Harley Quinn: Birds Of Prey (2020)

Directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, Birds Of Prey acts as a spiritual sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, focusing on Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, and her adventures after Suicide Squad, and indeed after her relationship with the Joker has finally come to an end.

And end it most certainly has. When we meet Harley again, she has plunged deep into grief, having been thrown out on the streets by the Joker for the last time. Spending her time hitting the town, and hitting the tequilas, Harley is treated with a soft hand by everyone around her – fearing her involvement with the Joker might cause more trouble than its worth.

See, Harley isn’t telling anyone she’s single again. Too busy enjoying her time of guilt-free anarchy, Harley only finally makes the declaration to the world that she and Joker are over when she steals a tanker full of petrol and plows it deep into the heart of the Gotham Ace Chemicals Plant, causing a fireball that draws the attention of Detective Renee Montoya, played by Rosie Perez, who has previously been heavily involved investigating the multiple murders of known mobsters by an unknown assailant.

With Harley’s excessively public relationship status update, the crosshairs begin to fall on her. Targeted by every part time criminal, aggrieved citizen and hungry police officer, Harley quickly finds herself on the run, surviving mostly through dumb luck and no small amount of genuine skill. Her time runs out, however, when she is cornered by the goons of gangster Roman Sionis, played by the wonderfully scenery-chewing Ewan McGregor. 

See, while we follow Harley and her colourful adventure through Gotham, there are shades of deep change afoot in the streets of Gotham. The old guard of organised crime, your mafia or triad-types, are swiftly being brushed aside in the crime-invested city, with their whole population being wiped out by the ruthless greed of the new wave of criminal – portrayed here by Roman Sionis. Part of this plot involves a diamond, within which holds the code to the fortune of the late mafia – and Roman wants this. Bad.

But it isn’t as easy as just stealing a shiny diamond, oh no. When Roman sends his top henchmen, the disturbed and off-hinged Victor Zsasz, played by Chris Messina, and the badass-with-a-heart-of-gold, Dinah Lance, also known as Black Canary, played by June Smollett-Bell, to collect the diamond, his plans are foiled by a plucky pickpocket from the streets, Cassandra Cain – played by Ella Jay Basco, who is quick to swallow the diamond the moment she realises she owns it.

With the diamond missing, Roman spares Harley from a fairly irreversible defacing and sets her loose to find Cassandra – along with the rest of the criminal underworld.

In no time, Harley is on her very own adventure, and soon crosses paths with not only Cassandra, but Black Canary, Detective Montoya and even the mysterious crossbow killer herself, known as The Huntress – played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. And the group must make the decision to survive together, or die on their own.

Let me put it out there – Birds Of Prey is a lot of fun. It’s an action adventure ramped full of action, one liners and a colour palette to make any primary school classroom blush with shame. 

Sassy anti-heroes facing up against the unhinged and dangerously mad gangsters in a city that’s eating itself is about as perfect as a pitch for a movie as I can think of, and yet, for all the fun and bone-crunching action, there does seem to be something missing for me in Birds Of Prey. I’ve been racking my brains trying to work out exactly what it is, and while I’m not a huge fan of the hip-hoppy soundtrack, it’s unfortunately something much deeper.

Harley Quinn.. just isn’t mad enough. Oh, sure, she’s a bit kooky, and yes, fair enough, she spends most of the first act depressed, but this was an excellent opportunity to let the reins loose and go absolutely insane with the characters, with the premise, and yes, with the action. This was particularly missing around the second act, where I felt the pacing sagged almost to stopping point, before rapidly building up again to a wonderful final sequence that could have fallen straight out of Joel Schumacher’s notebook for Batman & Robin.

But when all said and done, this is a lot of fun, and a great follow up to Suicide Squad. Special mention should be made of Harley and Dinah exchanging hairbands during the final, climatic battle. This is totally worth a watch.


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