Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (dir. Cathy Yan, 2020) – Harley Quinn narrates the story of her post-Joker life as she stands against the enemies on her back, with a little help from new friends.
After spending an entire movie fawning over the Clown Prince, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has finally decided that she’s had enough. In the Suicide Squad spin-off Birds of Prey, she cuts ties with Mr J for good, leaving behind a life of servitude to toxic romance.
So who exactly is Harley Quinn, if not the other half of Gotham’s nemesis? Is she then nothing but a vulnerable walking target in the eyes of the underworld? As it turns out, none of her assorted enemies ever stood a chance with luck on her side. Her wit is her weapon too, once stolen from her when she had been unfairly relegated to a love interest.
Crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) learns this for himself when he holds her captive over his own grievances. His smarmy henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) never gets to wield his knife. The ex-psychiatrist soon manipulates her way out of certain death and into his other mission – to recover child pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) for the diamond she stole.
Even as she gradually bonds with Cain over misdemeanours, her life of major crimes is not quite over. All it takes is a second for Harley to show her true, gaudy colours.
Carnage resumes. Rainbows of glitter explode in the air, swirling into the red and white of gushing blood and shattered bones. Fun reigns in Willy Wonka’s murder factory that Deadpool will rue not being invited to. Add a little touch of irreverent humour, perfect for a girl who breaks both hearts and legs.
But there is too, method in her madness that leads her to an A-Team of her own. Chanteuse Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), detective Renee Montaya (Rosie Perez), and assassin Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) join the squad, united by their loathing for Sionis.
Excessive exposition almost drowns out the trio’s introduction. But their fight is an otherwise breakneck bleeding marathon, surviving well on the cast’s charming personalities. One shot glides into the next; there is no way to take your eyes off the vibrant riot, playing out like a ritual dance choreographed to a rock n’ roll mixtape.
Pure enjoyment is reward for trusting director Cathy Yan with her wild creativity. Who needs dark and gritty? Like a candy flavoured Crank, her inspired vision is as dark as it is bright, and there is really nothing quite as perfect and necessary for a Queen of Chaos like the fantabulous Harley Quinn.
The superhero genre may be a man’s world (for now), but it would be no fun at all without the madcap standout Birds of Prey.