Review: 'Birds of Prey' Breaks the Fourth Wall in Harley Quinn's Style
by Zofia Wijaszka
February 5, 2020
Harley Quinn. Two words, many meanings, one powerful woman. The woman that she used to be in Suicide Squad is gone. Now, audiences have a chance to experience this badass lady cause some serious mayhem and teach a spoiled man a lesson. The action unfurls swiftly as Harley breezes by in her sparkling roller-skates and breaks bones. Cathy Yan and Christina Hodson demonstrate their phenomenal directing and writing skills with DC's Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. They bestow upon us a thrilling, full of twists and turns, packed with action, entertaining movie. The tale in Harley's narrative jumps back and forth, where past blends with the present. We are introduced to all the characters in their own legendary style. The way the story is told defines the crazy, multidimensional, and complex personality of the former doctor. But before we go further, let's get back to the core plot of BoP.
Back in Gotham. Harley and the Joker break up. After genuinely cathartic closure (that ends with a bang, I might add), the woman is ready to move on. But the trail of never-ending parties, delicious egg sandwiches, and river of alcohol cannot last forever. Harley's rebirth is put on hold again when the most narcissistic, thoroughly spoiled Gotham villain, Roman Sionis, also known as Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), targets a young pickpocket – Cass Cain (Ella Jay Basco) – and sets a handsome reward for her capture. In pursuit, Harley crosses paths with Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) with a magnificent yet killer voice, and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), a self-destructive detective who's on Roman's trail. Still, it turns out they are not the only ones after him. An unknown assassin who calls herself The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) desires to bring long-needed justice. When all of these women's paths intersect, they have to decide – do they fight together or go against everyone in this truly spectacular rat race?
Cathy Yan's film is a fantabulous, exciting portrayal of women who desire emancipation and are tired of men telling them what to do. Although Harley Quinn is a core character, the backbone of the story, each woman in Birds of Prey has their plotline presented in Harley's perplexing narrative. It's clear the film has a real Deadpool vibe. The main character continually breaks the fourth wall and tells the story the way that she perceives it. Thanks to this method, viewers have unique, personal insight into the plot. Essentially, it's a story of eternal fights between women and men in which male members are depicted the way females were in films before. Let's take the character of Roman, for example. His "grievances" towards Harley Quinn scroll through the screen as the female calculates them one by one. Ewan McGregor does an astonishing job portraying one of the most narcissistic male roles in any comic book movie. Roman is a squeaky clean guy who orders his men to do his "bloody" work. He collects antique statues and is fascinated by the shrunken heads he has on display. But heaven forbid something goes wrong in his carefully planned strategy. When the "dangerous" Roman is gone, we meet a whining, crying man-child who stamps his feet, screams, and cries. Then Yan puts him next to the cold, calm Dinah, who thinks before she does something.
The titular "Birds of Prey" – The Huntress, Black Canary, and Montoya, along with the one-and-only Harley Quinn – create a team of strong, independent women who can fight better than any man. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Rosie Perez grant us multidimensional, diverse roles with complex personalities. Yet their characters are still very different from one another. Canary is quiet but can deliver a comeback if needed. Montoya is like a poorly written cop from a lousy television series. Her "awful cop-like" lines blend with her firm, ambitious personality, making Perez's woman one of the best characters written by Hodson. The Huntress, on the other hand, is an awkward killer with evident anxiety. But her stuttering has nothing on her deadly crossbow and a sharp eye. The young Ella Jay Basco, known mainly from appearances on television ("Veep", "Teachers"), portrays snarky, sneaky teenager Cass. The actress gives the audience an outstanding performance as well. Her character establishes the best bond with Harley.
Margot Robbie was originally just a supporting character marginalized by the "boy's club" in David Ayer's Suicide Squad movie. Thanks to this new spin-off from Cathy Yan, viewers get to see HER story. The actress gives a marvelous performance portraying the role of a little mad-like, eternally distracted Harley Quinn, who just wants to eat and watch cartoons on her couch in the company of Bruce – her pet hyena. Harley Quinn is an unsung champion of the egg sandwich and proves to all of us the great significance of said delicious breakfast meal in a dramatic scene – which had me gripping my stomach from laughing so much.
The iconic Gotham villain is humanized by the filmmakers, shown as a woman that she is – not Joker's pet anymore but a full-fledged, standalone, strong female. The most spectacular parts are fight scenes. With musical notes including the old-school "Barracuda" and newer songs like "Experiment On Me" by Halsey, Harley and the titular "Birds of Prey" kick ass in a truly striking, exquisite style. A fantastic battle begins with the heroine breaking into the police station. Her weapons, as well as glitter and smoke bombs, are set in motion and explode in the officers' faces. In the hues of pink and blue, her legendary hallmarks, Harley delivers the most magnificent backflips in slow motion. Further into the movie, as the action reaches its climax, even her roller skates get their five-minutes-of-fame and become an integral part of the final battle.
In an abandoned amusement park, violence mixes with the theme of joy that the park is associated with. Colorful lights and attractions are an additional attribute that enriches every kick, backflip, and stab. Bones are breaking, and blood is splattering – even a grenade goes into slow motion. As Birds of Prey comes to an end, it will leave you satisfied. I can say that my favorite battle scene, besides the final one, is the one in the police station accompanied by glitter bombs – truly her distinct style. Outstanding fight scenes, well-crafted characters, and a team of powerful women are at the center of a movie that's both written and directed even better than I hoped it might be. This twisted story, so gracefully told by one Harley Quinn, is a must watch.
Zofia's Rating: 5 out of 5
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