Birds of Prey:

and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Written by Christina Hodson. Directed by Cathy Yan. Harley Quinn sets off to make a name for herself after her break up with The Joker but instead finds herself teaming up with the Birds of Prey to save a young girl from a local crime boss. Running time 1 hour 49 minutes.

Synopsis

So, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and The Joker break up pushing Harley into the usual female self-destruction spiral until she’s sees the chemical plant where it all started. Harley decides to take things to the next level and drives a large fuel tanker toward the chemical plant. She then leaps from it just before it crashes and causes a giant explosion.

Meanwhile, detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is busy investigating some killings with an interesting MO, all were done with a crossbow.

Harley hangs out at a certain bar/lounge run by crime boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) who has flair for the dramatic and a need for more power.

Once word gets around town that Harley is no longer with The Joker, her carte blanche mischief making is now anyone’s opportunity to get revenge on her. Luckily, Dinah/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who works at the lounge as a singer, is there at the right time and place to help Harley from some bad guys. Roman sees Dinah kick a bunch of guys butts and decides to make her his new driver–which she is not too thrilled about.

Cassandra Cain ( Ella Jay Basco) is a young girl known around town as a pick-pocket. One day, she picks the wrong pocket of a crime guy and manages to steal a diamond with banking information embedded in it. When she sees what she stole, she swallows it.

Harley gets captured by the crime boss but negotiates her release by saying she will find the girl and bring him the diamond in exchange for her life. Roman agrees, Harley finds Cassandra, and the two go into hiding until the diamond “reappears”.

Turns out, the diamond was part of the Bertinelli crime family’s estate and holds a tremendous amount of money attached to it. The whole family was murdered by Roman’s people; except for Helena Bertinelli who later grows up to become The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)–aka the crossbow guy.

Harley tells Roman to meet her and Cassandra at the amusement park and while they’re there, Renee, The Huntress, and Black Canary show up. They decide the only way to defeat Roman and his mob army is to band together and fight.

They manage to claim victory, the birds of prey are formed between Black Canary, The Huntress, and Renee to fight future crime, and Harley and Cassandra run off to be villians together.

What I Liked

I liked the stylized color and grittiness of the location and scenes. Bright lights, chaos, and Gotham style locations.

The fight scenes were well choreographed and I liked Harley’s weapon of choice being a baseball bat. The slow-motion fight scene with the water, the fight scene in the police evidence warehouse, and the amusement park battle were all fun to watch. I often wonder how many lower leg injuries occurred from these fight scenes as the women used their legs to kick and come down on people. I know it’s a movie and all but jeez, how many times can do that move without actually hurting yourself?

I really liked Ewan McGregor as the crime boss. So wacky and dramatic. I wonder what he thought about being in another film with the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” getting the full treatment. ( see: Moulin Rouge and Nicole Kidman)

It’s clear no one else could play Harley Quinn. Margot Robbie completely embodies the character. It would’ve been nice for her to cry less and have fun destroying more.

What I Wished Was Better

This film was written and directed by women. I really wished they would’ve been able to tell Harley’s story without so much explaining to justify Harley’s actions. I don’t care she and The Joker just broke up. So what. She’s still bad-ass so let her be bad-ass without the stereotypical excuse. Plus, it’s irritating for me that women only act crazy because a guy dumps them? No thank you. I want a strong female villain who’s bad because she likes to be bad.

The endless exposition and explaining got annoying after awhile. So much time wasted on back story –which was presented in an ADHD type of way that got worked against the film for me. I get it, the Harley universe is chaotic; but telling her story doesn’t have to be. I didn’t really know much about her, so all the jumping around and constant jabbering about herself kept me from wanting to know more. I don’t like my characters spoon fed. She can be insanely smart without “telling” me she’s smart with better dialogue.

Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya. I liked her as the detective but this film did not show her strengths. The scene of her chasing Harley, she’s obviously not as fast but did they have to make her look shorter and stubbier? I understand no one at the precinct respects her but did they have to write her with an alcohol problem to justify the men’s viewpoint and back it up with other female characters throwing her under the bus? Plus, I don’t even remember seeing her drink, I think it was only implied…so much was happening.

The Huntress with a confidence issue. Really? Again. Come on. If you’re going to write a character who’s family was massacred but she was rescued then trained to fight and be an assassin, then freakin’ let her be the confident women she’s grown to be! Give her tough smart-aleck things to say, not wimpy, “Do you know who I am” for the fiftieth time.

Black Canary. She’s a good singer and wipe out a room, or amusement park, with the sound of her voice. So, why the battle if Black Canary has the secret weapon voice the whole time? I know fighting is fun and makes for great movie scenes but did she always know she had the skill and just decided to use it over the course of this movie timeline? It would’ve been cool for a conversation about her using it but not wanting to because the effects on her or something and then finally using it as a last resort. (Btw, only the bad guys are affected by the sound of her voice when she lets loose–none of the women? Okay…)

The end. Is it really only about the money? I feel like the end doesn’t make way for more adventures; except maybe for the Birds of Prey trio. So now that Harley and Cassandra are living the high life, is Harley going back to being a psychiatrist and adopt Cassandra as her daughter? I know she calls Cassandra an apprentice, but an apprentice for what? She left the Birds of Prey in the dust. Yeah, the Birds of Prey are going to fight crime but still…are the Birds of Prey going to go after Harley and Cassandra?

Final Thoughts

Birds of Prey is fun to watch when the female characters are allowed to shine. Unfortunately, the film felt like all the movie parts were put into a bucket and tossed out on the screen in whatever order they landed. Voice over by Harley was then added to piece the story together instead of telling in with some sort of structure. It was fun as a rental but probably not a franchise I’ll follow based on the trajectory of the characters presented. At Redbox and streaming platforms. Watch the trailer below:

Fun Facts: Margot Robbie pitched the film to DC and WB as a female-led action movie. This film is the largest project for her LuckyChap production company. Having a female costume designer for this film was important making sure the costumes were more comfortable and less gratuitous.

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