In 2016, Margot Robbie stormed onto our screens as the anarchic DC comics favourite Harley Quinn, the ex-PHD psychotherapist who became the Joker’s right-hand woman following a rebirth at ACE chemicals. Suicide Squad was far from perfect as an introductory film, but Robbie’s Harley Quinn would shine. Now, three years later, Harley Quinn’s back on the big screen, but this time, she is single and ready to mingle in Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn), directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs).
As our story opens, Harley has split with Joker (or been dumped), depending on your point of view. But she is far from taking the split lying down as she destroys the ACE chemicals plant where her transformation began. However, sitting in the background of her deep mourning for Mr J is the crime kingpin Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and his sinister henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). Roman is searching for a precious diamond, and Harley is about to find herself unwittingly wrapped up in the search.
First and foremost, Birds of Prey is a proud and bold Harley Quinn movie, and while this may disappoint those hoping to see other regular DC characters burst through, it’s perfect in allowing Robbie’s take on the character to bloom. However, this does not mean Quinn is alone, as Black Canary, Huntress, Renee and Cassandra all take lead roles, turning Yan’s picture into a defiant feminist film that is more than welcome in an ocean of male comic book heroes.
Robbie’s Harley Quinn is as near perfection as you can get, with Yan giving her the space needed to lean into the character fully. Her newfound freedom and choices carry a childlike wonder and wickedly sharp humour as she bounces from one action scene to the next in a riot of colour and mayhem. However, despite these strengths, Birds of Prey does wobble somewhat in its pace, with a slightly saggy mid-section that struggles to join the film’s fast-paced opening and beautifully orchestrated conclusion.
But this is a minor niggle, in a movie that celebrates the colour and manic joy of the comic book characters it brings to life, proudly placing women centre stage while tossing the men of Gotham onto the naughty step. Birds of Prey once again demonstrates DC Comics’ ability to find the right on-screen mix for its much-loved characters, and with Yan, they have discovered a truly modern voice in direction.
Director: Cathy Yan
Margot Robbie also appears in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Bombshell