This is what most fanboys won’t admit — all they know are comic book films dominated by male characters with attitudes that don’t give a damn. Birds of Prey flips that script and you won’t find a bleeding heart in this group. It’s a flocking good time.
There is nothing like a messy break-up to find out who your friends are. After Ms. Quinn and the Clown Prince of Crime called it quits, she didn’t handle it all too well. Puddin, though, is nowhere to be found in Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn), even if I’m sure his own emotional incontinence is now in hyperdrive, and HQ is the missing prescription. It’s a big step for her since she has had one of the worst recent dependent disorders the world has ever known. This actually makes her endlessly interesting, with her anti-social tendencies, and manages to put them aside (kind of) because we all need friends, a support system, even a toxic one. Now Harleen is on the run from all sorts of men, you know because I imagine some women love a good chase.
Robbie reprises her role in the hopes of jump-starting a second successful franchise for DC, and they hit the mark, for the most part. She is now a woman at large, in particular from egomaniac, sociopath crime boss, Black Mask, played with an extra heaping spoonful of “douchebaggery” by Ewan McGregor. Even his henchman, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), is so vain he loves a good facelift. If that wasn’t enough, a righteous cop (played by Rosie Perez), is looking forward to taking her down for the public good, the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wants to put an arrow between her eyes, and the only person who seems to be on her side is the Black Canary (Jurnie Smollett-Bell, breaking out here). They all want one thing, a diamond that a talented child pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) swiped from Zsasz, which leads to a glitter storm inside a police precinct to get it back.
Birds of Prey was directed by Cathy Yan, who has a limited filmography but brings the same sort of dark quirkiness she did with her only feature to her name, Dead Pigs. Along with writer Christina Hodson, who penned Bumblebee, and is about setting the tone for DC this decade with The Flash (2022) and Batgirl (TBA), she has an undeniable tone all its own — more so than most other DC or even Marvel fare. Yes, most of the male villains are incredibly over the top, not delightfully so it can’t cause eye-rolls. I, though, see how the team here took its female characters that simply don’t give a damn what the world thinks of them. This is usually the staple action heroine cliches with the women who love them. You know the type that lean against a door frame, supporting their man or setting them straight. It makes this comic book film always interesting, yet may equate to mainstream commercial success or word of mouth from fanboys alike.
The hearty themes of Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) aren’t necessarily feminist, but universal in nature when it comes to anyone looking to find their own way in life, even sociopaths. Harley Quinn is a woman finding herself and not being defined by any man or a relationship that would give her life meaning. Along with a talented cast, particularly Smollett’s Black Canary (the scene with her laughing at the Huntress’s intensity is what Yan’s camera needed to capture more of) being a breakout character, is not a perfect film, with the inordinate performance by MacGregor, and some quick editing could help elevate some of its action sequences. Otherwise, it’s necessary first step for a much-needed franchise that’s first installment is a flocking good time.
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M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.