'Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn)' is in cinemas now.
‘Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn)’ like Harley herself is one mixed bag of fun.
Metaphors abound in a darkly humorous and feminist take on the traditional crime flick, where colourful characters do bad things because hell, “who’s gonna stop them?”. Some are going to find this refreshing and others are going to find it downright liberating and empowering.
It is such a shame, then, that the script still leaves a lot to be desired. ‘Birds Of Prey’ plays like an origin story for a team-up that barely happens, an introduction for characters firmly established in their world but who we, the audience, barely get to know. There are plenty of fight scenes where these trim fit women take down wave after wave of giant henchmen who display all kinds of toxic male behaviour. However, for the most part there is not a lot going on below the surface.
The head villain Black Mask played by Ewan McGregor embodies every type of white male privilege and possessiveness you can think of while also intriguingly displaying a camp side and sharing a symbiotic relationship with his henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). Black Mask clearly covets power and control, recognising what you obtain with them.
It is great to see Rosie Perez and Mary Elizabeth Winstead getting a chance to shine as part of the ensemble while Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary literally defeats men by unleashing her inner voice. Given the talent involved and the clear intent displayed, the film feels like a hot mess but one with many admirable qualities.
Director Cathy Yan makes a crime flick set in gothic Gotham City but shoots it mostly during the day in bright sunshine around Los Angeles. The action scenes are occasionally edited poorly but for the most part spellbind with impressive takedowns and wonderfully-framed hero shots. Cathy enjoys close-ups of her movie star ensemble and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn remains a charismatic and engaging heroine.
There should be no hesitation to have her return to the character in another cinematic outing with any of the supporting cast. There are nods to her background as a psychiatrist and the film is narrated by her with flourishes of her madness sneaking through and affecting the telling of the story. Yet these possibilities too remain underdeveloped and ideas are dropped before they bear full fruit.
There is a mean streak of humour and rebelliousness to proceedings that rings true but ultimately the script doesn’t tie things together. The finale doesn’t come off as satisfying as the initial premise.
Like other action films, this will not be a problem for many audiences. ‘John Wick 3’ didn’t have a great script either but it sure was fun for a lot of people. Unlike most of those movies, ‘Birds Of Prey’ has something else to offer. If you have ever had a sleazy, unwanted advance made on you and fantasised about doing something really terrible to that person, well then, this one's for you.
‘Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn)’ is in cinemas now.