Kudos to whoever it was at DC Comics who realised that, while the good guys in the stable are kind of played out (and let’s face it, the Batsuit is looking increasingly like a concrete boot for the career), there is all kinds of fun to be had with the bad guys. Further props to DC for riding out the initial wobble that was Suicide Squad and ploughing forward with first Joker and now Birds of Prey, a showcase for the exuberantly unhinged Harley Quinn, who, when the film starts, is in the process of carving out her place in the world following her breakup with the J-man.
The film may take its title from DC’s crime-fighting superhero crew, but it’s Harley’s show. And, reprising the role from Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie goes full tilt at the character, armed with a baseball bat and a tray of shots. With her trademark brand of fizzing, colour-popping Quinn-sanity, it’s fair to say that she is more than a match for her former beau in the crazy-town stakes. But she makes madness seem a whole lot more fun than Joker ever did. She’s a loose cannon blasting glitter bombs and coloured smoke.
There are unreliable narrators. And then there’s Quinn, whose pinball machine of a mind rattles around the timeline of the story she is trying to piece together. Screenwriter Christina Hodson smartly taps into Harley’s firecracker attention span and harnesses it as a storytelling device.
The bones of the plot: dumped by Joker, Harley finds that Gotham City is packed with newly emboldened enemies. Most significant of these is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), who, along with his boyfriend/henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), aims to peel the skin from Harley’s face. Yes, this is a film that earns its 15 certificate.
In order to survive, Harley must join forces with Roman’s other enemies: mysterious vigilante and socially maladroit badass Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, great fun); singer turned driver Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell); cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez); and teen pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).
Director Cathy Yan brilliantly captures a gaudy, grubby sense of place, part Gotham City, part the sparking trash-fire inside Harley’s head. And, while there’s an unfortunate It’s a Knockout vibe to some of the action, for the most part it’s a riot: slickly choreographed bone-snapping chaos executed with a demented, cheerleading flourish.
And following Martin Scorsese’s criticism of comic book films as theme parks rather than cinema, it’s tempting to read Birds of Prey as a satisfyingly minxy comeback: it’s the movie equivalent of a fairground ride with all the bolts loosened and the safety booklet blazed long ago when someone ran out of Rizlas.
Source: The Guardian