Release a couple of weeks ago and, sadly, underperforming at the box office, Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (the full title of the work, though it is my understanding Warners has decided to cut it down) features -you wouldn’t guess it in a million years- the further adventures of one Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, doing essentially a Looney Tunes-esq character).
First seen in the abysmally written, yet oddly decent -if only for the strong cast/acting- Suicide Squad (2016), Harley is this time around done with her boyfriend, the Joker, and we see what happens next.
It ain’t pretty, at least as far as Harley is concerned!
For the underworld has given Harley pleeeennnntty of space to do her wacky stuff because of her association with the Joker, who is feared throughout Gotham’s criminal underworld.
But when word gets out she is no longer tied to him, the restraints are off and Harley has to deal with plenty of aggravated criminals who want their piece of flesh.
The movie is presented mostly through Harley’s viewpoint, and as such we get a non-linear story, showing elements from the past, then future, then coming back to the past, building up a story that, incredibly, maintains its coherence through the ending.
As a writer myself, color me very impressed!
Yes, the storytelling is messy. Yes, it is at times very much non-linear. But that totally makes sense given the story is mostly told through a near-crazy character’s point of view.
And best of all, it does come together by the end and that is quite a writing feat, whether one comes away liking the story or not.
I happened to like the story, as well.
During the course of the film, we meet up with several other comic book characters. On the “bad guy” side we have Ewan McGregor’s charming -and unhinged- Roman Sionis, aka The Black Mask. His right hand man is the fearsome -and murderous- Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). Early in the film Harley gets in their way and, once untethered from the Joker, is forced to do their bidding… or else.
On the “good guy” (though that term is relative!) side we have a quartet of characters, young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), police detective Rene Montoya (Rosie Perez), Helena Bertinelli/The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Dinah Lance/The Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).
The latter three characters wind up being the “Birds of Prey” of the title, and the movie serves as essentially an “origin” story for them as well as a story that documents Harley Quinn’s “emancipation” from the Joker while finding her path in the mean streets of Gotham City.
The film was at times very funny and it was interesting to see how the various characters interacted and, eventually, were forced to get together to take on both Sionis and Zsasz.
The movie’s standouts, other than Margot Robbie as Harley, are McGregor’s Sionis and Winstead’s sullen Huntress. But, truthfully, just about everyone carried their weight and the film proved to be a very pleasant surprise.
So if you’ve decided not to see the film because you’re all Jokered out (I think the movie may be underperforming because it did come out so soon after the release and success of the Joker film) and feel this movie is more of the same, it isn’t.
The Joker appears for only a few seconds at the very beginning of the film and only in an animated form. His shadow may linger over the initial proceedings, but this is all about the gals, and they’re a hoot to watch.