From her explosive presence in Suicide Squad (thank goodness there was at least one), Harley Quinn (played by the exceptional Margot Robbie) has been a gleam of hope on the rocky terrain of the DC Universe. So, has she lived up to the pressure with her first solo movie (deep breath): Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)? Of course she goddamn has.
Birds Of Prey opens on a broken-hearted Harley, who is now split from Mr J. But this breakup doesn’t just mean excessive drinking and copious amounts of ice cream, it also means she’s unprotected with a target on her back and she’s upset A LOT of people.
One of those people is crime boss Black Mask aka Roman Sionis (played with just-the-right-amount-of-camp by Ewan McGregor) who also has renegade cop Renee Montoya, crooked lounge singer Dinah Lance and hitwoman Helena Bertinelli on his tail. When all of these women’s paths cross after sneaky pickpocket Cassandra Cain steals something from him, they realise that if they band together they might actually be able to take down Roman once and for all…
The resulting girl gang is a motley crew of diverse women – Dinah aka Black Canary is a criminal with a lot of heart, Renee is a rebel cop straight from an Eighties movie and Helena aka Huntress is an awkward assassin who gets upset when someone mistakes her superhero name. But director Cathy Yan successfully brings them together, resulting in a complex, grounded group who are slinging insults to one another in one breath and lending hair bands to each other in the next.
But this is undoubtedly Harley’s film and Robbie plays her to perfection. She’s the biggest punk rock bad girl in the playground, and we just want to be her friend. A character who is just as well versed in psychology as she is in batshit crazy, Quinn rationally analyses the people and situations around her just as she rationally decides to break people’s legs and blow up buildings. How she manages to be so incessant and over-the-top while being completely lovable is anyone’s guess – and the same goes for the film.
Birds Of Prey is a true comic book caper, a riotously funny chariot of joy that never lets up – it’s as in your face as the glitter guns the titular character uses and we’re enjoying the ride. It’s wonderfully self-aware, with direct-to-camera dialogue and fantasy-filled asides, all aided with a cracking soundtrack that ranges from Marilyn Monroe to Doja Cat.
Yes, the underlying themes are about as subtle as the main character (pretty much every male character in this movie is horrible), the plot can get a bit muddled and the story slugs a little in the middle but just buckle up and enjoy the ride – this is a roller coaster of a movie full of heart, humour and a guns. Does Harley deserve the weight of optimism for the DC Universe? Hell yeah.
Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) is available on digital release now.