In 2016 we were submitted to the despicable nightmare of David Ayer’s unfortunate film Suicide Squad. It featured Will Smith sleepwalking, Jai Courtney somehow being fun, enough bad edits to give viewers uncontrollable rage, and the less said about Jared Leto the better. DC and Warner Bros. thought the same thing and kicked all that to the curb, allowing Margot Robbie to take Harley Quinn out for her own and completely ditching everything else to give her something a bit more worthy or her talents. Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn isn’t perfect, jarring and a bit wobbly, but it’s much more fun than I could have hoped for and is a marked improvement on this Gotham that we’ve been given.
It also features one of the sexiest egg sandwiches I’ve seen onscreen to date.
We’re given a murderer’s row of fun performers here, this time utilized to a better effect as everyone gets to make their character unique in a world that before was only full of grit and excess. We get Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, an awkward woman that is so hell-bent on vengeance that she’s unsure of what else to do with herself. Jurnee Smollet-Bell plays Black Canary, a lounge singer that is attempting to play all sides against each other for the best possible outcome. Rosie Perez is all kinds of wonderful as the alcoholic police detective Renee Montoya, a favorite from the DC Comics. Our real stars are Margot Robbie, once again featuring as Harley Quinn, and Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis. This guy is playing a character that many don’t really know much about, a B-List Batman villain also known as Black Mask that is a sadistic mob boss. He’s also been a cult leader. He’s also had like…a ton of personality types. They picked a winner for their villain as it’s one that so few hardcore comics fans will complain about if they did their own thing with him, and they do so here. He’s giggly and galavanting, matching Margot Robbie’s energy to create a fun supervillain that I enjoyed for every minute he’s onscreen.
Dynamics among the main cast are pretty much all winners. No one really feels out of place or awkward and everyone does their character justice, committing fully to this silly bullshit. It would be hard not to, with all these wild colors and insane personalities jumbled together in a mishmash of cathartic release. The entire film is about young women breaking away from what holds them down, from their depression and rage to their unhealthy relationships to even just shitty jobs. This isn’t just about Harley Quinn’s emancipation from the Joker, it’s about all of their emancipation from what holds them down. This really comes through during the fight sequences, gloriously choreographed and designed by Chad Stahelski (of John Wick fame), the women bursting out and beginning to see that they can function without the constraints that were placed on them not only by their environment, but by themselves. There’s a particularly sweet moment where Huntress kills someone and everyone else just kind of gives in and lets her know how awesome she is, something she’s surprised by (as awkward as she is that’s not surprising).
This is far from brilliant, but it’s more fun that I’d have expected and definitely a step in the right direction for DC at this point. Highly violent, gorgeously choreographed, fun, and starring one of the best hyenas Hollywood has ever produced, Birds of Prey is a blast and well-worth your time.