Margot Robbie’s iconic performance and the relentless yet grounded action bravura are Birds of Prey’s cherry bombs.
Lately, Warner Bros-DC has continued to indulge in the sweet taste of triumph after their Extended Universe fiasco (culminating in the disoriented Justice League). Their new recipe to focus on a more standalone, vibrant feature (learning the best from Wonder Woman) has proven to be fruitful. Aquaman proves his worth, Shazam is highly entertaining, and the somber Joker is a serious inferno—a real award contender. Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is about to prove that the recipe, after all, works.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) returns from Suicide Squad with a completely different arc. She will, then, narrate the whole story with her audacious voice-over and occasional breaking-the-fourth-wall look straight to the audiences sassily. Harley’s narration is all over the place; she might tell stories in medias res then jump to a series of flashbacks or, even, add some dreamlike visions. It’s intentionally complicated, convoluted, fuzzy, and, sometimes, subjective; but, at the center, it’s an f—up break-up story, which coincidentally happens during the rise of a newly risen crimelord, Black Mask (Ewan McGregor).
Not only will Harley cross path with Black Mask a.k.a. Roman Sionis—a psychotic, spoiled gangster, she also encounters four badass ladies with their own emancipation issues who will end up forming a gang with her. Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is a straight-from-the-80s-hardboiled-flick detective whose achievements are eclipsed by his male partners, including her recent tenure to take down Sionis. Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) a.k.a. Black Canary (fans of Arrowverse must have been familiar with this name) is a resident singer in Sionis’ club who starts to get fed up with her boss. Meanwhile, there’s a vengeance-laden assassin with a crossbow, who refuses to be called ‘Crossbow Killer.’ Call her Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Their paths are glued together by the action of a pickpocket prodigy, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), who happens to steal a wrong item from the wrong person. None of them, except for Renee, deserves the good-girl label; but, they share something in common—frustration to the man’s world.
It’s only the second full-feature directorial gig for Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs), but she nails the grrrl gang trope adeptly. Yan models the world-building after Harley Quinn’s fuzzy yet vibrant personality; ecstatic, stupefying colors are everywhere with unreal attires, weapons (Harley’s fun-gun is one of them), and strange habits (including having hyena named after the hunky Bruce Wayne and a preserved beaver). Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) also models the narrative after Harley’s disoriented mind with excessive hyperlink stories and unrated F-factory languages. The intentional fuzzy narrative is certified annoying; it drains energy and concentration; however, Margot Robbie and co’s performances alongside the electric action stunts (choreographed by John Wick‘s stunts) substitute it with a real hit to the gut.
Harley’s subjective p.o.v. somehow undermines the villain as if judging him for the audacity to wreak havoc only after Mr. J leaves; meanwhile, Harley carries out a bold new day without her ex-lover. It’s a story about her and she “has” the right to tell this as she likes; but, one thing she never forgets—she always looks up to her newly-founded gang. The emancipation message is oftentimes at the surface; but, it works even when it’s often overshadowed by unnecessary intoxication views and derived elements from Suicide Squad.
Birds of Prey might be all over the place even when it is intended to be so. It’s somehow convoluted and over-agitated, but the series of fresh, grounded spectacles and Margot Robbie’s iconic stage-show are the cherry bomb. They are hard to resist.