that features some interesting trivia, behind the scenes cutaways and more featuring the cast and crew. The new info pops up pretty frequently in response to what’s occurring on screen while the movie continues to play in a minimized box.
- Birds of Prey – Birds of a Feather: A nearly nine-minute behind-the-scenes look at the development of the movie featuring the cast and crew with discussions about the desire for the R-rating, coordinating the stunts and more.
- Romanesque: The cast and crew come together for a five-minute discussion about all aspects of the villainous Roman Sionis. It gives a lot of good insights including a detailed look at the set design of his lair.
- A Love, Skate Relationship: A five-minute deep dive into Harley’s relationship with roller derby and a breakdown of its place in the movie with the stunt team and technical advisor. It discusses the challenges of fighting on skates and compares Margot’s experience here with ice skating on I,Tonya.
- Grime and Crime: An eleven-minute discussion with production designer K.K. Barrett and other cast and crew discussing what they wanted to convey with their version of Gotham. They breakdown why it was essential they had an aesthetic that fit the personality of the movie without being beholden to what has come prior.
- Sanity Is Sooo Last Season: An eight-minute featurette where costume designer Erin Benach goes in depth on the costumes with the cast and crew and how each outfit was specifically designed with the characters in mind. It’s interesting to get such a breakdown on the nuances of each design.
- Wild Nerds: A six-minute deep dive with the visual effects team on key sequences from the movie including how they pulled off the hyena and more.
- Gag Reel: Two-minutes of slip-ups and on-set shenanigans with some especially amusing moments from Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina.
Birds of Prey is not a perfect movie, but it is one of the most entertaining entries in the DCEU to date. Margot Robbie shines in this role, and director Cathy Yan creates a world that matches the insanity of the character. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment gives this one a nice amount of extras to dig into along with a great A/V presentation. For those who are capable, spring for this one in 4K UHD, but otherwise Blu-Ray fans should love this presentation. Highly Recommended
Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.