Movie Review: ‘Birds Of Prey’

Review by Lauryn Angel

I’ve been a Harley Quinn fan since she first appeared on Batman: The Animated Series, but I admit that I was not happy with how the character was written for Suicide Squad. So to say that I felt trepidation about Harley Quinn as the centerpiece for Birds of Prey is an understatement. The trailers actually looked good, and I wanted to like it, but given DC’s cinematic track record, I was ready to be disappointed. I also wanted it to be good because I appreciated Margot Robbie’s desire to bring some lesser-known female characters to the attention of the general public, but I worried that these characters would be reduced to eye candy or saddled with romance issues – especially with part of the storyline being Harley and Joker’s break-up. I went in to this movie ready to be disappointed.

But guess what? I freakin’ loved it!

This is the New 52 Harley Quinn I so wanted to see. Is she having a hard time getting over her break-up? Yes. But instead of perpetuating the cycle of abuse that is her relationship with the Clown Prince of Crime, she moves on, finding other interests. When the news hits the streets that Harley is no longer under Joker’s protection, Harley draws the wrong kind of attention from the victims of her past hijinks. Among these is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). Her efforts to save herself bring her into contact with Dinah Lance, the Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), and the mysterious Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

The movie isn’t perfect, and my main issue with it is that for a movie named after the Birds of Prey, it spends far more time with Harley Quinn (who actually narrates the story). Huntress doesn’t really enter the film until its last act, and I really wanted to see more of her – although knowing which incarnation of the character the writers went with, it wasn’t difficult for me to figure out how she would fit into the plot. Presumably, DC intends to give the Birds another film, otherwise there’s really no point in the name. I really hope this movie does well enough financially for DC to give us a movie that develops these characters further.

Director Cathy Yan did a fantastic job of bringing Harley Quinn’s Gotham City to life. This Gotham is the dark and gritty city we know at night, but during the day, it’s sun-drenched, with a bright color palette to match Harley’s wardrobe. It’s not a side we’re used to seeing, and it’s the perfect backdrop to some of the madcap action that ensues – chase scenes with breakfast sandwiches, guns that fire glitter; typical Harley Quinn fare.

The R rating is mostly for language and violence. There are some uncomfortable scenes involving Roman’s unusual proclivities. But most of the violence is cartoony, and there is no nudity – even Harley Quinn’s infamous booty shorts have been replaced by a pair of cut-offs.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is the female super/anti-hero movie I’ve been waiting for. Not only are these women empowered and badass, they also ultimately support one another and they’ve definitely got each other’s backs. They wear practical outfits (Or in Harley’s case, more practical than previously) when they fight, and they don’t let anyone take advantage of them. And this is the kind of female-driven action movie I, for one, would like to see a lot more of.

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