In the misguided dog’s dinner that was Suicide Squad, that ensemble of unwieldy egos and superstar demands, there was one face who may not have carried the contractual obligations of her male co-stars but who, in keeping with her often underestimated character, managed to dance around them in every scene and become the darling of the Gotham underworld, so it is no surprise that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn has jettisoned her baggage to fly with the Birds of Prey.
Directed by Cathy Yan from a script by Christina Hodson, breaking up may be hard to do but it is necessary, and while Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is built around the adjustment of Doctor Harleen Quinzel to single life in the big bad city, there is no doubt that it is the right thing for her to do, too wild to be tamed by any man and certainly not the undeserving Joker.
Taking its structure from Robbie’s star turn in I, Tonya with its fractured narrative, knowing narration and anti-social antics, Birds of Prey sees Ms Quinn in need of a makeover and a new pet as she decides to relaunch her career as a life coach, bounty hunter, mercenary and dog walker: “Luckily for me, I have all my best ideas drunk.”
Being single, however, means she is no longer given the privilege of the protection which comes from dating Gotham’s most famous psychopath, and the list of those with grudges against Harley is long, at the top of it businessman, nightclub owner and ruthless gangster Roman “Black Mask” Sionis (Doctor Sleep‘s Ewan McGregor); fortunately, while she may be single, Harley is not alone on the streets of Gotham.
Caught up in the fray are burlesque singer Dinah “Black Canary” Lance (Lovecraft Country‘s Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and the mysterious Huntress (10 Cloverfield Lane‘s Mary Elizabeth Winstead), while tracking them is Detective Renee Montoya (The Dead Don’t Die‘s Rosie Perez), and everyone is looking for pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) whose light fingers lifted the Bertinelli diamond for which Sionis has offered a considerable reward.
Unashamed, unrepentant and unstoppable, Birds of Prey is everything which the po-faced posturing of Suicide Squad was not, a tangled plot of mismatched boots, fabulous costumes (offering support, protection and flexibility), smoke grenades, glitter bombs, musical numbers and roller skate chases, all of it an excuse for Harley to vent her vast and justified rage while never forgetting that girls just want to have fun.
A redefinition of the chick flick, the Birds of Prey are not simply women dropped into masculine roles, behaving badly while going through the tropes of a superhero action film; their behaviours and bonding are built upon the individually different but collectively similar betrayals of their former lives beholden to the patriarchy, distrust and rivalry grudgingly overtaken by the necessity of cooperation if they are to survive.
The plot stitched together with the seams occasionally showing, the transition of Harley Quinn to hero is more natural than that of Deadshot in that she was never irredeemable and always unpredictable, and set against the Gothic Gotham shoreline her colours shine, the manic funhouse finale a throwback to the classic comics which the more recent DC films have never allowed themselves, their loss and Ms Quinn’s big win.
Birds of Prey is currently on general release and also screening in IMAX