DC’s latest comic bookspin-off sees the magnificent Harley Quinn liberated from the baggage that goes with being ‘the Joker’s gall’ and given her own stand-alone movie. And there’s no doubt that Margot Robbie deserves the opportunity, having shone so brightly in Suicide Squad that she pretty much eclipsed everyone else. But does Birds of Prey live up to expectations? Almost.
DC has some of the best characters, but their films often struggle to make big box-office simply because they’re too precious about the material, seeming to be utterly incapable of scripting a film that doesn’t spend 60-minutes giving us lengthy and unnecessary backstories for characters that all the fans know anyway.
Sadly, once again Birds Of Prey suffers the same fate, making the opening half of the film a slow, slow burn. Thankfully Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Huntress), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Black Canary) and Rosie Perez (Renee Montoya) are an absolute joy to watch, with genuine on-screen chemistry, great one-liners, and some seriously impressive moves.
But there’s more going on here than kick-assery. Much has been talked about the rise of the feminist film but many of those touted as such still fall back on the old tropes: a woman who needs a man to give her purpose; a woman who is driven by trauma, or the loss of a child/lover. Quinn has all of that baggage, but if you’re expecting her to suddenly play nice and become the model mum to Cassie (Ella Jay Basco) then think again. One of the strongest elements of Birds Of Prey is that even if the tropes are all there, these are multi-dimensional characters and as flawed, as brilliant, and as funny as any male counterpart.
Birds Of Prey is messy—often sluggish—but it’s also a glitter-bomb of violent, gutsy, and anarchic fun. And, despite the pacing problems, despite the fact that much of the film feels like a set up for the inevitable spin-offs to follow, there’s plenty of pay off to make this a throughly enjoyable ride.