Birds Of Prey may not be the deepest movie in the DC cinematic universe, but it’s certainly one of the most fun. As a neon-splashed, ultraviolent romp through street-level Gotham City, it’s delightfully wacky and irreverent–but one moment sticks out from the rest both in tone and context. About midway through, the film’s big bad, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) has a complete meltdown in his nightclub, prompting him to viciously attack and sexually harass one of the female patrons while Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) watches on, horrified.
There’s no punchline or wink to the audience, no slap-stick fourth-wall breaking to lighten the mood, just a power-crazed paranoid villain and his victim. In our spoiler review, we denoted the scene was one of the only gratuitous moments in an otherwise gleefully fun movie. And apparently, that was the intent. Director Cathy Yan explained the context of the scene in an interview with THR, as well as the struggle to keep the moment in the film’s final cut.
“I’ll be honest: We had to fight to keep that scene because it was uncomfortable. It was risky, and we had to fight to keep it at all. There are cuts of the movie without it. I think it’s a huge turning point for Roman. It’s a huge turning point for Canary, and the way that we shot it was hopefully not about the sexual violence upon the woman. It was more about Roman, what he’s capable of and Canary seeing him for who he really is for the first time. Now, she can fully cut herself off from him, and I thought it was a really important scene. So, we fought for it.”
Prior to the moment in the club, Roman had been dangerous–but ultimately comedic–in his violence. Whether it was killing his victims with an “ew,” and a campy sneer on his face or demanding that his cronies find the “crossbow killer” because he also “likes crossbows.” McGregor’s take on the DC villain was less Tony Montana and more a gun-toting Liberace. So Yan’s added context certainly does make the scene seem less like an aberration and more like a much-needed character beat.
Birds Of Prey recently received an expedited digital release due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. It is currently available to stream.
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