DC Films/Warner Bros. Pictures/LuckyChap Entertainment/Kroll & Co. Entertainment Clubhouse Pictures
Directed by Cathy Yan
Produced by Margot Robbie/Bryan Unkeless/Sue Kroll
Written by Christina Hodson
Based on “Birds of Prey” by Jordan B. Gorfinkel/Chuck Dixon
Harley Quinn created by Paul Dini/Bruce Timm
Music by Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography by Matthew Libatique
Edited by Jay Cassidy/Evan Schiff
Ask most DCEU fans how they felt about 2016’s “Suicide Squad”and even those who liked it will probably give that up grudgingly. It was a movie that nobody really seemed to like very much but somebody must have gone to see the durn thing because it made near $800 million worldwide. Me, I enjoyed it as you can tell from my review. But a lot of that came from my being a fan of the movie’s director, David Ayer.
But the one thing that everybody could agree with was that Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn walked away with the movie. She shamelessly stole every scene and a lot of her co-stars willingly let her because it was obvious she was having so much fun playing the character. Out of all the characters in “Suicide Squad” it was Harley Quinn who was rumored would get her own solo movie, especially since the star power of Margot Robbie increased as with every movie she made after “Suicide Squad” it became more and more plain that she didn’t just have beautiful looks going for her. This woman can act. She reminds me a lot of Charlize Theron in that it would be obvious for the both of them to take roles that did nothing but emphasize how beautiful they are and how glamourous they look on film. But they take roles that actually challenge them as actors and allow them show what range they have.
When the movie begins, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is at a low point in her life. Following the events of “Suicide Squad” she’s had a falling out with her beloved Mr. J who has ended their relationship. Striking out on her own, Harley blows up the Ace Chemical plant where she pledged herself to The Joker as a symbol of her new found independence.
This also sends a signal to the underworld of Gotham City and the GCPD that Harley no longer enjoys the protection of The Joker and so Harley finds herself ducking and dodging attempts on her life from crooks that have been abused or wronged by The Joker and Harley seeking revenge and the police who simply want to squeeze her for whatever information on The Joker they can beat out of her.
One of these police officers is Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) investigating a series of gang murders being carried out by a mysterious woman using a crossbow to carry out her hits. This woman, Helena Bertinelli aka The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is seeking revenge for the slaughter of her family by killing the gang lords responsible. The gang lords wiped out the Bertinelli family in an effort to acquire The Bertinelli Diamond. Worth a fortune by itself, it has embedded on its surfaces the account numbers of the various banks containing the wealth of the Bertinelli criminal empire. It’s a diamond stolen by the young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) who through a truly bizarre set of circumstances comes under the protection of Harley Quinn. Although it’s doubtful if Harley can protect her from Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) who as The Black Mask is seeking to make himself the sole crime lord of Gotham City and utilizes extremely brutal and violent means to see that comes about. He’s got no issue with killing a little girl to get hold of The Bertinelli Diamond and neither does his sadistic right-hand man Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina).
But his driver Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) does have an issue with killing the little girl. Known on the street as The Black Canary, Dinah not only has formidable martial arts skills but a superhuman ace up her sleeve. One that she is persuaded to use once she joins up with Harley, Renee and Helena to protect Cassandra from The Black Mask and Zsasz.
BIRDS OF PREY (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) isn’t as much a superhero movie as a really whacked-out hyped up crime thriller. Although Batman and The Joker are mentioned frequently, we never see them and I liked that. Gotham City is an insane city and it has been theorized that there is something about the architecture of the city that messes with the psyche of the people that live there and this movie does a great job of getting across the notion that normal people shouldn’t live in Gotham.
Once again, Margot Robbie walks off with this movie but she gets serious competition from Ewan McGregor who plays Roman Sionis/The Black Mask for all it’s worth. I get the feeling that McGregor watched a lot of the 1966 “Batman” TV series episodes and decided he would play a R rated version of a villain that could have been in that show. And it was just so good to see Rosie Perez in a movie again all I could do was smile every time she was on screen, still talking in that helium-infused voice that sounds as if somebody has a death grip on her vocal chords. And there are some truly superb action scenes in this movie that immediately puts Cathy Yan on my list of directors to watch. Including a kickass fight scene between The Birds of Prey and The Black Mask’s army of goons that takes place inside a dilapidated fun-house. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino directed a fight scene of the 1966 “Batman” and you’ll get an idea of how it looks.
I will admit that BIRDS OF PREY (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) wasn’t a movie I had on my list of Must See Movies 2020 but by the end of the credits I was glad I went to see it in the theater. It’s a goofy, free-wheeling action movie that manages to seem as if it’s all being made up as it goes along thanks to the sheer energy and willingness of the cast to throw themselves into the ridiculousness of it all. I had nothing but fun watching it and it was well worth my time and money. If my advice means anything, then go see and enjoy.