Whoever said that breakups are bad probably hasn’t met the Queen of Chaos, Harley Quinn and her emotional tornadoes after being dumped by the Joker. Birds Of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) gives us a far more unhinged Harley Quinn who is on a mad, mad spree wrecking as much havoc as possible. And despite a wafer-thin plot and characters with much depth, this unrestrained energy is enough to propel Birds Of Prey forward as perhaps the best DC action movie.
The majority of the credit goes to Margot Robbie’s reckless Harley Quinn, who was one of the only good things about 2016’s DC Comics movie Suicide Squad (2016). Despite being a sidekick to the King of Madness, it was her character that made into the limelight. And while 2019’s Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix, more or less, hinted at the fate of Jared Leto never featuring as the titular villain, his absence in Birds of Prey cements the (good)news. It is rather hard to miss Leto when we have an action spectacle led by female baddies and helmed by Harley-Fricking-Quinn.
As we know, it was her alliance with Joker that saved her from being bludgeoned to death by the countless number of people she had ever wronged and trust us, the list is very long. But she is no longer under his protection and those held off by his presence by her side are now free to punish her. One such big enemy of Harley Quinn is Roman “Black Mask” Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a crime lord plotting to rule the entire Gotham City Underworld. So, when she comes face-to-face with him, she strikes a deal with him in exchange for her life- to find a diamond, etched with the deepest secrets of the mob and bring it to Sionis. But he intends to double-cross her, as he hires every bounty hunter in Gotham to get the diamond as well- so either she is killed in the crossfire or he kills her anyway.
So, in navigating the hectic mess of threats to her life and impossible missions to save herself, Harley Quinn constitutes a vigilante group of sorts with a female grey character: police officer Renee (Rosie Perez), nightclub singer Dinah (Jurnee Smollet-Bell)¸ crossbow-wielding Helena (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and the pickpocket Cassandra (Ella Jay Basco). And all join hands to be a storm of chaos in the life of anyone who comes in their way.
But while this mad energy is what fuel Birds Of Prey, it also makes up for a plot that is wafer-thin and characters who vibrant performance in the plot is dampened by the absence of a credible backstory or arc for them. Apart from Harley and Sionis, Birds Of Prey makes zero efforts to know any of its other characters but still sails through as the crackling energy is enough to hold it together at the seams.
Margot Robbie is once again proving what an absolute treat she is to watch as she morphs into whatever character she has in hand. She gets into the skin of the insane-party-girl-slash-freak-vigilante Harley Quinn with unequivocal ease as she bounces around, landing punches and breaking legs while greeting everyone with a grin worthy of a psychotic serial killer. It is perhaps the best way DC could process its much-needed breakup from the toxic relationship it has with turning every superhero film into a dark and dingy sob fest.