Birds of Prey is a wonderful yet shockingly violent comic book film from the world of D.C. The film shows what happened after the unpredictable Harley Quinn broke up with the Joker. While the ad campaign would make audiences think Birds of Prey is the typical superhero team-up movie, really it’s an redemption story for the once murderous girlfriend of the crown prince of crime.
Funnily enough, Joker doesn’t even show up in the film. Birds of Prey devotes much of its time developing the moral consciousness and independence of Harley Quinn. Quinn has always been a fascinating character thanks to the work of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. The character for years has been depicted as being just the Joker’s girlfriend and often the person who takes the fall for the Joker’s crimes. Even Suicide Squad showed Quinn as being overly devoted to the Joker when she found herself amongst different criminals. But in Birds of Prey, Harley is finally free of the Joker and she lets every criminal in Gotham know it, thus attracting the attention of Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask.
Sionis goes after a pocket thief named Cassandra Cain who steals a diamond that’s embedded with account information of one of Gotham’s most fortunate families. It’s once Harley offers to track down Cassandra that the film really starts to get going. Quinn and Cassandra begin to form a cute bond that’s reminiscent of the bond between Leon and 12-year old Mathilda in Leon: The Professional. Although Cassandra isn’t really a fighter, she does show interest in Quinn and even admires her junky apartment in one scene.
Quinn and Cassandra are always being hunted by someone throughout the film. Whether it’s Sionis with his menacing presence and fascination for creepy masks, or even Reenee Montoya, a cop in Gotham who’s portrayed as an 70’s police officer with a chip on her shoulder. Quinn makes the joke that Montoya watched too many 70’s crime movies before entering the force, and she’s probably not too far from the truth.
Along the way, Quinn and Cassandra run into Black Canary, a club singer for Roman Sionis who by the end of the film finds herself at odds with Sionis and his crew. The film does a great job showing what happens when you get on Black Canary’s bad side. Her fight scenes are well choreographed, and her Canary cry is just as thunderous as how you imagined it would sound in a theater. For a relatively unknown character from D.C. comics, Black Canary’s arc from Sionis’ singer to strong fighter makes her a standout in the film, next to Harley of course.
But Black Canary isn’t the only badass fighter in the film. A mysterious vigilante named Huntress enters the fray around the second half of the film. Not only does she carry a crossbow, but she also has the desire for vengeance after witnessing her entire family being murdered by the mob. Director Cathy Yan and writer Christina Hudson made the interesting choice to portray Huntress as a vigilante who lacks social skills and gets angry any time someone doesn’t call her by the name Huntress, and surprisingly it works.
The Huntress character is just one of the many ways Birds of Prey mixes up action along with humor. And while the film does go back in time to tell how something occurred in the present, it never feels as choppy as it did in Suicide Squad. Harley Quinn’s narration throughout the film keeps it from falling apart, mainly due to her zany, charismatic personality. When Quinn finally is confronted by both Canary and Huntress, it’s hilarious seeing her try to bring everyone together for the common good, especially considering she was once side by side with the Joker.
Birds of Prey is an action-filled comic-book film that will certainly put a lot of smiles on D.C. fans. The relationship between all the female leads is joyful to watch and their action scenes are exhilarating. With Wonder Woman: 1984 just months away, it finally seems as if D.C. is on a roll in 2020.
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