Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

USA, 2020. , , . Screenplay by , based on the character Harley Quinn created by , . Cinematography by . Produced by , , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , . Film Editing by , .

She was part of the badass ensemble that made up the Suicide Squad, now she’s striking out on her own: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has been dumped by the Joker and finds that her credit in Gotham has plummeted, she can no longer get away with the heinous, destructive behaviour that was previously excused out of fear for her boyfriend’s retaliation.

Her ambition in life is simply to have fun (her greatest passion a greasy breakfast sandwich), but her plans are thwarted when she crosses paths with crimelord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), who is searching for a diamond that has the secrets of a wealthy mob family’s finances embedded deep within it.

Circumstances put Harley in the way of tough street kid Cassandra Cain, who just happens to have the precious object hidden in her stomach, setting the two of them on the run while Harley can’t decide if she’s going to exploit this kid for her own profit or admit that she’s actually growing fond of her and save her.

Entering this messy existence are the complications of a straight cop (Rosie Perez) looking to clean up this dirty town (her character is basically a stand-in for Commissioner Gordon), a skilled archer () out to avenge her past, and a nightclub singer turned chauffeur () who works for Roman and is looking for both Harley and Cassandra.

The plot, despite being very familiar and uncomplicated, always feels like it’s going to break out into an unholy mess and never does, director Cathy Yan liberally uses flashbacks to tell the story out of sequence without ever letting you lose the narrative thread, telling a noir-ish tale under the amoral carnivalesque circumstances that the Gotham universe tends to inspire.  Robbie is having a terrific time with the character and expresses humorous charisma throughout, but the film is hampered by a series of bland, uninteresting characters surrounding her; actors of great caliber are wasted in two-dimensional supporting roles, McGregor’s villain is boring and the four women accompanying Harley barely register as people.

The bouncy visual expression of sets covered in glow-in-the-dark graffiti and a genuine sense of glee help make up for this, boiling down to a smart and satisfying ending without overindulging in hyperviolent nonsense.

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