“Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is a major title for a major movie. Plus it is comic-book-based movie from DC, part of that weak sauce concept called the DCEU (DC Extended Universe). Compared to Marvel’s version, this Universe must be only a couple light-years across. But more recently, the DCEU has picked up momentum and it is expanding into wider and better spaces. Now this movie features a strong female-led group of bad-ass women – led by Harley Quinn. She is no longer pleased to be the Joker’s plaything, so now she and the sisters will rip Gotham a new one… By that, I mean a new R-rated crazy over-the-top movie.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is so over her old boyfriend. She was a smart and powerful woman on her own, and now she wants to live life in the fast lane. She declares her independence with a very big bang, and people start to take notice. People like Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) He is simple nightclub owner and businessman, when he is not being the secret underground criminal gang leader called ‘Black Mask’ His assistant in disgusting criminal activity is Zsasz (Chris Messina) – and he is quick with a deadly blade. Singing at the club is Dinah – known as Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). There is a hard-working cop named Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) who is trying to stop Roman and his gang activities. Plus there are some mysterious murders that have happened in Gotham City – death by crossbow. It is at the hand of the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a person with a laundry list of dirty scumbags that need to be taken out.
Connecting everyone is a young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). She steals something very valuable from Roman and Zsasz, and there will be frantic antics in chasing her down. Harley takes in Cass and gives her shelter, where Ms. Quinn keeps her lovely pet hyena (named Bruce – after that Wayne hunk). Harley has way too many people who have a beef with her, and she no longer has protection from her old Boy Toy, the Joker. So Harley is facing a ton of killers, dealers, squealers, cops and robbers – all out to take Harley Quinn down for good. But she finds helping Cass is making her a better person, or at least – a less terrible person. But when Roman and Zsasz gather all the henchmen and gang-bangers and go out to get Harley and the valuable object hidden by Cass – they find a small group of women willing to take the fight back at them.
Harely Quinn is joined by Black Canary, and by Huntress and her crossbow, and by Renee Montoya – who wants to see justice, even without having a badge. They all know that Cassandra is in mortal danger, and they are not very high on longevity charts, now that Black Mask is rounding up every wretched refuse from the bowels of Gotham City an all-out assault. The ‘Birds of Prey’ are born, based on a need to stop the criminal misogyny of Roman Sionis and his like. A big brawl at an amusement park brings lots of acrobatic ‘GRRL POWER’ fighting and bad-guy ass-whipping. There are shared hair ties – you simply must keep that long hair out of your eyes during a fight – and shared goals. When Roman is defeated, the new Birds of Prey can finally go out and get a delicious fried egg sandwich. Oh, and margaritas, too.
“Birds of Prey” (and it much easier to refer to the movie like that) is a high-octane, sugar-rush, sparkely-sequined masterclass of mayhem. It is loads of perky fun and frolic, dished up with hard R-rated F-Bombs and violent action. The depth of the story is just a few inches, but it unloads an ocean of charisma and personality. Margot Robbie has taken a fairly minor comic book character and made Harley Quinn a supertanker of snark and a wickedly crazy leader. Robbie (and the movie) are never afraid to make tongue-in-cheek moments, and are Ok to wink knowingly to the audience. If the crowds love an R-Rated comic-book movie like “Deadpool”, then there ought to be a super-fun version for “Ladies Night”, right?
All the other actors are terrific, and especially Ewan McGregor as one of the most slimy characters ever. The quick pace and action scenes are enough to make you forget the story depth and character arcs are barely kept to a minimum. But the story and screenplay, the director – and most of the lead actors – all are women. It is forceful showing that they can play as the same table as the ones in the ‘good old boy’ network. DC Studios has made a good choice to take a side character (Harley Quinn) from the movie “Suicide Squad” and let her make a statement. Now DC has two movies with a main female lead character (this one and “Wonder Woman”). Marvel is still stuck with only one (“Captain Marvel”). I’m sure Disney is quaking in their little Mouse boots…
This is one comic-book that not aimed to the little kiddies. But with a wide (and more mature) audience, people will flock to see “Birds of Prey”
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Written by: Christina Hodson
Based on: “Birds of Prey” (by Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Chuck Dixon) & “Harley Quinn” (by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm)
Starring: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor
Length: 109 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material
Genre: Comic Book Adventure