Following the events of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie being the most interesting element of both films) finds herself suddenly open for retribution from countless wronged parties throughout Gotham City. Years of acting with impunity as the Joker’s girlfriend and partner in crime catch up with her following a break-up.
Overwhelmed to the point where public confrontations lead to the spill and demise of her long-coveted egg and bacon sandwich, Quinn winds up in the middle of a struggle for a mob diamond encoded with access to bloated offshore bank accounts. It’s a MacGuffin swallowed by 12-year-old pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) when she is picked up by the cops, making her a MacGuffin in the process.
Birds of Prey proves itself a fun, anarchic follow up to its disappointing predecessor. It feels like Suicide Squad got off the sauce, cleaned up their act, settled down with Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl, and had a baby. A wacky, fourth-wall-breaking baby which is greater than the sum of its parts. Featuring two of the most sadistic villains from the Batman Rogues Gallery, being Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) and Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), there is a violent tone which initially seems too extreme, until fun and fantasy balance things out.
Deadpool set a precedent allowing for studio powers-that-be to allow Birds of Prey to exist in its R-rated form, and the fight scenes benefit from some brutal bone-breaking moments. Admirably, Birds of Prey doesn’t squander the opportunity to use this adult terrain to present issues facing abuse of women, and the role allies can ideally play. Whilst that does take the form of superhuman roundhouse kicks to the face, it’s the classic and universal analogy of having the courage not to remain complicit in the face of wrongdoing.
Loosely based on DC Comic’s Birds of Prey comics, the film has been wisely hijacked by the insanely popular Harley Quinn character. Whilst supporting cast members Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollet-Bell and Rosie Perez do admirably as the titular Birds, it’s easy to see how a Quinn-less iteration of a Birds of Prey film could risk banality. Some early online chatter from DC fans seems to express disappointment in the formula which has been landed on, however, I’m confident most will be converted.
Some striking design is showcased from costumes to sets, with the finale taking place in the fantasy funhouse of the Joker’s former hideout in the Amusement Mile, and I’d wager that production designer K.K. Barrett had more fun designing Harley’s apartment than he did winning an Oscar nomination (for Her). Images of Harley horsing around with her fur-baby Hyena “Bruce” are great to see on-screen. Birds of Prey seems just consolation for those who forked over money to be underwhelmed by Suicide Squad.