Birds of Prey
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After the Joker breaks up with her, Harley Quinn struggles to define herself without him, and to survive without his protection from the criminal underworld. But thanks to her newly assembled girl gang of super anti-heroines, she’s totally got this.
Margot Robbie reprises her Suicide Squad role as Harley alongside an impressive group of diverse and talented actresses, including Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, and Ali Wong. Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina round out the cast as the bad guys.
Harley Quinn, first introduced as the Joker’s infatuated sidekick in Batman: The Animated Series, comes into her own in this fun and energetic romp. There’s definitely a meta element here, as Harley is left (not by choice) to crawl out of “Mr. J’s” long shadow and make her own way in the world. The film’s actual, official title is Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), which may be a little long to fit on a poster, but should give you a hint at the film’s utterly unserious, madcap tone.
Robbie is clearly having a “fantabulous” time, narrating the action in first person in that iconic, New York-accented baby-doll voice. And why shouldn’t she? It’s as if she knows she’s in good hands here (she is). Between Cathy Yan’s playful director’s lens and the wry script by Christina Hodson, the film exudes a sense of empowerment and confidence. The action scenes are delightfully frantic, and there are flashes of brilliance that could only have come from a team of women, like when the characters pause in the middle of a fight to pass over a hair tie.
But Harley’s not the only one who is given an opportunity to shine. As her eventual teammates, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead stand out as Black Canary and Huntress, respectively. They each have their own story arcs that involve them realizing their own self worth and escaping from the expectations everyone—including themselves—has put on them. As the main antagonist, crime lord Roman Sionis (aka Black Mask), Ewan McGregor chews plenty of scenery, but manages to leave some behind for the rest of the cast. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give out a few extra kudos for best performance by a breakfast sandwich.
Although the film includes footage from Suicide Squad of Jared Leto as the Joker, Yan made the conscious decision not to bring him in for any new scenes. It was the right choice, as he exists as sort specter looming over Harley’s life until she finally exorcises him for good. Without his presence, Harley finally gets the agency and screen time she’s always deserved.
Star Margot Robbie, director Cathy Yan, and screenwriter Christina Hodson deliver a female-powered, action-packed showcase, not just for Harley Quinn but for several of the most fascinating women in the DC Universe.
This would make for a super fun girl’s night watch. Pour some drinks, cook up some breakfast sandwiches, and hop aboard for a thrilling ride on the crazy train.
Margot Robbie is due to return to the role of Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad sequel film, coming to theaters and HBO Max on Aug. 6, 2021.