Get your gal pals together for a Galentine or an angry hen party because “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is the perfect ugly cry, angsty post-breakup movie. That’s not to say it is a perfect movie. It’s better than the 2016 “Suicide Squad,” and it’s particularly fun when seen in ScreenX.
In the eight film of the DC Extended universe, you get the sense of schizophrenia if you’ve already seen the acclaimed “Joker” starring Joaquin Phoenix. “Birds of Prey” is the sequel to the 2016 “Suicide Squad” (currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video) and works as both a bad breakup Harley Quinn movie and an origin story.
This is the classic prison release program where felons are given a temporary reprieve to help the government do something. In this case, when the demonic alter ego of Dr. June Moone (due to possession by an evil ancient force), the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), decides to kill all of mankind, the so-called “Suicide Squad” is sent to fight the Enchantress and her minions. To prevent the felons from being their selfishly bad selves, each member of the squad has a bomb implanted in their necks.
Harley’s boyfriend the Joker (Jared Leto) disables Harley’s bomb. Eventually the Enchantress is defeated. The squad is returned to served the remainder of their sentences, but the Joker breaks out Harley (Margot Robbie).
Leto’s Joker is the white-faced green-haired guy that seems more slimy than a salamander and for fans of the Batman TV series with Adam West, has a greater resemblance to Frank Gorshin’s Riddler than Cesar Romero’s green-haired Joker. Leto’s Joker makes the fall of former psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel at Arkham Asylum harder to buy.
Birds of Prey
“Birds of Prey” is from start-to-finish a female empowerment flick. “Suicide Squad” at least had Will Smith as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot and Jay Hernandez as Chato Santana/El Diablo to balance out the female focus. In “Birds of Prey,” there are no attractive, competent men and the origin of the Birds of Prey team is based on getting out from under the control of incompetent or corrupt men.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) gives the audience a quick background about her life, her fall into villainy under the spell of the Joker and her battle against the Enchantress as well as her break up with the Joker in an animated flashback sequence. Now she lives above a cheap Chinese takeout restaurant owned by her only friend, Doc (Dana Lee). In her breakup breakdown, she cuts her hair, acquires a hyena that she names Bruce” and blows up the Ace Chemical plant where she and Joker became a couple. For friends, and legal violence, she takes up roller derby. Without Joker, she has no protection against her many enemies.
Harley also gets blackout drunk and during one of those episodes, she is saved by a singer, Dinah Lance (Jumee Smollett-Bell), woman with what Harley calls a “killer voice.” Dinah becomes the driver for the owner of the night club where she works, Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Sionis is after a diamond that has encoded information that would make him rich and help him to rule Gotham. That diamond has slipped out of the possession of Sionis’ enforcer, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) by the juvenile pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Harley is almost executed by Sionis, but promises him that she’ll retrieve the diamond.
At the same time, members of the underworld are being killed by the Crossbow Killer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Helen Bertinelli/Huntress). Sionis is being pursued by alcoholic detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), whose betrayed both by her former partner (now Captain Patrick Erickson portrayed by Steven Williams) and former lover, Gotham district attorney Ellen Yee (Ali Wong).
“Birds of Prey” is the first major comic-book superhero/supervillain film to be helmed by an Asian American female director, Chinese-born Cathy Yan. Yan is the second woman to direct a DC Universe film (Patty Jenkins was the first with the 2017 “Wonder Woman”). That’s another plus for the DC Extended Universe because 2018 “Aquaman” was directed by Malaysian-born Australian director James Wan. We can give DC kudos for diversity and “Birds of Prey” was also written by a woman (Christina Hodson), but one wishes their cinematic universe had a unifying plan.
Yan makes “Birds of Prey” visually interesting and minimizes the sexually exploitativeness of the male gaze. In ScreenX, the graphics tend to amplify the emotional content, further immerse you in the environment and build toward the final battle scenes in a fun house. Harley Quinn’s life and delusional nature is a freakishly feral fun house, with extreme violence that unfortunately warrants an R rating. The rating means that some of Harley Quinn’s underaged fans will miss out on the cinematic release. Who better to understand and want to revel in angsty anger than teen and tween girls?
While not a great movie, the film can be an emotional guilty pleasure for those in the angsty throws of an ugly breakup. So throw a Galentine’s Day diss the douche party and get some pals to emerge themselves in the cheap, ugly glamor of Harley’s world and, if you can afford it, do it in ScreenX for the extra visual fun house feel.