In an age where comic book and superhero movies are not only prevalent and embedded into pop culture, but heavily studio driven, Birds of Prey (and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a breath of fresh air. Directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hendricks, the latest installment in the DC extended universe is everything Suicide Squad (2016) wanted to be and more.

After breaking up with the Joker, Harley Quinn, played by the talented Margot Robbie, finds herself caught in the middle of a chase to find a valuable diamond, causing her to cross paths with various DC characters in their first portrayals on the big screen. Along with Harley, who also serves as the narrator, the audience gets to meet Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a young pickpocket, Gotham City Police Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), club singer Dinah Lance (Journee Smollett-Bell), and trained assassin Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Each character is not only perfectly cast and well-acted, but all of them are given their own individual story and moment to shine. Circumstances force them to eventually join forces in an effort to defeat crime lord Roman Sionis also known as “Black Mask” (Ewan McGregor) who is accompanied by his sadistic henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). Both McGregor and Messina deliver performances that make these characters some of the most memorably evil DC villains to hit the screen. If you, like me, are familiar with the DC canon, you will be elated to see this film show these characters in a new light while also staying true to their comic origins.

Part of what allows this movie to be so refreshing and show the audiences a new side of Gotham is the R rating, which Robbie had to fight for as a producer of the film. Not only does the movie have great cinematography and direction, but it does not pull any punches when it comes to the language and violence. Audiences will get to witness some truly phenomenal fight choreography and stunt work, overseen by John Wick director Chad Stahelski. The film does not rely heavily on CGI. In addition to this, the killer soundtrack, and costumes for each character, all help make this follow-up one of the most explosively colourful and stylish comic book films ever.

One notable achievement of this film is that it is the first female ensemble comic book movie, one which not only happens to star a diverse group of women, but is also written and directed by women. As such, Birds of Prey serves as a reminder for studios to not only give directors and writers creative freedom but to hire women for dynamic roles as they are able to create truly impressive and unique stories. With a runtime of under two hours, not a moment of this film feels wasted, but it will also inevitably make you leave the theatre wanting a sequel.

Birds of Prey is currently playing in theatres worldwide.

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