A follow-up to and spin-off of Suicide Squad — and the eighth film in the troubled DC Cinematic Universe — I was completely ready to write off Birds of Prey as a complete waste of time. But you know what? I loved it. I was thoroughly entertained by every moment of the film, as it took what worked in Suicide Squad — the wacky intros and pretty much everything with Harley Quinn — and amped it up while throwing away the boring stuff that didn’t.
It was written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) and directed by Cathy Yan, whose direction is solid and assured.
Harley Queen says that she’s escaped her old life after breaking up with the Joker, but she’s still enjoying the safety that being seen as his woman affords her. Yet after a night of drunken debauchery, she blows up the Ace Chemical plant where she gave herself over to her abusive ex-lover and declares herself a free agent. That, of course, brings down the wrath of every person she’s wronged over the past few years.
It also brings her into the orbit of Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Dinah “Black Canary” Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), child thief Cassandra Cain and Helena “Huntress” Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who become kind of sort of friends with her as they battle Roman “Black Mask” Sionis (Ewan McGregor) who is trying to take over Gotham City from his nightclub.
There are also some great smaller roles for Chris Messina (who was awesome on Sharp Objects) as Mr. Zsasz and Ali Wong as Montoya’s ex, district attorney Ellen Yee.
There’s a MacGuffin of the diamond that contains all the money information for the wiped out Bertinelli family, but it really doesn’t matter. What you’re watching for are the kinetic fights, interplay between the girls and an over the top performance by McGregor. Everyone seems to be having the time of their lives here. It’s one of those movies that you walk away and think, “That must have been fun to make.”
For her part, Robie pushed for this movie and helped develop it for more than two years. It takes the Harley Quinn character well beyond where she started and lands her closer to where she fits into the DCU comics today. Speaking of comics, a younger me may have been upset that continuity isn’t strictly followed and that origins are slightly tweaked. Older me has much more pressing issues than being one of the Monitors of the multiverse and just enjoys watching fistfights and hijinks.
Watching this film reminds you how dreary and boring the rest of the DCU has been, while being thankful that Deadpool allowed executives to realize that comic book films don’t have to be PG-rated efforts.
There’s nothing like being pleasantly surprised by a movie. And I’m pleased to report that even after sleeping on this review overnight, I still find myself remembering plenty to love in this one.