Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and the Joker have gone their separate ways, and while Harley deals with going solo in her usual calm and controlled fashion, word of the break-up quickly spreads throughout Gotham City. Now every person Harley has wronged, hurt, stolen from or generally pissed off - it's a very long list - is crawling out of the woodwork for some much needed retribution. Top of the list is crime boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) A.K.A "Black Mask", who wants to carve the little Harlequin into pieces, that is unless she can retrieve something that was stolen from him. It's a job that will find Harley making some new friends along the way... and in some very odd places.
After establishing the character within the DCEU - or whatever the hell they're calling it now - in Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is finally given chance to properly let loose in Birds of Prey. This is Harley's story, as Harley would tell it - a vibrant, colourful, and ever so chaotic look at her life after Joker. She is even more erratic and unhinged than normal as she deals with this sudden identity crisis, whilst also searching for the ever so illusive McGuffin, and dodging every criminal and low-life in Gotham. What ensues is nothing short of sheer hilarity as a more bright and sunny Gotham (this is possibly just how Harley sees it) erupts into anarchy as the only person crazier than the Joker tries to solve all her problems - her attack on the GCPD is a particular highlight.
But this isn't just Harley's story. Her journey causes her to collide with some other women seeking to change their lives in some way. So what do a night club singer with a powerful voice (Jurnee Smollet-Bell), a disgruntled police detective (Rosie Perez) and a socially inept vigilante on a revenge mission (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) have in common? Well not a lot, actually. Apart from a young pick-pocket (Ella Jay Basco) who they've all crossed paths with, one who is in serious need of protection from a particularly nasty - not to mention vain and egotistical - crime boss. The only question is; can the "Birds" keep Harley focused long enough to get the job done? You've got to love an underdog story! In charge of coordinating this bundle of madness - not to mention some epic performances - is director Cathy Yan, who has done a fantastic job of bringing us a Harley-eyed view of love, loss, responsibility and the bacon and egg sandwich to end all bacon and egg sandwiches.
Birds of Prey definitely benefits from its 'R' rating (15 in the UK). When you're going to do a deep dive into the seedier goings on in Gotham City you can't sugar-coat it with a PG-13/12A rating. This is easily the craziest movie in the DCEU - which has had flying aliens, billionaire vigilantes, Amazonian warriors fighting in the trenches of the Great War, and a witch levitating literal rubbish in the sky - thanks mostly to Harley's psychotically hyperactive way of telling the story, cutting back and forth unpredictably. Well that and a pet Hyena named Bruce. Somehow all of the action and violence fits perfectly with the humour to form this hilariously twisted tale. It helps that our underdogs have some truly despicable villains to go up against. Ewan McGregor is fantastic as Roman Sionis, this over-the-top hipster whose more obsessed with himself than anything else. The dynamic between Roman and Chris Messina's Victor Zsasz is perfect, their relationship has an oddly genuine feel and exceeds that of employer/employee.
For all of the chaos that stems from Harley's emancipation, two characters are oddly absent. Not that they were missed, but you would have thought that Harley's attack on ACE Chemicals alone would have drawn the interest of Batman and Commissioner Gordon. Like I said, they're never missed but it's surprising that they were never mentioned. I would also have liked more on Roman's black mask, it's never really explained whether there's some deeper symbolism behind it or if he simply wears it to disguise his identity - and if so, why that mask?
Don't worry about the ridiculous title change, ignore the supposedly poor opening weekend box office numbers... Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is an absolute blast! Harley Quinn has shown us that she is way more fun without the Joker, because this is easily one of the best movies in the DCEU.
In a word it's "Fantabulous".
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