The new Harley Quinn flick is a riotous, rainbow-hued confection of a film that’s the cinematic equivalent of a shot of adrenaline
All hail Margot Robbie.
After emerging from the decidedly mediocre Suicide Squad as the only cast member to make any lasting, genuine impression on screen, the Australian actress (who also pulls double-duty as a producer on this film) managed to take that glimmer of momentum and run full-tilt with it on Birds of Prey.
Helped in no small part by the assured direction of Cathy Yan and a Christina Hodson-penned screenplay that perfectly balances comedy with character beats, Birds of Prey is an action-packed thrill ride that’s yes, female-focused, but above all, outrageously fun.
As the film opens, Robbie’s Harley Quinn is dealing with the aftermath of a seriously bad breakup with the Joker and looking to strike out on her own in Gotham. Complicating matters is a crime lord (Ewan McGregor, clearly having fun here) intent on capturing a famed diamond that’s landed in the hands of a young girl (Ella Jay Basco). To protect her, Harley teams up with the titular Birds of Prey – Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), a hardened police detective who’s been passed over for her less deserving male colleagues one too many times.
Birds of Prey pulls off the radical move of having a story based around female characters whose end goal is self-actualisation, not a romantic relationship. There’s a decidedly feminist bent to this film, of course, but in a way where it’s not shoving it down your throat or sitting back and waiting for the audience to pat it on the back for landing an obvious ‘grrrl power’ moment.
Instead, it simply gives each heroine space to shine on screen and has them interacting with each other in ways that feel organic and authentic – and will feel familiar to anyone who’s ever had female friendships. The moment where Harley pauses in the middle of bashing in some bad guys’ skulls to offer Black Canary a hair tie got a big laugh out of me, and is something I can honestly say I’ve never seen on screen before in a movie of this ilk.
All of that would mean nothing, however, if Birds of Prey didn’t also hit its marks as an action flick – and I am happy to report that it did NOT. COME. TO. PLAY.
There are some genuinely inventive set-pieces throughout the film, sequences that literally had me holding my breath until they were over. We’re not in Avengers territory here, so when each blow is dealt, it hits in a more visceral way than say, shooting out lightning from your mythical hammer or beams of energy from your hands (no disrespect intended).
Combined with the film’s surrealist, neon-tinted take-no-prisoners tone, it’s a formula that absolutely works. I had so much fun watching Birds of Prey and if that’s not the aim of a comic book movie then I don’t know what is. Go see it, and take everyone with you.