Margot Robbie Rosie Perez Mary Elizabeth Winstead Ewan McGregor
Chris Messina Ella Jay Basco Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Girl power. This movie’s got it. Coming off a breakup with the Joker, Harley Quinn (Robbie) is having to face all the people she pissed off when she was with him. Seems like she can’t go around a corner without bumping into one of them. She can’t even down a much coveted egg sandwich for breakfast. But she’s still a badass even though she’s in a bit of a dilemma adjusting to newfound independence and deciding what she will do next. Birds of Prey has an answer for that.
I can’t enumerate all the enemies Harley has made, but one of them is a cop (Perez) who is resentful about always getting the short end of the stick. Renee Montoya has an almost clairvoyant knack for figuring out crime scenes, which her chief (ex-partner who took credit for her work) fails to recognize. (He’s not as smart as she is.) She is soon to be separated from her badge and gun, when narrator Harley Quinn, who is inclined to make sage observations about what is going on, says, “No cop ever gets anything done until they’re suspended.”
What will bring Montoya and Quinn together? (Montoya as a cop is chasing Quinn during most of the story.) It will take a common enemy and some other allies for them all to get fed up and work together. These allies include Black Canary (Smollett-Bell) and The Huntress (Winstead). Mixed in is young Cass (Basco), a street pickpocket who unknowingly picks up a valuable package.
The common enemy is Roman Siomis (Ewan) who owns a nightclub but has aspirations to run Gotham City on his own, especially since the Joker is gone. Roman shows his true colors in his temper tantrums, sadistic bent, and vulgarity. He has employed a singer with a “killer voice” (Smollett-Bell) who has a history with Montoya, and whom he has now made his driver. At first, he is unaware of her martial arts skills.
The film does a good job in giving back stories of all the characters so that what they’re doing and how they developed their skills make sense. We hear enough even about the bad guy to understand why he does what he does (quick, on-the-spot analysis by now Dr. Quinn psychiatrist) and his father issues.
Although I’m not usually a fan of the genre, I was entertained by Birds of Prey, remained engaged throughout, and—I must confess—had my feminist heart quickened by the female characters savaging all the bigger, “stronger” men—at least the bad men; I was less pleased with downing policemen and prison guards.
Margot Robbie must be praised for the wide-ranging characters she has played so well (designing ice skater in I, Tonya, ingenue broadcaster in Bombshell, movie star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and a queen in Mary Queen of Scots). And here she is in a comic book action movie, which is a sequel to Suicide Squad. It seems like she can tackle just about any role.
Supporting actors Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ewan McGregor, and even young Ella Jay Basco all stand out as well. Music by Daniel Pemberton and choreography by Matthew Libatique complete the assembly of talented professionals director Cathy Yam has brought together.
The production extends a bit too long, especially the repeated fight scenes. Although they are well executed and filmed, it’s too much of a good thing. Writer Christina Hodson can be praised for the dimensionality of the characters she has drawn, but the number and length of time spent in bashing one another could have been shortened.
A fanciful—but satisfying—comic book thriller where it’s the women who kick a---.