[Review] 'Birds of Prey': Support Your Local Girl Gang
It's been a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the DCEU. Most of the films released so far haven't exactly hit critically. Although they do have their passionate (sometimes cult-like) fans, waving the "Release The Snyder Cut" banner all over social media. 2016's "Suicide Squad" was subject to considerable criticism, but nearly everyone agreed that Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, was a speck of hope. And DC knew it too.
Directed by Cathy Yan, "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)" is a brash, colorful, lovably messy film whose ultimate purpose is to show off the badass ladies at its center. The film - that takes place after "Suicide Squad" - finds Harley in a depression, post-breakup with the Joker. Without the protection that being Joker's girl granted her, she becomes a target for many of the scum in Gotham City.
Margot Robbie (who also serves as a producer for the film) clearly has an immense amount of passion for her character. She plays her like the psycho version of your friend who parties too much, and it's electric. While someone might buy a comfort dog or cat to help them cope, Harley goes for a comfort hyena (named Bruce "after that hunky Wayne guy!"). Robbie treats Harley as a character just as complex as the ones she played in "I, Tonya" and "Bombshell."
The plot really gets going when Harley is forced to find a mysterious item for mob boss Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) in exchange for her life. She takes pickpocket teen Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) under her wing, and the two form a fun but twisted mentor/mentee relationship.
McGregor as Roman has his own electricity. With his velvet suits, sick sense of humor and devoted sidekick Victor (Chris Messina), Roman Sionis is a gangster with a temper problem. When he doesn't get his way, he whines and screams, showing off the silver spoon he was born with. As soon as the movie is released on digital, look out for a montage of McGregor's Roman yelling variants of "fuck!"
The movie has largely been marketed as a team-up film, although the actual team-up doesn't happen until the third act. Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), a Gotham City police detective, starts out as one of Harley's pursuers. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Huntress, an assassin whose motives aren't revealed right away. Winstead is easily the coolest of the group, which Harley pauses in the middle of the final fight to point out. Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary gets a pretty intriguing storyline when Roman promotes her from club singer to his personal driver. It seems like the film is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the group. Hopefully, there are sequels, not individual spin-offs, down the pipeline, because we deserve more of these ladies together.
The film can be a bit messy, jumping back and forth in time to show how wacky Harley's mind can be. In the middle of an action-packed scene, her voiceover interrupts to tell us about something completely different. This could be seen as a negative, but it actually speaks to the major strength of the script by Christina Hodson - self-awareness. Harley's breaking of the fourth wall, Renee Montoya's penchant for talking like a cop in a bad 80s movie, or Huntress practicing her badassery in the mirror all give the film a unique sense of self. It does what "Suicide Squad" attempted to do, not taking itself too seriously and reminding the audience that when it comes down to it, comic books aren't always supposed to be serious or make a whole lot of sense.
"Birds of Prey," alongside its all-female soundtrack, is a recipe for enjoyment and empowerment. The day after I saw it, the new Kesha album (also lovably messy) was released, and somehow I think the lasting energy of "Birds of Prey" enhanced my listening experience. Sorry sexist DC fans, you tried your best to make us think this wasn't going to be good. Luckily, you were wrong.