Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Posted in Reviews by - March 01, 2020
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

No doubt encouraged by Patty Jenkins’ female-fronted DC Comics smash, Wonder Woman, and Marvel’s fourth-wall-breaking Deadpool, Margot Robbie revives her klutzy, anarchic turn as Harley Quinn from 2016’s plodding Suicide Squad with renewed verve and vigour – sticking a baseball bat to the patriarchy and narrating her own story in a typically chaotic and meta fashion. She talks directly to the camera, scrambles up the time-line, and, in one particularly strange moment, breaks into a musical number, riffing on Marilyn Monroe. It sounds subversive, although it never fully commits to its own weirdness, eventually settling into a more formulaic superhero smash-’em-up. We join a broken-hearted Harley after being ditched by Gotham City’s most wanted criminal, the Joker, making her the target of pretty much every two-bit scumbag and law enforcer she has ever wronged. This includes psychotic nightclub owner Roman (McGregor, settling somewhere between campy, violent and menacing), who co-opts Harley into finding a stolen diamond, which is in the possession of a young girl. An all-female fighting squad is summarily formed in a carefully character-driven and convincing way (much more so than the harried Suicide Squad), and before you know it, we have a disgruntled cop (Perez), a singer with a deadly voice (Smollett-Bell) and a socially awkward assassin with a crossbow (Winstead) joining Harley to take out all the baddies. Interestingly, for a cinematic universe which includes aliens, Aquaman and Superman, the action is rooted in a gritty, brutal realism. Created by the team behind John Wick and Atomic Blonde (Jon Valera and Jonathan Eusabio), the human fighters behave and move in a very human ways, creating crunchy, authentic action scenes with only the slightest reliance on computer-generated effects. As producer and star, Robbie makes Harley more sympathetic and palatable for a wider audience, helping to round her more extreme edges. She learns tenderness, leadership and a (begrudging) responsibility and respect for those around her; thanks to its breezy script, it’s a joy to join her for the ride.

AKA: Birds of Prey; Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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