One recalls a time when we longed for comic book movies that took the medium seriously, though one also recalls that we've now been smothered by such films. It just…won't…stop. Lucky, then, that the character Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn, is based on a cartoon character created by the inimitable Paul Dini for the '90s Batman animated series, and lucky, then, that Margot Robbie feels some sort of affinity for her—she's fucking fun.
Yes, 2016's Suicide Squad was a disaster of a movie, but there was one shining light hidden within the garbage—Robbie. Her take on the Joker's girlfriend was so fun and charming that we longed for more. Of course, nobody wanted to make the standalone film (some bullshit in Hollywood about how nobody wants to see women-led movies), so Robbie stepped up to produce herself (along with a woman-heavy creative team including director Cathy Yan and writer Christina Hodson), and it's a good thing she did—Birds of Prey is some of the most fun you can have at the movies.
Now, that doesn't mean it's good, per se. Or, actually, that it's bad. But we don't really need to assign those descriptors here, because it's really more about the journey or something, right? Right. Point is, this is about the most high-action, popcorn-chomping, bone-breaking, crossbow-shooting good time one can have in theaters right now, so just leave the good/bad dichotomy out of this, K?
Robbie reprises the role of Harley Quinn in the weeks after splitting with the Crown Prince of Crime. Turns out she'd been a bit of a jerk during their relationship, though, and now everyone who was too scared of Joker to do anything about it has come to collect their pound of flesh. It's mainly rank and file baddies, low-level henchmen and goons and such. But for Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), there are much higher stakes and much more violent means to explore. Quinn must form a posse of badass women (played by Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jurnee Smollett-Bell) to handle the situation, and so she does—and they're badass, indeed.
Birds of Prey winds up a far more violent film than other DC properties (Superman and Batman don't kill people), and certainly a less gritty take on Gotham City. It's dark, yes, but never loses the humorous threads that make it so enjoyable. Robbie in particular shines as a wronged woman reclaiming her power, and the support that women show other women even under the worst circumstances is a breath of fresh air in a medium where they're often portrayed as catty, jealous and dimensionless vessels for male reactionary bullshit. It makes McGregor all the more nefarious and worthy of hate, it makes Rosie Perez look like the champion she is.
Oh, there are missteps, like Chris Messina's wildly boring Victor Zsasz and a wooden young pickpocket played by Ella Jay Basco. But it's Robbie's show, and we never forget it—from the kick-ass fight under fire sprinklers to her legitimately hilarious mannerisms and off-the-wall weirdness. Perhaps the best course of action is to look at the things they're not overtly saying—that teamwork works, that women aren't defined by their partners, that Ewan McGregor is a pretty fun villain. Think of it more like a summer thing and try to enjoy yourself. What else is there, even?
+Robbie! Rosie Perez! Ass-kicking!
-Messina; the kid; some real stupid jokes
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Directed by Yan
With Robbie, Perez, Winstead, Smollett-Bell, McGregor and Messina
Violet Crown, Regal (both locations), R, 109 min.